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Physiotherapy for back pain and sciatica

Back pain can most often be treated through physiotherapy. We explore what physiotherapy for back pain and sciatica involves.


Back pain is a common problem. Irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, commonly referred to as sciatica can occur with certain causes of back pain. Common causes of back pain and sciatica treated with physiotherapy include:

  • Disc bulge
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Facet joint osteoarthritis

The majority of cases of back pain with associated sciatica are effectively treated with physiotherapy rather than pain management or surgical procedures.

Our expert spinal physiotherapists will initially analyse why the back pain and sciatica have occurred from a lifestyle and biomechanical perspective. Considering occupational and social factors such as sitting time and sitting ergonomics as well as incorrect posture and movements when partaking in sports may all contribute to the problem.

The examination will take these potential causes into consideration and will test from a physical perspective what may be contributing to poor posture and movement faults. Examples may include factors such as stiffness to the upper back or hips which places more load on the lower back joints. Strength and movement control around the hips, pelvis and lower back are also common factors associated with back pain and sciatica.

Depending on the exact cause found for the back pain and sciatica, our physiotherapists will treat the symptoms with a comprehensive range of manual therapy and rehabilitative exercises.

Manual therapy may involve massage and other soft tissue techniques to reduce muscular spasm and aid the flexibility of specific muscle groups. Other techniques can be a variety of techniques designed to mobilise or manipulate the joints of the spine and pelvis.

Exercise based therapy will take into account which areas of the spine appear stiff on assessment and which muscle groups and areas of the body are in need of more stability and strength.

Strengthening and muscular control exercises may be aimed at areas of the spine but also to the hips and shoulder girdles which when functioning optimally may help to reduces forces on the lower back.

Depending on the underlying cause of the back pain and sciatica acute symptoms can often improve or resolve rapidly after a number of days with appropriate physiotherapy advice and rehabilitation.

Ongoing back pain and some sciatica symptoms may then remain for a number of months but during this period our expert spinal physiotherapists will help you manage your symptoms effectively so you are able to continue your occupational and social activities.