Back Pain and Sciatica

man with low back PAIN Richard Metcalf Osteopathy in Sheffield Walkley

Back pain, in particular, lower back pain, sciatica and ‘trapped nerves’ are some of the commonest problems that an osteopath treats. Sometimes it can be very sudden and acute or be of a more chronic, longer-lasting nature developing over many years.  In fact, 80% of people will suffer from back pain in their lifetime.

There are a variety of reasons as to why back pain occurs.  It might be due to a past trauma, a repetitive strain injury, lifting injury or poor posture.  An osteopath likes to have a good understanding of how it originated to better understand the mechanical forces and compensatory patterns that have developed over time.

It is often quite common for a seemingly straightforward back problem to exist over many years and keep returning in episodic phases where the symptoms are controlled by medication. Then when the body can no longer compensate any more and medication is ineffective this is often when individuals seek the help of an osteopath.  We endeavour to treat the cause and so reduce the risk of a reoccurrence.

There are many causes for back pain, but lifestyle is nearly always a significant factor.  For example, if your job involves sitting at a computer all day or doing lots of driving, you are more likely to experience back or neck pain than other people.  Conversely, if your job is very physical and requires lots of lifting or carrying heavy loads this can also increase the likelihood of a back problem.

The incidence of back pain increases the older we get because of normal age-related changes, such as gradual loss of disc elasticity and ‘wear and tear’ to spinal joints.

Low Back Pain

Pain in the lower back can also refer to the buttock, groin, leg and foot. It can be caused by issues or dysfunction of any of the structures in the lower back: discs, ligaments, muscles or joints.  Quite often a number of structures will be involved as the body has had to compensate over many years as a result of a primary problem which wasnt treated appropriately.  Whilst pain killers and anti-inflammatories can help the symptoms they do not treat the cause.


This is a painful condition where leg pain is produced by irritation of the sciatic nerve. The severity can vary from a dull ache to an incapacitating pain and the symptoms can be constant or intermittent depending on the time of day and activities.

Symptoms usually only affect one side and include:

  • Tingling or numbness in the leg or foot
  • Sharp searing or burning pain down the back or side or the leg, often worse when sitting
  • Weakness in the leg, ankle or foot
  • These leg symptoms may or may not be accompanied by lower back pain

There can be a variety of reasons why the sciatic nerve or its nerve roots are being irritated such as disc herniation or prolapse, arthritic bony outgrowths, or from muscular tension due to pelvic torsion/instability.

Osteopathic Treatment

An osteopath will not only treat the symptomatic or problem area, but will also address other possible factors that have led to the problem.   The aim is to reduce pain and restore the range and quality of movement.  An osteopath will also give you advice on lifestyle, posture and exercises to do at home. A complete treatment plan will help to prevent future occurrences and so restore good health.