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What Is Sciatica and What Triggers It?

It’s a term describing nerve pain in the leg where the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or irritated. This can feel like shooting pain that radiates from your lower back to your buttocks and down the leg.

Sciatica symptoms include:

  • Pain in the lower back
  • Pain that shoots down the leg
  • Weakness, numbness in the leg or foot.
  • Constant pain on one side of the buttocks.

To determine if you may have Sciatica, watch the video below by Physiotherapists Bob and Brad. 

To summarize what Physiotherapists Bob and Brad said in the video above. You can first start with a seated leg raise:

You sit in a chair and straighten your leg out in front of you and pull your toe toward you. Then bend your neck down. If that increases your pain from your back down to your leg then possibly that could be Sciatica. Next, do the next side.

Now it doesn’t necessarily mean it is Sciatica, however it’s a good indicator. A Physiotherapist would be able to determine if it is or not.

The Sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. It runs from the lower back down the back of your leg to your toes. The sciatic nerve starts as a collection of nerve fibers in your lower back. 

The Ultimate Guide to Sciatica

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This appointment is your opportunity to tell us what hurts and discover whether sciatica is a good fit for you! During this session, you will talk with a therapist on a phone call (or online) and create the right care plan specifically for your pain. There is no obligation, this session is only to find out if sciatica can help you getting back to doing the things you love in life.

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Our Platform is used by clinics where they post their open appointment times. So you can quickly compare availability and wait times for clinics near you without having to pick up the phone. Then book an appointment within seconds and even see someone that day if you want. So you can get back to doing the things you love faster.

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Improve the way your body moves so you can continue to do the things you love. PainHero is Canada’s largest network of physiotherapists, chiropractors, and registered massage therapists. Our mission is to make it easy for you to find the top clinics in your community. We handpick the top clinics using our 50 point inspection based on patient reviews, complaints, and patient outcomes. 

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The Ultimate Guide to Sciatica

What Triggers Sciatica and Causes It

Sciatica can be caused by:

  • Normal part of aging
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • lumbar lordosis – which means the loss of the curve in your lower back that is critical for supporting your lower back and upper body.
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Pregnancy.

Triggers that can cause sciatic nerve pain include:

  • Overweight, obesity
  • Too much sitting.
  • High heels and uncomfortable shoes
  • Carrying wallets and phones in your back pocket. 

What's The Best Sciatica Treatment?

Chiropractic or Physiotherapy can do wonders for sciatica pain relief. They will first identify the root cause and then create a customized treatment plan to fix it.

When you have sciatica, the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or pinched which is what causes the pain. A Chiropractor can apply manipulations to realign your spine to take the pressure off of the sciatic nerve. Thus lessening or getting rid of the pain.

Another technique a Chiropractor uses to help sciatica is non surgical spinal decompression.

Nonsurgical Spinal decompression has been shown to be effective at treating sciatica. How it works is it reduces pressure on the lower back and the sciatic nerve root system using a motorized traction table. The computerized table gently stretches the spine, taking the pressure off of your spinal disks. Your spinal discs are gel-like cushions between the bones in your spine. By creating what’s called negative pressure in the disic. The herniated and bulging disks can retract, taking the pressure off of your sciatic nerve.

While at the same time this process transports important nutrients and oxygen into the disks to speed up healing.

How is nonsurgical spinal decompression done?

You will be fully clothed during the therapy. The Chiropractor will place a harness around your pelvis and another harness around your trunk. They will have you lie face down or face up on a computerized table. In fact, it’s so gentle that some even fall asleep on the table. 

The treatment will last for about 30 to 45 minutes. A chiropractor would be able to tell you if spinal decompression would be the best treatment for your sciatica.

Sciatica courtesy of INNOVA Integrated Wellness Centre (Read the caption)

Others Ways to Manage The Pain

Ice and Heat

A way to provide immediate relief is by alternating ice and heat. Ice helps reduce inflammation and heat helps drive more blood flow to the problem area to help it heal faster.

You can also use heat and ice to ease muscle spasms which is common with this condition.

Here’s how to do this the right way.

First apply ice to your painful area for 15 minutes once every hour. Then apply heat for 15 minutes every 2-3 hours.  However, never sleep with ice or heat.


You may notice if you’re working from home or you sit a lot that your sciatic pain starts to spike. The reason this happens is sitting puts more pressure on this nerve. That’s why It’s good to get up every 30 minutes to stretch your back. A better option is to get a standing desk. But if you do need to sit. Make sure you sit upright, shoulders back,  legs at 90 degrees on the floor, and head eye level with your monitor.

Simple exercises that can help you with sciatica pain relief courtesy of BeActive Physiotherapy and Wellness (Read the caption)


Find out whether sciatica can help you get back to doing the things you love in life. 

5 Things To Avoid When You Have Sciatica

1.) Avoid Stretching Your Hamstrings

Hamstring stretches can worsen your symptoms. These include bending forward to touch your toes, squats, and the yoga pose that’s known as the downward dog. Also the abdominal exercise where you lie on your back and swing your legs in circles.

Instead you can walk and swim. Swimming is a great exercise for this condition because it takes the weight off of your back.

2.) Avoid Heavy Weights

Heavy squats and deadlifts put strain on your lower back region called the lumbar spine where sciatica occurs.

Instead do gentle exercises that don’t aggravate your sciatica symptoms.

3.) Avoid These Machine Exercises

Machine exercises that are bad for sciatica include rowing machines because it puts strain on your back. Also seated barbell and dumbbell presses.

Instead use the elliptical trainer.

4.) Sitting for More Than 20 Minutes

As I mentioned before sitting causes compression in your lower back which can make sciatica nerve pain worse. Instead get up every 20-30 minutes. You can stretch. Also it’s important to use an ergonomic office chair to keep your back in a neutral position when you sit. These chairs allow you to adjust them to fit you and support your back.

5.) Avoid Lifting Heavy Things

Generally it’s best to avoid lifting anything more than 15 pounds. However when you do lift don’t lift with your back. Instead lift with your legs. You want to bend your knees and squat down with your back straight to pick up objects. This helps protect your back and prevent triggering sciatica pain.

Sciatic Pain courtesy Vitality Physiotherapy and Wellness Centre (Read the caption)

What Are Symptoms of Sciatica?

3 Good Sciatica Stretches That Help Relieve Pain

Here are 3 stretches for sciatica.

1.) Reclining Pigeon Pose

This is a traditional yoga pose that works to open your hips. 

You first lie on your back. Then bring your right leg up 90 degrees. Then take both of your hands and clasp them on the back of your thigh while locking your fingers.

Next take your left leg and place your right angle on top of your knee just like the image above.

Now hold that position for 30 seconds.

Then switch to your left leg.

2.) Forward pigeon pose

Kneel on the ground on all fours. Take your right leg and place it on the ground in front of you. Then move your other leg so that it’s on the ground and horizontal to the body. 

Slide your left knee all the back.

Now sit up straight, take a deep breath, and while exhaling lean your upper body forward over your front leg.

Use your arms to support your weight. 

Then repeat to your other side.

3.) Lying knee to chest

Here’s a simple stretch that can help relieve sciatica.

Lie on the ground on your back with both legs extended and feet flexed.

Bend your right leg and place your hands around the bottom of your knee.

Then gently pull the leg to your chest until you feel a good stretch. Hold for 30 minutes. Go only as far as you can comfortably.

Return your leg to the normal position. Perform 3 reps with each leg.

These 3 sciatica exercises can help provide sciatic nerve pain relief

There you have it, the ultimate guide to sciatica. Give these tips a try to help relieve your sciatica. Now these are just general tips. If you’d like a more customized treatment plan designed to fix the root cause of your pain. Just use the search box on this page to find a top Chiropractor near you.

Top 3 exercises for Sciatica courtesy of Physiomobility (Read the caption)

Frequently Asked Questions

Usually the pain gets better in 4-6 weeks however it can last longer.

Sometimes sciatica goes away on it’s in but if not treated properly usually will flare up sometime in the future.

If not treated can cause permanent nerve damage that will worsen sciatic symptoms and may not be able to be fixed. Then over time the pain can radiate to other parts of the body. 


Sciatica is one of several possible methods for relieving pain that do not rely on prescription medications and all the side effects and baggage they come with. Not to mention that most drugs can only mask pain, but rarely address root causes. Find a clinic if you are suffering from muscle tightness, soreness, or pain to improve your quality of life, today.