Back Pain & Sciatica Relief

The Commonalities and Differences of Back Pain and Sciatica

Back pain is the most common type of pain reported in Canada and North America.  In fact, 80% of Canadians have experienced back pain in the past three months. Back pain typically develops as the result of an injury or muscle strain, but it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether it is general back pain or sciatica.

Sciatica is a specific type of back pain that is extremely common. It develops from issues surrounding the nerves and can be felt in the lower back, legs, or buttocks. Whether you’re experiencing general back pain or sciatica pain, our Burlington based Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, and Massage Therapists and are licensed and trained in helping alleviate and prevent your discomfort. They can help restore your health and get you back to your optimum levels of physical function. In many cases, a multidisciplinary treatment plan can even eliminate the need for harmful pain-management drugs, such as opioids, or an invasive surgical procedure. If you are suffering from back pain, contact Elite Physiotherapy Clinic, Progressive Sports Medicine, or Total Health Link today. One of our dedicated Physiotherapists, Chiropractors or Athletic Therapists will design a customized multidisciplinary treatment plan that is specific for your needs and will allow you to reach your goals quickly, safely and economically.

What’s the difference between back pain and sciatica?

Back Pain

The term “back pain” is an umbrella term used to describe any of the numerous conditions that may lead to pain in the upper or lower back. Poor posture, car accidents, weakness, and sports-related injuries can all lead to back pain. No matter what the case may be, one of our Burlington based Chiropractors, Physiotherapists or Massage Therapists can set up a treatment plan based on your specific back pain, its location, and your medical history.

Back pain can be described as either acute or chronic. Acute pain means that it lasts for a short time and is usually severe. Chronic pain means that it lasts generally three months or longer and it can either cause persistent severe or dull pain. The pain you experience is typically caused by your back muscles (they are either weak or spastic) or the bones (vertebrae) in your spine or pelvis (Sacro Iliac Joint) which become jammed and inflamed.  The overall effect creates an irritation of the surrounding nerves that causes you pain.


Sciatica, a specific type of back pain, is typically reported as being very uncomfortable. The silver lining is that it is also easy to diagnose. People with sciatica suffer from pain along their sciatic nerve, which is the biggest nerve in the human body. The sciatic nerve begins at the lower back, splitting at the base of the spine to extend down the buttocks, both legs, and the bottom of each foot. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes “pinched” or more accurately “irritated” resulting in a shooting, stinging, or burning sensation in the lower back, buttocks, legs, or feet.

How do people develop back pain and sciatica?

General back pain typically develops from an injury. This can happen suddenly, or gradually over time. Back pain commonly develops from repetitive straining motions, such as bending down multiple times to pick up heavy boxes, or from a sudden trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident. Back pain can also result from underlying conditions, such as herniated discs, which can lead to sciatica. Degenerative disc disease is another common culprit for back pain, which is typically caused by obesity or poor posture. Those who suffer from degenerative disc disease usually report feeling dull, aching, and chronic pain in their lower back.  Other common causes are poor core strength, strength imbalances and any arthritic conditions including Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis and Psoriatic Arthritis.

Sciatica, also known as “lumbar radiculopathy,” is a little more difficult to understand. People who develop sciatica are typically between the ages of 30-50, and there are several different conditions that can lead to it. Among the most common include arthritis, bone spurs, or any injury that affects the lower spine and the sciatic nerve. Common injuries that cause sciatica include sports-related collisions, harsh falls, herniated discs, jammed or subluxated joints in the spine, or anything that occurs gradually over time through overuse, repetition, or general “wear and tear.”

How can I find relief?

Fortunately, back pain and sciatica are both most effectively treated using a multidisciplinary style treatment plan that may include Physiotherapy, Chiropractic Adjustments, Massage Therapy and home and clinic-based stretching and exercise all uniquely designed to correct your condition.   Our licensed Burlington based Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, Massage Therapists and Athletic Therapists will help determine your condition or diagnosis before creating your customized treatment plan.

The initial stage of your plan will focus on reducing inflammation and pain relief, which may include any combination of targeted stretches, light exercises, soft tissue therapy to loosen tight muscles, adjustments to correct the spinal and pelvic joint restrictions, ice or heat therapies, spinal decompression, modalities (Ultrasound, IFC or Electrotherapy, or Laser), posture improvement, or any other treatment that your Doctor or Physiotherapist deems fit.

As you progress and improve, we will expand on your exercises and stretches by making them more intensive without increasing your symptoms. This will help increase your overall strength and range of motion.

The final stage is optional and more preventative or wellness-based and consists of ongoing home-based exercises and stretches and minimal clinical treatments to assess your current condition so we can modify or add new therapies as needed.

The overall goals of therapy for back pain and sciatica are to alleviate pain, improve range of motion and flexibility, strengthen the body and prevent further injuries or relapses. At Elite Physiotherapy Clinic, Progressive Sports Medicine, and Total Health Link, we want to help you get back to enjoying your life without having to deal with pain, discomfort or limitations.

If you are suffering from back pain or sciatica, contact one of our Burlington, ON offices today to schedule an appointment. No matter how severe the pain may be, Elite Physiotherapy Clinic, Progressive Sports Medicine, and Total Health Link will help relieve it so you can get back to doing the activities you love.


The pain you experience in your back may either be acute or chronic, depending on how it was sustained. Acute pain means that it lasts for a short time and is usually severe. Chronic pain means that it lasts generally three months or longer and it can either cause dull or severe persistent pain. The pain you experience is typically either rooted in your back muscles or the bones in your spine. If your pain is severe enough to hinder you from doing daily tasks, if it suddenly worsens, or if it has lasted longer than three months, then it is time to seek the help of a physical therapist.

You can treat your back pain with physical therapy. Physical therapy can address back pain by helping to improve your range of motion, strengthening the muscles in the affected areas, and using targeted massage to reduce tension. In many situations, working with a physical therapist to improve can significantly reduce the severity of your back pain, and may even help you avoid more invasive procedures, such as surgery.

Your physical therapist will design a treatment plan based on your specific needs. Your individualized treatment plan will incorporate the best methods possible for relieving your pain, facilitating the healing process, and restoring function and movement to the affected area(s) of your back. Your initial appointment will consist of a comprehensive evaluation, which will help your physical therapist discover which forms of treatment will be best for the orthopedic, neurologic, or cardiovascular condition you are experiencing. The main stages of your plan will focus on pain relief, which may include any combination of ice and heat therapies, manual therapy, posture improvement, targeted stretches and exercises, or any other treatment that your physical therapist may deem fit. While there is no singular method for relieving back pain, your physical therapist will make sure you receive the best treatments for your needs.

While medication is easy, it only helps your pain subside for a short amount of time. Over time, certain drugs can cause some unfavorable side effects, and in some cases, they can be habit-forming. With NSAIDs, you run the risk of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke. With corticosteroids, you run the risk of cataracts, high blood sugar levels, and bone loss. Luckily, there is a much safer and healthier alternative to treating persistent back pain: physical therapy. At your initial consultation, your physical therapist will ask you several questions regarding your medical history, lifestyle, and painful area(s). This information will assist your physical therapist in creating the best treatment plan for you and your specific needs, so you can be provided with long-term results.