Sciatica Toronto

If you have sciatica or sciatic nerve pain in Toronto, you’ll know it’s one of the worst pains you could ever have, it can be absolutely crippling!

You bend down to pick up your shoes, or something you’ve dropped, or lift something, and you have the WORST pain you’ve ever felt in your life, like a lightning bolt, shooting through your low back, into your butt, and sometimes partially or all the way down your leg.

It can be horrible, and bring you to your knees, literally!

So why does this happen?

To explain that, it’s important to understand some of the anatomy of your low back and the sciatic nerve.

Causes of Sciatica in Toronto | Sciatica Symptoms

Sciatica Anatomy 101

Your low back, or lumbar spine, is composed of 5 bones, or vertebra. They are separated by discs, called intervertebral discs, and the function of these discs is to partially cushion, to direct some of the movement in your low back, but mainly to function as spacers between the bones, to give space for your spinal nerves.

In more than 90% of cases, the cause of sciatica pain in Toronto is related to the discs in your low back.

Sciatica refers to the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in your whole body, and is responsible for the sensation for your leg (including pain!), and also for muscle strength and function for your leg. Pretty important!

The confusing thing about sciatica is that you often feel it down your leg, but the ORIGIN of the problem is your low back, because that’s where the sciatic nerve branches from your spinal cord.

The sciatic nerve branches off from multiple points in your low back, but mainly from the bottom vertebra, L4/5 and L5/S1, and also from your sacrum.

When the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated, it will cause SEVERE SCIATICA PAIN in the areas the sciatic nerve controls: in your low back, into your gluts, into your hip, and down your leg as far as your feet.

Along with pain, sciatica can also cause NUMBNESS, or PINS and NEEDLES or altered sensations.

Because the sciatic nerve is also responsible for controlling the leg muscles, providing strength, you may also feel WEAKNESS in your leg, have DIFFICULTY WALKING, and feel like your leg may GIVE OUT on you.

These are all characteristic symptoms of sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain in Toronto.

If you’ve had previous issues with low back pain, or had x-rays or MRIs taken of your low back in the past, there is a good chance that you may have been told that there is disc degeneration or spinal arthritis with these vertebra and discs, likely at L4/5 or L5/S1.

Sciatica is most often the progression of a chronic low back problem, from chronic disc degeneration, disc herniations, or arthritis in your low back over years and years.


However, sciatica may also occur from an acute condition, with virtually no previous low back pain or warning. This can be caused by lifting something excessively heavy, poor lifting technique, bending improperly, or poor exercise form, causing a disc bulge or even disc herniation in your low back, resulting in instantaneous compression and sciatic nerve pain.

How to Get Sciatica Relief in Toronto

1. Your first step is to avoid whatever caused it!

Seems simple enough, but unless you do, you’ll continue to aggravate your sciatica pain, and not only won’t get better, but will likely continue to worsen.

For the vast majority of sciatica nerve pain sufferers, it’s very likely that compression from either sitting or forward bending played a significant role in the development of your sciatica pain. 

The other less common occurrence is that you suffered from a catastrophic trauma…from lifting something far too heavy, or using poor form while bending or lifting, and in that instant you bulged or herniated a disc.

Without doing a proper assessment and taking x-rays, it’s impossible to know specifically what happened in your case to cause your sciatica, but your first step would be to minimize whatever caused it in the first place!


2. Avoid Prolonged Sitting or Forward Bending for Sciatica Pain Relief

ou want to AVOID prolonged sitting, especially on any soft surfaces, like soft couches, lazy boy chairs…anything that is really soft and doesn’t provide proper support.

You want to avoid compression of your low back, and any hunched or slouched posture. 

So if you have to sit, sit on something that is firm and provides good support for your low back and the normal low back curve.


Why is sitting and forward bending so bad for sciatic nerve pain?

The problem with sitting is that as the day progresses, and you get more and more fatigued and tired, your start to slouch, more and more. 

As you start to slouch in a chair, or from bending forwards all the time, you start to LOSE THE NATURAL CURVE IN YOUR LOW BACK.

Why is losing your low back lumbar curve bad?

The curve in your low back, called a lordosis, is designed to absorb stress, basically functioning like a giant spring, to absorb all the compression from gravity.

As you start to LOSE this normal curve, your low back is no longer able to properly absorb gravitational stress and compression.

Instead of your curve absorbing it, that compressive loading is transmitted onto your vertebra, and most significantly, onto your lumbar discs, which were never designed for that purpose.


As this loading continues for months and years, compressing the front portion of the disc, the central gel-like material of the disc, termed the nucleus pulposus, starts to slowly get pushed backwards, migrating towards the outer fibrous ring, termed the annulus fibrosus.

As this gradually goes on for months or years, it slowly forces its way through this outer fibrous ring like layer, until eventually, one day, you do somethings, like bend down to pick up your shoe, and the gel-like material suddenly bulges through the disc, or worse yet, herniates, causing a lightning bolt of pain, and you’re down on your knees.

As this loading continues for months and years, compressing the front portion of the disc, the central gel-like material of the disc, termed the nucleus pulposus, starts to slowly get pushed backwards, migrating towards the outer fibrous ring, termed the annulus fibrosus.

As this gradually goes on for months or years, it slowly forces its way through this outer fibrous ring like layer, until eventually, one day, you do somethings, like bend down to pick up your shoe, and the gel-like material suddenly bulges through the disc, or worse yet, herniates, causing a lightning bolt of pain, and you’re down on your knees.

3. Staying UPRIGHT and MOVING AROUND, ideally WALKING, will help with sciatica pain relief.

Even if it’s a slow walk, that’s fine, but being up and moving around is almost always better than prolonged sitting.

Movement in your lower back or lumbar spine is critical to help take some of the stress of the intervertebral discs and nerves in your low back, and to help decrease any muscle spasm and inflammation in the area.

4. If walking or standing is too painful, next best would be LAYING DOWN.

Laying down on your back for sciatica relief in Toronto

The best option for laying down for sciatica relief in Toronto is on your back, with a small pillow under your knees to decrease the tension in your hamstrings, and take stress off your low back and sciatic nerve.

Laying down on your side for sciatica pain relief in Toronto

If it’s more comfortable to lie on your side, you want to place a small pillow between your knees, to stabilize your pelvis, and take pressure off your low back and sciatic nerve pain. 

5. Avoid Bending Forwards in the Morning for Sciatica Relief in Toronto.

That means tying up your shoes, putting your socks on…you want to minimize any further forward bending, which can further irritate the discs and nerves in your low back, and worsen your sciatica pain.


This is important throughout the entire day, but especially first thing in the morning, when there is more disc pressure, and you are more susceptible to further disc bulges, slipped discs, or disc herniation. 

As much as possible, once you’re up out of bed (a process that can be very painful with sciatic nerve pain), try to stay upright and moving for the first 30-60 minutes in the morning.

Try to avoid, or greatly minimize, how much sitting you do for the first hour after getting out of bed, when there is more pressure in your lumbar discs. 

Try to avoid bending at the waist if at all possible: to pick up the soap in the shower, to get clothes, to put on your socks, etc. Better to squat if necessary, or have someone help you, but try to avoid bending forward excessively with your low back.

Consider making breakfast, and eating breakfast, while standing. Try to do as much as possible standing or walking around, it can make a significant difference.

If you do have to pick something heavier up off the floor, squat properly, maintaining a proper curvature in your low back, and keeping the object close in towards you. 

If you have to pick up something light off the ground (socks, shoes, clothes), try the Golfer’s Lift, an easier way to lift without hurting your low back and sciatic nerve.

How to Get Out of Bed with Sciatica Pain

Sleeping, rolling over in bed, and getting out of bed with sciatica pain can be extremely painful!

When moving in bed with sciatic pain, try to move your entire body as a unit, so that there is as little twisting of your low back as possible.

When you get out of bed with sciatica pain, instead of bending yourself forward at the waist and flexing your low back, which can further irritate a disc bulge or herniated disc, instead: 

Roll onto your side as a unit, slowly lower your legs over the side of the bed, and gently push yourself up to sitting with your arms. Try to keep your low back as straight as possible during this process.

For a more detailed explanation and demonstration, watch this video on How to Get Out of Bed with Back Pain, Herniated Discs or Sciatica.

Sciatica Exercises and Sciatica Stretches for Sciatica Treatment in Toronto

As with any injury, the goal of sciatica exercises and sciatica stretches is NOT “no pain, no gain”.

In fact, with injuries, causing more pain means you are further irritating and damaging the sciatic nerve tissues, meaning your recovery will take longer.

Please start out gently, and only to your pain tolerance. Understand that sciatica pain will take time to reverse and correct, please be patient, and do NOT be overly aggressive with your sciatica stretches or sciatica exercises.

Also note that although these sciatica exercises and stretches are well researched and valid, everyone is different, including you!

Your symptoms may be different, and the cause of your sciatica may be different. For best results with any sciatica treatment in Toronto, consulting with a sciatica specialist in Toronto will always get you the best results, the fastest.

Sciatic Nerve Flossing Exercise

This exercise was developed and popularized by Dr. Stuart McGill out of the university of Waterloo. The idea is to “floss” the sciatic nerve, basically loosening or removing any adhesions to it, sort of like how dental flossing removes adhesions to your teeth.

To do this, sit on a hard chair or bench. Intentionally slouch, so that your head drops down and slightly forwards, to take stress off your sciatic nerve.


With your legs hanging, and your head slightly hanging, slowly look up to the sky with your head, while also slowly raising one of your legs at the knee, so that your leg is gradually straightening. Try to move your head and leg at roughly the same time and pace.

Then slowly lower your head back down, as you slowly lower your leg back down.

Then repeat on the opposite side. Do 5-10 repetitions on each side. 1-2 sets per side.

Do one side at a time. Even if you have sciatica on only one side, it’s best to do both sides.

Please stay within the pain free range of motion. This exercise should not hurt. If you can’t do the full range of motion to start with, that’s fine. Gradually over time, you’ll be able to increase the range of motion.

For a more detailed description of this sciatica pain exercise, please watch the Sciatica Nerve Flossing Exercise video.

Piriformis Sciatica Stretch

The piriformis muscle is one of the most common muscles involved in sciatica pain. It crosses over the sciatic nerve in the gluteal area, and if it is chronically shortened and inflamed, can compress the sciatic nerve.

There are several techniques to stretch your piriformis, but we want to emphasize being GENTLE when you have sciatica. This is not a case of no, no gain.

Better to start out gently, without further irritating your sciatic nerve pain, than to be too aggressive, and aggravate your sciatica.

To stretch your piriformis, sit on a supportive or hard chair or bench, with your legs bent hanging to the floor. Slowly raise you leg up, and pivot at your hip, so that you are sitting with one of your legs across the other, with your ankle resting on your other knee.

This position will start to stretch your piriformis muscle on the bent leg side. To further stretch it, place GENTLE pressure down on your bent knee with your hand, so that you can feel a gentle stretch of your piriformis muscle. 

This should not be painful. As the muscle stretches further, you can gradually use more pressure down on your knee.

Try to maintain your low back curve throughout the stretch, so that you are not leaning forward at the waste (which puts more pressure on your lumbar discs), but instead are pivoting forward at your hips. 

For a better understanding of this Sciatic Nerve Stretch, please watch the Seated Piriformis Stretch video below.


After working as a sciatica specialist in Toronto for over 20 years, we’ve come to realize that often the simple things are the most effective.

Do not underestimate the effectiveness of walking to help you to feel better as quickly as possible.

Being upright and moving, ideally by walking, is one of the most effective sciatica exercises for sciatica patients to bring healthy movement into their lumbar spine, to decrease inflammation, decrease muscle spasm, and to decrease pain over time. 

Start at your own pace, whatever you can tolerate to begin. Slow is fine at the beginning. Ideally over time, you’ll be able to increase your pace, to see more benefit.

Try to keep you posture as upright as you can, with your head and shoulders back, and maintain a proper curvature in your lumbar spine. The less hunched your posture, the less compression there is on the lumbar discs in your lower back.

Ideally, try to swing your arms at your shoulders as you walk, not only at your elbows. This swinging movement of the arms at your shoulders, helps to assist with proper pelvic motion, which can greatly benefit sciatica symptoms.

For a demonstration of proper walking mechanics for sciatica, watch this video on proper arm swing technique during walking.

Sciatica Pain Stretches to AVOID

As we’ve discussed previously, any forward bending should generally be avoided with sciatica pain, as this puts more tension on your sciatica nerve, and may further aggravate any disc bulge or disc herniation in your spine.


Avoid any aggressive hamstring stretches, done by either trying to bend down and touch your toes while standing, while laying down, or by stretching your hamstring by putting your foot up on a chair and leaning forwards.

All of these stretches are OVERLY AGGRESSIVE for anyone with sciatica nerve pain, and will likely irritate your sciatic nerve, and cause more sciatica pain over time.

RED FLAGS for sciatica pain

In some cases, if your sciatica becomes severe enough, there can be actual compression of the spinal cord, from narrowing of the spinal canal, a condition termed Spinal Stenosis.

This requires special attention, and in many cases can be managed conservatively, but if chronic and severe enough, in some cases, may require surgery.

In rare cases, if the sciatica progresses and becomes severe enough, it can lead to certain complications which are considered medical emergencies.


If you are experiencing any numbness in the butt or groin (called saddle anesthesia), combined with any bowel or bladder problems (having difficulties urinating or having a bowel movement), this potentially indicates a medical emergency (called cauda equina syndrome), and warrants an immediate trip to your local emergency room.

If you’re unsure, but are experiencing the symptoms I described above for cauda equina syndrome, please go immediately to your ER and have it assessed properly.

Sciatica Specialist in Toronto

In addition to the above, any thorough sciatica specialist in Toronto should assess your lumbar spine and pelvis for proper alignment, movement and normal structure. 

A thorough assessment of your low back and pelvis is essential, often including digital structural x-rays, to pinpoint any structural issues with your lumbar spine and pelvis, and any lumbar disc degeneration or disc herniations.

As with other measurements in the body, like normal heart rate or normal blood pressure, there are also normal measurements for the lumbar curve in your lower back (called the lumbar lordosis), as well as normal measurements for pelvic alignment and hip alignment. 

If any of these measurements are abnormal, or the movement in specific low back joints or sacroiliac joints (SI joints)  are reduced, this can gradually increase pressure on the lumbar joints and discs over time, resulting in lumbar arthritis or lumbar osteoarthritis, contributing over time to disc degeneration and herniations. 

There are specific chiropractic techniques and procedures we use as a Toronto sciatica chiropractor to correct these imbalances, combined with specific home-care sciatica stretches and lumbar stabilization exercises. 

Properly assessing the lumbar spine and pelvic mechanics is critical for any Toronto sciatica specialist, and should be included in any comprehensive assessment.

Normal Balanced Pelvic Alignment

Right Pelvic/Hip Imbalance

Sciatica Clinic Toronto

The information above is helpful and accurate for the majority of people with sciatica, but the reality is not everyone is the same, including you!

Before proceeding with any sciatica treatment approach, it is advisable to consult with a qualified sciatica clinic to determine what the exact cause of YOUR sciatica is, so you can get the best and fastest sciatica results possible.

At our sciatica clinic in Toronto, a thorough history is conducted to determine exactly what happened, what may have caused it, and then a comprehensive assessment is done.

A sciatica treatment plan is then begun, to first help you to start feeling better, slow down any further damage, get you back on your feet, and then work to ensure your spine is stabilized, so your sciatic pain doesn’t continue to occur and get worse.

If you’re experiencing any sciatica symptoms like this, we highly advise you to consult with a sciatica pain chiropractor who has training as a sciatica specialist, who will properly assess you, but also has the knowledge and techniques to correct any underlying structural issues.

If we can be of service at our office Transform Chiropractic, or if you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our Toronto clinic.

All the best,

Dr. Byron Mackay

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