Sciatica is a diagnostic term that was coined in the 1980s to describe the classical presentation of pain running down the back of the leg along the path of the sciatic nerve. It is not a particularly useful diagnostic label. Typically, someone with this diagnostic label will have an MRI showing compression of the S1 spinal nerveroot.
As we have already discussed above however, the compression of a spinal nerveroot is only part of the “i have a pinched nerve in my back” story. Sciatica is essentially a label used to describe the most common location at which a spinal nerve becomes symptomatic- that being the L5/S1 segment. Like any clinical scenario in which there is spinal pain, and pain referred along the path of a particular nerve, we need to ensure that the treatment plan includes appropriate education about how pain works, combined with appropriate medication, manual therapy and a graded return to pre-injury or pre-pain activities.