Sciatica, also referred to as “lumbar radiculopathy” is a pain that typically radiates from the lower back. The sciatic nerve extends from the lumbar spine through the area of the buttocks, making it the largest nerve in the human body. When this nerve becomes irritated, pain ensues, and it is usually felt in the lumbar area and behind the thigh. The pain can also radiate to the lower limbs, making it difficult to bend or walk. The most common cause of sciatica is lumbar disc herniation, but it can be caused by a back injury or disc degeneration, as well.
How is sciatica diagnosed?
Sciatica is diagnosed through a physical examination and an evaluation of medical history. A CT scan or MRI may also be performed, in order to locate the root cause of sciatica. According to Move Forward PT, “Conservative care like physical therapy often results in better and faster results than surgery or pain medication.” Once you are diagnosed with sciatica, a physical therapist will work with you to manage and relieve the condition. This includes:
- Reducing sciatica pain.
- Improving motion.
- Increasing strength.
- Improving flexibility.
- Educating you on how to stand, bend, and twist.
- Returning to normal activities.
How is sciatica treated?
A physical therapist may use several types of treatments to reduce your sciatica pain and symptoms. Active treatments include motions, stretches, and specific exercises, aimed at reducing pain and accelerating healing. A physical therapist will also teach you different motions that you can do at home in order to manage your pain. If a physical therapist discovers any weak muscles, you will be given corrective exercises for core strengthening.
The strengthening exercises in your physical therapy treatments focus not only on the lower back, but also on the hip muscles, abdominal muscles, and glutes. All of the exercises you participate in will help strengthen the spinal column (including your tendons, ligaments, and supporting muscles) while also keeping the spine in proper alignment.
The stretching exercises in physical therapy target muscles that are inflexible and tight. Hamstring stretching is an important part of a physical therapy treatment program to alleviate sciatica. An aquatic exercise program may also be recommended by a physical therapist. You can do exercises easily with the buoyancy of water.
Passive treatments may include massage therapy, ice and heat therapies, electric therapy, or ultrasound. All of these different modalities help reduce pain, stimulate blood flow, and accelerate healing. Massage therapy is typically conducted for sciatica relief, as it helps alleviate sciatic nerve pain. It loosens up tight back muscles that may be pressing on the sciatic nerve, and it increases the release of endorphins for pain relief. Ice and heat therapies are also common, as they help ease pain, relax muscles, and reduce inflammation. Electrotherapy may also be applied, which uses electricity to also aid in reducing pain, strengthening muscles, ramping up circulation, and improving physical function.
Contact us for relief:
Physical therapy for sciatica is a non-invasive, multifaceted, and effective treatment that is targeted to the root cause of sciatica. A physical therapist will devise a personalized treatment plan just for you, based on the nature and severity of your condition. The goal is to help you live a pain-free life and avoid harmful drugs or surgery.
You can treat your sciatica today with physical therapy. With physical therapy treatments, you’ll also learn how to prevent sciatica in the future by doing home-exercise motions that your physical therapist will teach you. By practicing good posture, proper body mechanics, and staying in good shape, you can prevent sciatica from occurring again.
If you’re suffering from sciatica, be sure to give Vineyard Complementary Medicine in Edgartown, MA a call to schedule a consultation with one of our physical therapists. A comprehensive exam will be performed, and our physical therapists will get you on the road to recovery. Get back to living your life free of pain, with the help of physical therapy.