Lumbar radiculopathy, commonly referred to as sciatica, is a common condition that many people experience. It occurs as a result of irritation to the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve of the body. It stretches from the lumbar spine through the buttocks, and pain from irritation is typically felt in the lower back. However, sciatica pain can also ensue in the buttocks, thigh, or lower limbs, which can pose challenges in mobility. Sciatica is commonly caused by a herniated disc; however, a back trauma or disc degeneration can also result in the condition.
Treating sciatica with physical therapy:
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.
Do you have sciatica?
Sciatica is diagnosed through a physical examination and an evaluation of medical history. A CT scan or MRI may be 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:
- Increasing strength.
- Improving motion.
- Reducing sciatica pain.
- Educating you on how to stand, bend, and twist.
- Improving flexibility.
- Returning to normal activities.
Schedule your consultation today:
If you are looking for an effective, safe, and non-invasive approach to sciatica treatment, physical therapy is your best option. PT treatments work to target the root of the problem by applying extensive assessments, in order to determine the best individualized treatment plan for every patient’s needs. These will be dependent upon the severity of each patient’s condition and will help to relieve pain and improve function.
Physical therapy is one of the most successful ways to treat sciatica. In addition to in-clinic treatments, your physical therapist will also provide you with targeted stretches and exercises you can do at home, in order to combat any sciatica pains you may feel in the future. Your risk of sciatica can be significantly reduced by practicing proper body mechanics, maintaining proper posture, and staying in shape, with the help of your physical therapist.
If you have been living with sciatica, or you think you may be experiencing sciatica symptoms, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation today. Our licensed physical therapists at Boulet Physical Therapy and Wellness Institute will meet with you to perform a comprehensive exam that will help determine what the best treatment plan will be for you. Don’t let your sciatica pain dictate your life any longer – find relief today with physical therapy