Sciatica is a condition caused by an irritated or compressed nerve. It tends to affect one side of the body, causing pain, inflammation, and sometimes numbness. Although sciatica can cause severe symptoms, the condition can often be treated successfully with physical therapy.
Sciatica often starts in the lower back and radiates through the hip, buttock, and down the back of the leg. It usually results when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched, such as by a herniated disc or bone spur in the spine. Pain symptoms can vary from a mild ache to a shooting pain or sharp burning sensation. Numbness, tingling, and/or weakness may also be experienced in the thigh, leg, or foot.
Although most people make a full recovery from sciatica, without treatment, it can lead to permanent nerve damage. Physical therapy is typically the first line of treatment for sciatica.
Physical Therapy for Sciatica
Pain associated with sciatica can be excruciating, but the condition can usually be treated successfully with non-operative treatments, in particular physical therapy. The aim of physical therapy is to relieve symptoms, promote healing of the underlying cause, and prevent the condition from recurring in the future.
Physical therapists are medical specialists who promote, maintain, and restore movement and function when a patient is affected by injury, illness, or disability. Through education and guidance, they can also help prevent future injuries. They use a holistic and personalized approach and involve patients directly in their own care.
To treat sciatica, a physical therapist will carry out a thorough assessment to determine the type of treatment a patient may need. They mainly focus on movement and exercise, manual therapy, education, and advice, and use a range of therapeutic techniques to help improve symptoms and to prevent future injuries.
A physical therapist will work with you to develop a customized treatment plan to maximize your mobility and function and to help return you to your normal activities and lifestyle without pain or limitations. For sciatica, they may use the following techniques:
- Manual therapy techniques manipulate and mobilize joints, soft tissues, and nerves to relieve pain and tension and restore movement.
- Exercises to reduce pain and promote movement of the spine.
- Strengthen core muscles to better support the spine.
- Therapeutic modalities, such as massage therapy, heat and cold therapy, electrical stimulation, and therapeutic ultrasound, promote healing.
- Active assisted therapy helps facilitate the movement of specific joints and muscles responsible for pain.
- Education, advice, and functional retraining to improve posture, technique, and healthy movement patterns and to prevent re-injury.
- Dry needling uses a small needle to release irritated or contracted muscle tissue to help reduce pain.
- Gait training to improve your ability to stand and walk correctly.
- Home exercise instructions to help you do physical therapy on your own at home between sessions with the physical therapist.
- Advice and guidance to maintain a healthy lifestyle and well-being and to prevent further problems.
A physical therapist can also work with you to find ways to modify certain activities to reduce symptoms and prevent re-injury. Physical therapy may be used alone or in some cases, in conjunction with other treatments, such as medications or steroid injections to reduce pain and inflammation around the irritated nerve.
It is not always possible to prevent sciatica, and certain factors can increase your risk of developing the condition, such as age, obesity, diabetes, prolonged sitting, and occupations that involve carrying heavy items or twisting the back. However, getting regular exercise to strengthen the back, maintaining proper posture when sitting, and using good body mechanics when lifting or bending can help protect your back and prevent sciatica.
Physical Therapy Services in Pennsylvania, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, West Virginia, Virginia, New Jersey, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland, and Georgia
If you have symptoms of sciatica, visit H2 Health for high-quality healthcare services. Our physical therapists are experts in treating a range of conditions and movement disorders and can provide you with the tools and hands-on care needed to change and improve your lifestyle.
Our comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation services are customized for each patient. We believe in providing patients with holistic care to fix rather than mask problems. We specialize in orthopedic diagnoses, but we are skilled in treating a variety of symptoms and offer a comprehensive range of therapeutic services, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy services.