How Physical Therapy Can Help You Stop Suffering From Sciatica
With the looming desire to keep up with our New Year’s resolutions, pain is something most of us do not have the time for. Sciatica, in particular, can be very debilitating. The most interesting understanding is that Sciatica is a symptom and the root problem can be multiple possibilities that ultimately compress the sciatic nerve. Physical therapists are experts at identifying where the sciatic nerve is being compressed, what movements and positions are compromising free movement of the sciatic nerve, and how to relieve the pressure on the nerve? Most patients with sciatica usually experience some low back pain, along with varying amounts of numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. The severity of pain can range anywhere from sharp and excruciating to a dull ache and may follow along the path of the sciatic nerve that extends down each leg.
Common Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica can often be traced as a symptom of another underlying condition. A significant number of sciatica cases are caused by disc herniation or disc degeneration, but some other causes may include:
- Spinal Stenosis
- Spinal Tumors
- Injury or Infection
- Nerve entrapment
If you are experiencing this pain, it can drastically decrease your quality of life if it persists without treatment. But what is the solution? You may want to sit or relax in order to lessen the feeling of pain, but doing so actually makes it worse.
“You may also want to search for some exercises online and try to self treat. Remember, however, there is no one exercise program that fits all. Treatment for sciatica is different from treatment for generalized low back pain,” notes Palak Shah, PT. “Skillfully identified but minor changes in the way your muscles are activated, the way you walk, the way you sit for hours, the exercise routine you follow can help significantly. Being a PT is like being in a detective role; we call it clinical reasoning. Physical therapists are hence called movement experts.”
Treatment involves managing your pain first while staying active. Physical therapists can help identify the best exercises and positioning techniques when the pain flares-up, this will reduce inflammation and allow the exchange of nutrients and fluids to keep the discs and nerve healthy, giving you relief and preventing excess pressure on the nerve.
“Delaying care causes deactivation of muscles, pain guarding and decreased activity which makes your muscles weaker in this acute phase of sciatica. When pain persists for more than three months, our body learns how to compensate and continue to function,” says Palak. “This isn’t good because it now puts more load on areas that shouldn’t be working so hard and they become painful. It’s just like a team sport, if everyone in the team doesn't load share, there can be burnout! Hence, the sooner you get care, the better the prognosis of recovery.”
Relief for Sciatica with PT
Your Luna PT can recommend exercise programs specifically tailored to reduce pain in a localized area. Having knowledge of these exercises can prevent severe pain in the future if any underlying issues persist and or if you experience another flare-up. Once the pain is managed and under control, the focus is towards doing exercises to help you improve trunk stabilization and strengthening weak, uncoordinated muscle actions. This allows a stable, strong, and healthy spine and good muscle activation to return to full function. The Mayo Clinic has provided some good suggestions for preventing sciatica and its recurrence:
- Exercising regularly - this is especially important for your core muscles and building up the strength around your lumbar region to support proper posture. “Gentle stretching to glide and slide the Sciatic nerve can be significantly helpful when done right!” Palak adds.
- Proper posture - maintaining good posture and spinal alignment will help ease the pain and the tension that is created along the sciatic nerve.
- Listen to your body - know your limits and don’t strain yourself or push your body to the extreme.
How Can Luna’s On-Demand PT Help?
Because the pain from sciatica can become severe, we want you to feel better as soon as possible without any unnecessary doses of pain medications, injections, and procedures. With the help from Luna’s on-demand PT, you have the opportunity to heal from your own home and not miss your PT visits. Your PT will tailor the treatment program to your home environment and to your lifestyle, which proves to be very efficient and practical. Your tailored program is available in your Luna app which tracks your pain level, how often you completed your exercises and also allows you to directly communicate and message your PT in case of any modifications. This allows streamlined and efficient coordination of care.
At Luna, our focus is on your health. Luna’s physical therapists aim to help you heal faster, more comfortably, and keep you accountable for your personalized plan. If you are looking for a PT in the San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, or Seattle area, give us a call and let us help you on your road to recovery!
Handpicked Resources For You
- Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Sciatica, WebMD
- Best Stretches for Pain Relief, HealthPrep
- Physical Therapy and Exercise for Sciatica, Spine Health
- 5 Tips for Coping with Sciatica, Harvard Health Publishing