Sciatica is a pretty common and painful inflammatory condition that affects the a nerve running from the base of the spine down each leg called the sciatic nerve. Here, our Orleans physical therapists explain what kinds of treatment we offer to patients who are suffering from pain caused by sciatica in order to alleviate its symptoms and help to prevent it from flaring up again in the future.
Sciatica is a pain that runs from the lower back down the back of one of both legs. Sciatica pain is caused by the inflammation and irritation of the sciatic nerve. This is often caused by pressure placed on it by a herniated or bulging disc, bone spurs in your vertebrae or underlying health issues like tumors or diabetese.
The Symptoms of Sciatica
The pain caused by sciatica can range from constant to infrequent and from a mild discomfort to debilitating. Generally speaking, sciatica only affects one side of your lower back and one leg, running from the base of your spine down a buttock and the back of a leg. The pain is often characterized by a burning or tingling in one leg, numbness, shooting pain and difficulty moving the affected leg.
While it's quite rare that permanent nerve damage may result from sciatica, that doesn't make it any less painful or uncomfortable for those who are living with it. Because of this, treatment is very important: both to restore your mobility and to alleviate your pain while creating strategies to help reduce the frequency of flare-ups.
Since a wide range of disorders may be at the root of your sciatic nerve pain, diagnosis will generally begin by identifying that the source of your pain is indeed sciatica using exercises like walking on your toes, lifting your legs one at a time while laying on your back, and standing up from a squat. These exercises will often cause quite a bit of pain if your are, indeed, suffering from sciatica.
After identifying that you indeed do have sciatica, a suite of diagnostic tests will be run to determine what is the root cause. This can include X-rays, MRIs and CT scans to examine your spine and nerves.
After a diagnosis, your primary physician may prescribe a number of medications to help manage your pain, including anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants or narcotics. They will also likely refer you to a physical therapist, like our team at Motion Works Physiotherapy Orleans, to design a rehabilitation program to both alleviate your pain and restore mobility in the long term.
Sciatica Treatment with Physiotherapy
Since the most common causes of sciatica involve pressure being placed on your nerves by something, physiotherapy for sciatica focus on reducing this pressure when cause by spinal joints as well as alleviate the muscle tension in the buttocks, legs and back associated with pain to help restore mobility.
Some of the most common approaches to physiotherapy for sciatica provided at our Orleans physiotherapy center include:
- Spinal mobilizations
- Posture correction
- Mechanical Traction
- Manual therapy (joint & tissue mobilizations and release)
- Acupuncture &/or Dry Needling
- Prescribed exercises and stretches to improve nerve & tissue mobility and stabilization
When you are suffering from sciatica, exercises can help. However, if you don't consult with your physiotherapist about what kinds of stretches and exercises are and aren't helpful when it comes to sciatica, you may only make your pain worse. Always take to one of our physical therapists before undertaking any new stretch or exercise.
Physical Therapy for Severe Cases of Sciatica
When it comes to severe cases of sciatica, surgical treatments may be required in order to remove problematic bone spurs or a portion of a herniated disc that is pressing into your nerves.
Our physical therapists are able to support you even if you need surgical intervention for your pain. Physiotherapy is helpful in prepping patients for surgery by supporting positive outcomes. We are also able to offer rehabilitative treatments for patients who are recovering from surgery or other invasive procedure for their sciatica to help them recover their mobility as quickly as possible.