Back Pain and Sciatica Relief
Did you know that up to 70 percent of Americans will experience low back pain, at some point in their lives? With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that many times, low back pain can become a chronic issue. If you or a loved one have been experiencing any early warning signs of a back injury or sciatica that include numbness, tingling and intense pain, physical therapy can help. Our experienced physical therapists have the skills needed to provide safe, effective and non-invasive treatment, for patients of all ages.
What is back pain and sciatica?
“Back pain” is a generalized term that covers a wide range of conditions. Back pain can be caused by a lifting injury, poor posture, an accident, or another cause. Your course of treatment with a physical therapist will depend on the type of back pain, its location, and a lot of other factors. Pain can be acute (short-term) or chronic (lasting more than three months), and it can impact the bones of the spinal structure or muscles in the back.
Sciatica is a specific type of back pain that is intensely painful and easy to diagnose. The pain from sciatica runs along the sciatic nerve. This nerve extends from your lower back, splits near the base of your spine, and runs down to the bottom of each foot. When the sciatic nerve is “pinched,” it can send a constant, shooting, burning pain from your buttocks to the bottom of your feet. Anything that irritates the sciatic nerve can result in pain, from mild to very severe. However, in most cases, sciatica is the result of a compressed nerve, in the lower spine. Many people confuse the term sciatica with general low back pain. But this common musculoskeletal condition is not just limited to the lower back.
The sciatic nerve controls a group of muscles in the lower legs, supplying sensation to the lower leg area and the foot. While sciatica is not technically a condition but a symptom of other common issues affecting the sciatic nerve, it is estimated that up to 40 percent of people will suffer from sciatica at least once in their lifetime.
Often, sciatica is the result of an injured spinal disc compressing the sciatic nerve. When a patient has a ruptured disc, it can leak (herniate) or protrude (bulge) out of place and put pressure on the nearby nerve. This type of injury can be the result of regular wear and tear, repetitive stress on the lower back or some form of acute trauma. Other common underlying issues that may result in sciatic nerve pain include:
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Spinal Stenosis
Common Symptoms and Risk Factors Associated with Low Back Pain and SciaticaWhile the sciatic nerve originates in the lower spine, some people with the condition may not experience any low back pain at all. Instead, they suffer from a number of different symptoms that affect the nerves that flow into the right or left leg. In cases where sciatica affects the legs, patients may experience symptoms that include:
- Pain radiating from the buttocks, down into the back of the leg and sometimes into the feet.
- Shooting pain in the legs, numbness, and burning pain
- Weakness in the legs
- Decreased reflexes in the legs
Other common symptoms may include back stiffness, a decreased range of motion in the hip area, muscles tenderness and spasms. Patients may also find that their pain and other symptoms seem more severe in the morning and after prolonged periods of standing or sitting. While lower back pain and sciatica can affect people of all ages, it typically affects people who have very physically demanding jobs, those who have recently experienced some form of physical trauma like a car accident and anyone who may sit or stand a lot. Additionally, diabetes, smoking, and obesity may increase your risk of sciatica and lower back pain.
How physical therapy helps back pain and sciatica
Recovery from sciatica or other types of back pain is possible with the help of physical therapy. Your course of treatment with a physical therapist will largely depend on your diagnosis. In the early stages of sciatica or back pain, your physical therapist will make specific recommendations to help relieve pain. This can include applying ice packs to affected areas every few hours, going for short walks to remain active, and working on things like your posture to prevent the injury from worsening.
As your condition improves, your physical therapist will work with you on specific exercises, stretches, and treatments. Your physical therapist will prescribe specific exercises to relieve the pain from sciatica, so it’s important to do these. The goal of physical therapy for back pain and sciatica is to improve your range of motion, relieve the pain, and strengthen the body so you can ultimately return to your normal daily activities.
If you have been diagnosed with back pain or sciatica, contact us today to request an appointment with a physical therapist. The pain may be intense now, but our physical therapist will help get you on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.