Sciatica is a relatively common and quite painful inflammatory condition that affects the sciatic nerve running from base of the spine down both legs. Here, our Nepean physiotherapists explain what kinds of treatment we can offer to patients suffering from pain caused by sciatica to alleviate its symptoms and help prevent it from flaring up again in the future.
Sciatica is a pain running from the lower back down the backs of one or both of your legs. Sciatica pain is caused by irritation and inflammation of the sciatic nerve, often from pressure placed on it by a herniated or bulging disc, bone spurs on your vertebrae or underlying health issues such as diabetes or tumors.
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 rare that permanent nerve damage results from sciatica, that doesn't make it any less painful and uncomfortable for those living with it. Because of this, treatment is incredibly important: both to restore your mobility and to alleviate pain while creating strategies to cause flare-ups to occur less frequently.
Since there are a wide range of disorders that may be the root cause of your case of sciatica, diagnosis often involves firstly, identifying that the source of your pain is indeed sciatica with exercises such as walking on your toes, lifting your legs one at a time while laying on your back and rising from a squat. These exercises are ones that will generally cause pain if you have 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 Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre, to design a rehabilitation program to both alleviate your pain and restore mobility in the long term.
Sciatica Treatment with Physiotherapy
Since some of the most common causes of sciatic pain are pressure abnormally placed on your nerves, physical therapies for sciatica generally focus on reducing this pressure when it's caused by spinal joints that aren't moving properly as well as easing muscle tightness and tension in the leg, buttock and lower back to help you recover your mobility.
Some of the most common approaches to physiotherapy for sciatica provided at our Nepean physiotherapy center include:
- Spinal mobilizations
- Manual therapy (joint & tissue mobilizations and release)
- Prescribed exercises and stretches to improve nerve & tissue mobility and stabilization
- Mechanical Traction
- Posture correction
- Acupuncture &/or Dry Needling
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 particularly severe cases of sciatica, surgical treatment may be required to remove problematic bone spurs or a portion of the herniated disc that is pressing into the nerve.
Our physiotherapists are able to support you even if you require surgical intervention for your pain! Physical therapy is helpful in preparing patients for surgery and helping to ensure positive outcomes. We are also able to offer rehabilitative treatments to help your body recover from invasive procedures for your sciatica to make sure you can return to your normal level of mobility as soon as possible.
Are you experiencing serious pain in your lower back and down one of your legs? You may have sciatica and our physiotherapists can help!
The staff at our physiotherapy clinic happy to talk to you about your treatment options.
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