Sciatica is a relatively common and painful condition affecting the sciatic nerve that runs from the base of the spin down both the spine and legs. Here, our Manotick physical therapists explain what treatments we offer to patients suffering from pain caused by sciatica in order to alleviate its symptoms now and in the future.
Sciatica is a pain that runs from the lower back down the backs of both or only one of your legs. Sciatica pain may be caused by inflammation or irritation of the sciatic nerve. This is commonly the result of pressure placed on it by a herniated or bulging disc, an underlying health issue like diabetes and tumors, or bone spurs on your vertebrae.
The Symptoms of Sciatica
The characteristic pain of sciatica can range from constant to infrequent and from mild discomfort in your legs and lower back to debilitating. Generally, sciatica will only affect one side of your lower back and one leg, running from the base of your spine down a buttock and the back of your leg. This pain is often described as a burning or tingling in one leg or numbness and shooting pain or difficulty moving.
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 variety of possible disorders that may be the root cause of your case of sciatica, the diagnosis will often involve the identification of the source of your pain with exercises like walking on your toes, lifting your legs one at a time while laying on your back or 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 Manotick PhysioWorks, 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 the pressure that is placed on your nerve, physiotherapy for sciatica will focus in on reducing that pressure when it is cause by spinal joints that aren't moving properly in addition to easing muscle tightness and tension that are the result of your pain to help restore mobility to your lower body.
Some of the most common approaches to physiotherapy for sciatica provided at our Nepean physiotherapy center include:
- Mechanical Traction
- Posture correction
- Spinal mobilizations
- Prescribed exercises and stretches to improve nerve & tissue mobility and stabilization
- Manual therapy (joint & tissue mobilizations and release)
- 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 cases of sciatica that are particularly severe, surgical treatments may be required in order to remove bone spurs or portions of herniated discs that may be placing excess pressure on your 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.