Physical therapy is a preferred method of rehabilitation for many common health problems. Sciatica is just one example of how physical therapy can help reduce the aches and pains of having a flawed mortal body. Sciatica is common and affects about three million people each year in the United States. With the opioid epidemic blazing through the U.S. it would be wise to consider physical therapy as a primary form of treatment before accepting pain medications as a solution.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica refers to pain radiating along the sciatic nerve that stretches from the lower back and down each leg. It is the longest nerve in the body. Luckily, only one side usually causes a problem in most cases. Sciatica affects both men and women, but studies show that men experience this type of pain up to three times more often than women.
The pain is usually caused by some kind of compression on the nerve. Physical therapy can help alleviate that compression to provide some relief fairly quickly.
How Physical Therapy Helps
Physical therapy is usually the first treatment for sciatica. Signs and symptoms of sciatica include lower back pain, hip pain, leg pain, numbness and weakness in butt/thigh/foot. Therapy aims to treat and lessen symptoms of sciatica. If there is a known underlying condition such as a herniated disc, therapy can help treat the root of the problem.
Because physical therapy builds strength it could decrease future sciatica symptoms and flare ups providing long term relief from a very painful and inconvenient condition. “Physical therapists are specifically trained in providing manual therapy, exercise programs, and rehabilitation for radiating lower back pain.”
When you strengthen the muscles around the problem area, symptoms will decrease over time. Your physical therapist can give you exercises to do at home to add strength during therapy and to give you the tools to maintain after physical therapy is over.
One of the great and overlooked benefits of therapy is the increase in confidence of movement. Reduced fear of falling will promote independence and prevent or postpone a sedentary lifestyle.
In addition to exercises at therapy and at home a trained physical therapist can also provide manual manipulation to promote healing. This is another way to cure the compression on the nerve that is causing pain.
How to Know When it is Time to Treat your Sciatica with Physical Therapy
While it is often a good idea to rest an area of the body that is sore and painful, in this case it can cause worsening symptoms. Getting the area moving through stretches, movement and specific exercises will heal the problem quicker than rest.
The following are indicators that could lead to physical therapy:
- Symptoms suddenly get more severe
- Limited movement
- Decreased control of bowel and bladder
- Flare up lasting more than a week
- An injury traumatizes the sensitive area
When what you are doing to manage the pain is no longer working–sometimes our bodies become immune to what was working before or maybe the treatment was only treating part of the problem and not the root cause. If symptoms persist for longer than a week it is always a good idea to consult a doctor or therapist about your pain.
Getting Help from Qualified Professionals
The physical therapy offices nearest you will most likely have treated many cases of sciatica similar to yours. Pick PT provides Rexburg physical therapy and specializes in back pain including sciatica. Contact the professionals nearest you to start feeling relief today.