Sciatic nerve pain often referred to as sciatica, can be quite severe. Although sciatica may be addressed with medication, that simply masks the pain and doesn’t address the root cause. Most forms of sciatic nerve pain aren’t serious enough to warrant surgical intervention, but physical therapy can help with both root causes and the intense pain associated with this condition.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica arises when pain radiates down the lower back and through one or both legs. It can occur during pregnancy, as the result of injury or spontaneously. Specifically, it’s the result of compression along the sciatic nerve because of a slipped disk, a bone spur or narrowing of the spinal cord.
In addition to pain, sciatica can cause numbness in the hips and legs and trouble with gait and mobility. Left untreated, it can progress to a truly life-limiting handicap. Starting physical therapy for sciatica as soon as possible can help lead to positive outcomes sooner rather than later.
Physical Therapy for Sciatica Begins with Thorough Stretching
Stretching may sound like a basic treatment to throw at a serious ailment like sciatic nerve pain, but it can lead to faster pain management and relief. That’s because targeted stretching helps elongate the spinal column and releases some of the compression on the sciatic nerve. Stretches that target your legs, hips, and buttocks can also help build strength, improve your posture and lead to increased compression relief.
During therapy, your PT teaches you stretches and exercises to perform at home so you can continue to work toward these goals between appointments.
Your therapist may also use manual therapy — the act of manipulating, massaging and moving your body with his or her hands or other equipment — during each therapy session. He or she does this in part to push you to new stretching positions to help increase the relief you ultimately feel and break through to new levels of functionality. Manual therapy also provides pain relief and helps with building strength.
While you might seek physical therapy just to deal with the pain of sciatica,
If you’re seeking nerve pain relief, physical therapy for sciatica can involve working on other areas of your body. Weakness in your core or other areas can cause poor posture or gait or other issues that lead to compression of your nerves.
As with stretching, your physical therapist may work through specific exercises and treatments with you in the office before giving you homework in the form of strength-training routines you can perform at home. At first, both stretching and strengthening exercises may be hard to perform and cause some soreness. As you gain functionality and begin to feel better, remember to talk to your therapist before moving on to other exercises.
The Bottom Line on Physical Therapy for Sciatica
Ferrell-Whited Physical Therapy can help with sciatic nerve pain, especially when administered by a professional experienced with such issues. If you’re dealing with nerve pain, talk to your doctor about physical therapy for sciatica or contact the therapists at Ferrell-Whited to request an appointment.