Is Your Sciatica Causing You Discomfort? Here are 3 Indicators that Physical Therapy is Needed

November 20th, 2020
Sciatica

Did You Know Physical Therapy Is Proven to Help with Sciatica?

Each of your sciatic nerves runs from either side of your lower back down to each of your legs. That’s why a classic sign of sciatica is having shooting pain on one side only.

While compression of one of your sciatic nerves can literally be a “pain in the butt,” it doesn’t always require medical attention.

Yet sometimes physical therapy is your best bet to banish sciatica symptoms. So how can you tell when to go it alone, and when to call a physical therapist? These guidelines below will explain what exactly sciatica is and how physical therapy can help you find relief.

Sciatica, explained

As stated by Move Forward Physical Therapy,

“Lumbar radiculopathy (also known as sciatica or radiculitis) is a condition that occurs when a nerve in your low back is injured, pinched, or compressed, causing pain or other symptoms that can extend from the low back to the hip, leg, or foot. Lumbar radiculopathy can be caused by sudden trauma or by long-term stress affecting structures in the back. It most often affects people aged 30 to 50 years. Risk factors for lumbar radiculopathy include repeated lifting, participating in weight-bearing sports, obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyles, and poor posture. The majority of lumbar radiculopathy and sciatica cases recover without surgery, and respond well to physical therapy. Physical therapists design individualized treatment programs to help people with lumbar radiculopathy reduce their pain, regain normal movement, and get back to their normal activities.”

To learn more about how to recognize when your sciatica is in need of physical therapy intervention, continue reading below.

1. When the pain is a response to an injury

Mild sciatica can build up over time, and it may even go away on its own. But when you have an onset of classic sciatica symptoms following a car accident, serious fall or sports injury, contact a doctor and a physical therapist.

The symptoms are more likely to be severe because of the greater impact on the area surrounding the sciatic nerve. It’s important to determine the severity of nerve damage. Your medical team needs to evaluate the need for surgery, steroid injections or prescription drugs.

Of course, even if your injury requires more aggressive treatment, physical therapy is often recommended as part of the recovery plan. Your physical therapist can help you with surgery rehab. He or She can also focus on extending the benefits of your injections and sciatica medication.

For many people with persistent or severe sciatica, physical therapy can be a lifeline. You’ll be taught targeted moves that strengthen your lower back. Strong muscles support the area around your sciatic nerve and can prevent future injuries. You’ll also work on improving your posture to keep sciatica symptoms at bay. Increasing range of motion is also part of physical therapy for sciatica.

2. When your symptoms begin to become severe

If your sciatic nerve becomes seriously compressed, the resulting symptoms can go from uncomfortable to quite painful – and even embarrassing.

You may become weak and numb on one side. Sometimes, even getting your leg or foot to move becomes impossible. If the pain hits you suddenly, and with great intensity, it’s probably time to visit a physical therapist to begin easing the pain.

Another telltale sign? The sciatic nerve can become compressed in the area that controls bladder and/or bowel function.

If you lose control of either or both of these functions, you’ll obviously want to get professional help. Visit a doctor to rule out other problems. She will likely run tests, as well as refer you to a physical therapist.

3. When your home remedies fail to work

There are plenty of things you can do at home to ease a mild sciatica flare-up. Alternating with cold and heat is a classic treatment for sciatica symptoms. Use an ice pack, followed by a heating pad, for about 15 minutes per application.

Sleeping with a pillow between your knees can also help. If you can’t get comfortable during the day or at night, try a reclining chair to redirect the pressure from your lower back. Going for walks often helps ease sciatica pain, because “babying” your condition can actually make it worse.

Yet while these methods may help with mild sciatica, there are times when a physical therapy session is a far better strategy. One sign that you should consult a physical therapist is if your home treatments are having little or no effect in reducing the pain and restricted motion.

Another is if the symptoms persist for at least a week. Of course, the worsening of pain is the most important sign that physical therapy is needed.

Ready to get started?

Contact us today to speak with an experienced physical therapist about how to manage – and even banish – painful sciatica flare-ups.

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