Is Physical Therapy an Effective Sciatica Treatment?
If you have sciatica, your general doctor may refer you to get physical therapy as part of your sciatica treatment plan. Learn more.
This treatment approach entails active and passive physical therapy techniques. Passive physical therapy techniques refer to cold and hot packs as administered by a physical therapist. On the other hand, active physical therapy, as the name implies, need an active input or participation from the patient, such as therapeutic exercises and stretches.
What Is Sciatica?
This condition is characterized by pain or discomfort in the leg as a result of a lower back pain issue. The sciatic nerve begins at the lower back and stretches down to the buttocks area. The nerve then extends out through the end of the leg all the way to the foot.
There are different causes that result in this condition being symptomatic. Some of the common health issues that lead to sciatica are pelvic misalignment, herniated disc, tightening of the nerves, hip tightness, among others.
Symptoms may include pain, discomfort, numbness, cramping, tingling, burning, and weakening of the leg, back, and buttocks area muscles.
Physical Therapy as a Sciatica Treatment Option
Physical therapy brings the following benefits to patients with sciatica:
- Reduce inflammation
- Reduce pain
- Improve overall physical functions
- Prevent recurrence of the condition
Additionally, your physical therapist can teach you the proper ways and techniques to improve your posture. This step includes performing exercises at home for improved and long-term effectivity on your physical health.
What to Expect from Physical Therapy
As a sciatica treatment option, physical therapy is an efficient method. During your initial appointment with a physical therapist, he or she will assess your medical history, current condition, and lifestyle habits.
Your physical therapist will also discuss your experiences related to the sciatica condition – from when it started to what event or injury (if any) triggered it and how severe or mild your sciatic symptoms are. You will also need to share what your activity levels were before any sciatic pain or discomfort developed.
Basic Movements Testing
The next stage includes you performing a series of basic movements. This exercise will help your physical therapist determine your movement ability, range of motion, reflexes, and posture. The exercises may include bending from side to side, extending backward, flexing forward, and twisting at the waist. You will also be asked to walk a little bit. The physical therapist will carefully evaluate how you walk.
These physical movements will serve as a baseline assessment of your existing condition. From observation and analysis, your physical therapist will be able to assess how sciatica is affecting your everyday physical functions – that, in turn, change how you do your regular activities.
Development of Sciatica Treatment Program
Based on the comprehensive discussion of your condition combined with the necessary movements testing, your physical therapist will devise a personalized physical therapy sciatica treatment program for you.
The treatment program will significantly depend on realistic goals you can reach within a specified timeframe. Your physical therapist will design passive and active therapy techniques based on your current capabilities.
If the pain or discomfort lessens or becomes manageable as you undergo treatment, your therapist will need to adjust the treatment program to include more exercises and stretches.
Consequently, if you continue to experience pain without any signs of diminishing over a specified period, your condition may need to be further evaluated.
Physical Therapists Can Help
Physical therapy involves the development of treatment programs that can help patients with sciatica. From mobilization to muscle energy techniques, spinal stabilizations to core strengthening techniques.
In some cases, people will respond more favorably to a certain technique. What works for one patient sciatica may not necessarily work for another. That’s why it’s essential to work closely with your physical therapist to determine the best course of the sciatica treatment plan for you.
Patience and Commitment Are Essential
Similar to any other treatment programs, success in physical therapy does not happen overnight. The patient needs to have patience and be committed to doing the treatment program to achieve positive results continually. The sciatica treatment program may entail a combination of clinic visits to do the treatment and in-home exercises.
Naturally, failure to do so will lead to the ineffectiveness of the treatment. Physical therapists are professionals who specialize in helping patients restore their optimal physical function. Thus, you can trust that they know what they are doing when it comes to helping patients with sciatica.