Sciatica is a condition in which one or both of the large sciatic nerves in the back of the legs are compressed or irritated. Patients typically experience pain as well as tingling and difficulty in moving the affected leg. They may also feel numbness or muscular weakness that originates in the lower back and travels down the sciatic nerve.
Specific, controlled and progressive sciatica physical therapy tailored to fit the underlying cause(s) can alleviate sciatic pain over time. Some people experience relief on their own within 6-12 weeks – however, prolonged inactivity or rest is not advisable. When you have pain, your body is trying to tell you something. Don’t just wait for the pain to go away.
Without exercise and movement, back muscles and spinal structures become less conditioned and able to support the back. Active exercise is necessary to help exchange nutrients and fluids within spinal discs, keeping them healthy and preventing excess pressure from building on the sciatic nerve.
In addition to physical therapy, there are numerous ways to heal sciatica and piriformis syndrome pain.
There are 2 goals of sciatica physical therapy – to reduce sciatic pain in the near term and to condition the “core” muscles to prevent future recurrences of pain.
Exercises to strengthen the spinal column, supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons – physical therapy for sciatica pain is focused on strengthening “core” abdominal and back muscles to provide more back support. These muscles help to support the spine, keeping it aligned and allowing it to extend or twist without injury or damage.
Stretching – is also recommended for treating sciatic pain and are designed to target muscles and ligaments that are tight and inflexible. For example, stretching the hamstring is an important part of a sciatica exercise program.
Low impact cardiovascular exercises – walking, swimming or pool therapy are important components of sciatica physical therapy. Aerobic activity encourages transport of fluids and nutrients to the injured tissues and creates a better healing environment. Aerobic exercise also releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers, which helps alleviate sciatic pain.
Sciatica patients should see a health professional for a correct diagnosis and to rule out serious problems before starting sciatica physical therapy, which is usually tailored to treat the cause of pain.
Managing sciatica is part of daily life and is not simply an exercise routine to be added at the end of the day. Along with conditioning exercises, patients with sciatica should minimize stress on their lower backs by using appropriate ergonomics while lifting, maintaining good posture, making sure the lower back is supported while sitting and avoiding sitting or standing for long periods of time.
The core concepts of physical therapy, targeted stretching, can also be done on your own. Some people will get a few sessions of physical therapy then take what they learn and do it on their own.
Before beginning physical therapy for sciatica, we suggest you visit the sciatica section of our website so you can learn all about the true causes of sciatic pain and how to treat it safely, effectively an in expensively.
Click on the link below to learn more:
Written By: Updated: June 30,2011