Did you know that up to 70 percent of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives? With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that many times, low back pain can become a chronic issue. If you or a loved one have been experiencing any early warning signs of a back injury or sciatica that include numbness, tingling, and intense pain – physical therapy can help. Our experienced physical therapists have the skills needed to provide safe, effective and non-invasive treatment for all patients. Contact us today to learn about the benefits of physical therapy for low back pain and sciatica at Catalyst PT.

What is Sciatica?

When the sciatic nerve becomes irritated, it results in intense and often chronic pain that is called sciatica. Anything that irritates the sciatic nerve can result in pain, from mild to very severe. However, in most cases, sciatica is the result of a compressed nerve in the lower spine. Many people confuse the term sciatica with general low back pain. But this common musculoskeletal condition is not just limited to the lower back. Because the sciatic nerve is the widest and longest nerve in the body, it is possible for patients to experience pain that runs down from the lower back, into the buttocks, then down through the legs and feet.
The sciatic nerve controls a group of muscles in the lower legs, supplying sensation to the lower leg and foot. While sciatica is not technically a condition but a symptom of other common issues affecting the sciatic nerve, it is estimated that up to 40 percent of people will suffer from sciatica at least once in their lifetime.

What is the cause?

Often, sciatica is the result of an injured spinal disc compressing the sciatic nerve. When a patient has a ruptured disc, it can leak (herniate) or protrude (bulge) out of place and put pressure on the nearby nerve. This injury can be the result of wear and tear, repetitive stress on the lower back or acute trauma. Other common underlying issues that may result in sciatic nerve pain include:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bony tumors (in rare cases)

It is important to determine what is causing your sciatic nerve pain. Catalyst Physical Therapy & Diagnostics performs nerve testing called EMG/NCV testing that helps identify where exactly the issue occurs. Finding the exact spot of the nerve compression is beneficial for effective treatment as the nerve is so large.

Common Symptoms and Risk Factors Associated with Low Back Pain and Sciatica

While the sciatic nerve originates in the lower spine, some people with sciatica may not experience any low back pain. Instead, they suffer from a number of different symptoms that affect the nerves that flow into the legs. In cases where sciatica affects the legs, patients may experience symptoms that include:

  • Pain radiating from the buttocks, down into the back of the leg and sometimes into the feet.
  • Shooting pain in the legs, numbness, and burning pain
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Decreased reflexes in the legs

Other common symptoms may include back stiffness, a decreased range of motion in the hip area, muscles tenderness and spasms. Patients may find that their symptoms seem more severe in the morning and after prolonged periods of standing or sitting. While lower back pain and sciatica can affect people of all ages, it typically affects men aged 30 to 50, people who have very physically demanding jobs, those who have recently experienced some form of physical trauma like a car accident and anyone who may sit or stand a lot. Additionally, diabetes, smoking, and obesity may increase your risk of sciatica and lower back pain.

How Does Physical Therapy Help Treat Sciatica and Low Back Pain?

Our physical therapists help manage low back pain and sciatica symptoms through the use of targeted physical therapy treatment. This safe, prescription drug-free treatment option is non-invasive and promotes faster natural healing while providing fast pain relief. Instead of simply treating your symptoms, physical therapy alleviates pressure on the sciatic nerve for long-lasting relief. Manual therapy has shown to reduce sciatica symptoms. The specific forms of manual therapy that are helpful are myofascial therapy and neural mobilization. Myofascial therapy releases muscle tissue tightness. Neural mobilization allows a compressed nerve to release by bringing back mobility in neural tissue. Another physical therapy modality that helps with sciatica symptoms is dry needling. This helps by enhancing blood flow to the affected area and improving range of motion.

Want to learn more about the benefits of physical therapy for lower back pain and sciatica? Get the best back pain relief treatment. Contact us today at Clearwater, FL centers or Palm Harbor, FL centers, for more information and be sure to schedule an initial consultation.

FAQs

How do I know if my back pain is serious?

The pain you experience in your back may either be acute or chronic, depending on how it was sustained. Acute pain means that it lasts for a short time and is usually severe. Chronic pain means that it lasts generally three months or longer and it can either cause dull or severe persistent pain. The pain you experience is typically either rooted in your back muscles or the bones in your spine. If your pain is severe enough to hinder you from doing daily tasks, if it suddenly worsens, or if it has lasted longer than three months, then it is time to seek the help of a physical therapist.

How do I get relief from back pain?

You can treat your back pain with physical therapy. Physical therapy can address back pain by helping to improve your range of motion, strengthening the muscles in the affected areas, and using targeted massage to reduce tension. In many situations, working with a physical therapist to improve can significantly reduce the severity of your back pain, and may even help you avoid more invasive procedures, such as surgery.

What is the best physical therapy treatment for back pain?

Your physical therapist will design a treatment plan based on your specific needs. Your individualized treatment plan will incorporate the best methods possible for relieving your pain, facilitating the healing process, and restoring function and movement to the affected area(s) of your back. Your initial appointment will consist of a comprehensive evaluation, which will help your physical therapist discover which forms of treatment will be best for the orthopedic, neurologic, or cardiovascular condition you are experiencing. The main stages of your plan will focus on pain relief, which may include any combination of ice and heat therapies, manual therapy, posture improvement, targeted stretches and exercises, or any other treatment that your physical therapist may deem fit. While there is no singular method for relieving back pain, your physical therapist will make sure you receive the best treatments for your needs.

How do you relieve back pain without drugs?

While medication is easy, it only helps your pain subside for a short amount of time. Over time, certain drugs can cause some unfavorable side effects, and in some cases, they can be habit-forming. With NSAIDs, you run the risk of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke. With corticosteroids, you run the risk of cataracts, high blood sugar levels, and bone loss. Luckily, there is a much safer and healthier alternative to treating persistent back pain: physical therapy. At your initial consultation, your physical therapist will ask you several questions regarding your medical history, lifestyle, and painful area(s). This information will assist your physical therapist in creating the best treatment plan for you and your specific needs, so you can be provided with long-term results.