Back pain is something many people will deal with at some point in their lives.
Life puts a lot of strain on the delicate nerves and joints of the spine, and back pain often feels like an inevitable result, with most adults experiencing it at some point in their lives.
If you’re looking for treatment for you back pain, we, ahem, have your back at Capitol Physical Therapy, a Washington DC physical therapy clinic.
Sciatica is a type of lower back pain that radiates into the legs, and can cause pain, discomfort, and reduced mobility.
In this article we’re going to talk about what sciatica is, what causes it, and how physical therapy treatment for pain management can help if you’re suffering from it.
What Is Sciatica?
To understand what sciatica is, we should start by discussing the sciatic nerve.
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body.
It starts at the base of the spine and branches off through the buttocks, hips, and down each leg.
Because of its size and location, when there’s pressure or pinching of the nerve it can send pain radiating from the back down into the legs.
This pain is called sciatica.
It generally affects one side of the body more than the other, and it can be caused by a variety of factors that we’ll discuss further later on.
Depending on what’s causing the issue in the first place, the treatment options available vary.
In some cases, sciatica goes away on its own without treatment, though in many cases physical therapy can help with recovery, and in some cases surgical solutions are necessary.
If you think you may be experiencing sciatica and have loss of feeling or weakness in one leg, or loss of bowel or bladder control you should contact a medical professional to make sure you can get the care you need.
Symptoms Of Sciatica
Sciatica is characterized by pain, discomfort, or numbness along the pathway of the sciatic nerve.
Because of the size of the sciatic nerve and the different ways that it can become irritated, the symptoms of sciatica can vary widely between individuals.
The discomfort can appear anywhere from the lower back to the calf, but pain that radiates along the back side of the leg from the lower back is a typical symptom.
The intensity and quality of the pain can also vary widely between cases.
Sciatica pain can feel like a mild ache but can also present as a sharp or burning pain along the path of the sciatic nerve.
In some cases, the pain can even feel like a jolt or electric shock.
The pain is also often accompanied by some level of numbness, weakness, or tingling in the affected limb or in the back or buttocks.
The severity of the symptoms can also be a major factor in how urgently you may need help.
Severe sciatica pain can impede daily activities and mobility but there is help available to help you get back to your most mobile self.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by pressure on or irritation to the sciatic nerve.
This irritation can be caused by a bulging or herniated disk, bone spurs, or narrowing of the spine putting pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Because of the location of the nerve, sitting down for extended periods of time can worsen pain.
Any of these issues can be treated by a professional to help reduce sciatica symptoms and prevent later flare ups, and the appropriate approach depends on what’s causing the pressure on the nerve.
There are also a number of factors that increase the risk of sciatica by putting extra strain on the sciatic nerve or the disks of the spine.
The most common risk factor for sciatica is simply age-related spinal degeneration.
Aging is unavoidable, but the sciatica symptoms that can come along with it can often be managed or eliminated altogether.
Obesity can also increase the risk of sciatica by putting more pressure on the joints of the spine and increasing the risk of disk problems that can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Another risk factor for sciatica is occupation.
Any occupation that involves prolonged sitting, twisting, or lifting can put pressure on the sciatic nerve and lead to pain over time.
Physical Therapy Treatments For Sciatica
Like other treatment options, the goal with physical therapy for sciatica is to facilitate healing and relieve the pain that sciatica can cause.
Physiotherapy takes time to work, but has many advantages especially compared to surgical options for sciatica relief.
By improving strength in the areas surrounding the sciatic nerve in a safe and supervised way, physiotherapy can both reduce pain and help to prevent future flare ups.
The physiotherapy treatments available for sciatica are primarily divided into two types.
Passive physiotherapy is primarily to relax muscles that may be causing pain and facilitate healing.
This can be done with massage, hot and cold therapies, electrical stimulation, and ultrasound among other options.
Active physiotherapy involves participation and movement to strengthen, stretch, and mobilize the body for better healing.
Hydrotherapy, a type of active physiotherapy that uses the resistance of water to help build strength and aerobic conditioning can also be a good option if sciatica pain interferes with weight bearing movements.
Many physiotherapy treatments will work with some combination of active and passive physiotherapy, as well as at home exercises to help get you back to feeling your best.
Finding ways to keep moving safely and as comfortably as possible can be a helpful part of a healthy and active recovery from sciatica pain.
Book An Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy
Back pain can be difficult to deal with, especially when it affects mobility.
Being active is an important part of living a healthy and happy life, which can make obstacles to physical activity feel difficult to work around.
If you’re suffering from sciatica pain, you don’t have to deal with it alone.
At Capitol Physical Therapy we’re committed to helping you get back to your pain free life.
Make an appointment todayto work with a physiotherapist and find treatment options that suit your needs and meet you where you are.
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005
9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC