Back Pain & Sciatica Pain
Do you suffer from sciatica or back pain? It's not just you! Up to 70% of people experience low back pain at some point during their lifetime. This pain can become a chronic problem for many of us if left untreated.
We strongly advise scheduling a physical therapy visit with us if you're one of the millions of Americans experiencing sciatica or low back pain so that we can determine the root cause of your issue.
What Is Sciatica?
You have two large nerves that exit your lumbar spine (lower back) on the right and left sides of your spinal column. The largest nerves in your body, known as the sciatic nerves, supply movement, and sensory information to your legs. The sciatic nerves are made up of several different nerve roots joined together, then separated and branched as they travel through the legs.
What’s compressing the sciatic nerve in the first place?
Usually, it's an injured disc in the spine. The surrounding nerve may be compressed if a disc ruptures, leaks, or protrudes out of place(herniates or bulges). This may occur because of disc wear and tear, recent trauma, or chronic constant tension on the disc.
Compression of the sciatic nerve may also result from the existence of one or more other underlying conditions, such as:
- Degenerative disc disease: the gradual weakening and degeneration of the spinal discs as a result of wear and strain brought on by aging
- Stenosis: a progressive narrowing of the passageways that the spinal cord and nerves use to travel
- Osteoarthritis: inflammation of the spinal joints that also causes a reduction in joint space
These conditions may result in prominent low back pain with or without nerve impingement.
Bony tumors are a less common cause of sciatica. In a related but distinct disease known as piriformis syndrome, a more distal section of the sciatic nerve may also be squeezed by the piriformis muscle in the hip.
Common Symptoms & Risk Factors of Sciatica and Other Types of Low Back Pain
It's common for people with sciatica to feel no back pain at all, even though the sciatic nerve’s origins are in the lower spine. Instead, as the nerves pass through the right or left leg, their symptoms mostly follow the motor and sensory distribution pattern. These symptoms could consist of:
- Radiating pain into the buttocks, back of the leg, and even the foot (sciatica pain frequently has a severe, numb, burning, stabbing, or shooting sensation)
- Numbness and tingling in the leg
- Weakness in the leg
- Decreased reflexes in the leg
Additional symptoms can include spinal muscle spasms and tenderness, back stiffness, decreased tolerance to exercise, and decreased range of motion in the hips. A person’s low back pain or sciatica pain may be worse first thing in the morning or after prolonged sessions of sitting or standing.
Men between the ages of 30 and 50, those who stand or sit a lot, those who work in physically demanding occupations (such as nurses, first responders, construction workers, etc.), and those who have undergone physical trauma like an auto accident or sports accident are at a higher risk of developing sciatica. Given their ability to cause inflammation and stress in the body, smoking, diabetes, and obesity are considered to raise a person's risk of sciatica and low back pain.
How Physical Therapy Can Diagnose & Manage Sciatica
Physical therapy is useful for those with back pain or sciatica, according to extensive research. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other professional organizations encourage it since it is risk-free, economical, drug-free, and non-invasive. Even the need for expensive imaging tests like MRIs and X-rays can be decreased with physical therapy treatment!
The staff at FYZICAL - Northwest El Paso holds a certificate or has received training in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (McKenzie Method). The McKenzie Method is a valid assessment for treating sciatica and low back pain as it investigates various postures and motions, how the patient executes them, and how the patient responds to them. Using this information, our physical therapists select which of the motions and postures will be used as treatment, as well as the appropriate amount of exercise.
When a physical therapist works with you to relieve sciatica pain, their main goal is to minimize your symptoms and relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve so that your symptom relief lasts longer. Additional goals will include healing the damaged tissues, reducing inflammation, improving core stability and strength, restoring function, and eventually getting you on a sustainable fitness routine to help you maintain your results.
Your sciatica or low back pain treatment strategy may include the following to meet these goals:
- Manual therapy, such as spinal traction, active release technique (ART), and massage
- Non-invasive treatments such as diathermy, cold laser therapy, electrical stimulation, and therapeutic ultrasound
- Aquatic therapy
- Therapeutic stretches, core stabilization routines, and exercises
Are you having sciatica or back pain? Physical therapists are directly accessible to patients in certain areas; thus, patients are not required to get a referral from their primary care physician. Get excellent therapy for your sciatica and contact us today at (915) 877-1559 at our FYZICAL - Northwest El Paso location.