When you have sciatica, it is difficult to tell which sciatica treatment works best when there are so many options. Will those special oils, supplements, posture braces, and painkillers get rid of sciatica for good?
Unfortunately, there is a lot of false marketing when it comes to sciatica treatment. Many of the creams, oils, and special devices used to treat sciatica are not backed by science and research.
What about the painkillers or muscle relaxants prescribed by a doctor?
Prescription medications like painkillers, injections, and muscle relaxants can reduce pain, but they usually fail to treat sciatica permanently. Plus, who wants to risk harmful side-effects or opioid dependence?
On the bright side, there is a treatment that can help you get rid of your sciatica permanently. This treatment doesn’t involve popping pills or getting invasive procedures. Best of all, this treatment is scientifically proven effective and is recommended by doctors and other healthcare professionals.
This treatment is physical therapy for sciatica. It is hands down the best way to treat sciatica.
Why is seeing a Doctor of Physical Therapy the Best Way to Treat Sciatica?
The number one reason why physical therapy is successful is because it fixes the cause of your sciatica instead of simply subduing the symptoms.
A physical therapist who focuses on lower back pain problems such as sciatica is considered a lower back pain specialist.
Lower back pain specialists have years of education and training in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of lower back conditions like sciatica.
Sciatica is a symptom that occurs when another condition compresses the sciatic nerve (which is the large nerve that runs from your lower back to each of your legs).
Common conditions that can lead to sciatica include herniated discs (when the jelly-like interior of a spinal disc slips out of the disc) and bone spurs (bony overgrowths on the edge of a bone) on the spinal bones.
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Unlike medications, injections, and the range of sciatica products that show up on the web when you search for “sciatica treatment,” a physical therapist can diagnose the condition that caused your sciatica and treat that condition.
So, not only will your sciatica disappear, but the condition that caused your sciatica disappears.
We consider that a double-win.
What Can I Expect from Physical Therapy for Sciatica?
First, your physical therapist will need to confirm that you have sciatica and not a condition that mimics sciatica.
For instance, many patients think they have sciatica but they usually have a different condition altogether. Painful and arthritic hip joints, hip bursitis and tendinopathy, and conditions such as sacroiliac joint dysfunction and spinal stenosis can all mimic sciatica and require a totally different treatment and approach.
Your physical therapist will ask you some questions and guide you through tests to give you an accurate diagnosis of your sciatica and pinpoint the underlying cause.
Some questions you can expect to get asked include:
- What makes your condition feel better or worse?
- Do certain movements make you feel worse?
- How long have you had sciatica?
- What treatments have you tried and have any of them helped?
- What are your goals?
After the initial questions, your physical therapist will guide you through some tests that may involve:
Lying on Your Back while Your Physical Therapist Raises Your Leg
This test pinpoints where the pain is coming from and at what point it bothers you while your leg is raised higher. Where and when you feel the pain during the leg raise can distinguish sciatica from conditions that are commonly confused with sciatica.
Muscular Strength Testing
Weak muscles frequently contribute to the conditions that cause sciatica.
Your physical therapist will test your strength by asking you to perform certain movements. This may include using your feet, legs, hands, or arms to push into your physical therapist’s hands.
Mobility & Flexibility Testing
Do you have stiffness or feel as though you can’t stretch as far as you used to? A lack of mobility (how far you can move your joints) and flexibility (how far you can stretch your muscles) can contribute to sciatica.
To test your flexibility, your physical therapist may assist you in stretching certain body parts. A physical therapist may use a stretchy band to pull your leg back until you feel a deep stretch.
To test your mobility, your physical therapist will ask you to perform certain movements that take you through a full range of motion. Your physical therapist may also lightly press a goniometer (a ruler-like device that measures the angles of your joints) against your skin.
If it’s still unclear what is causing your sciatica (or if something other than sciatica is causing your pain), your physical therapist may recommend further testing such as imaging tests.
Imaging tests such as X-rays and MRIs can reveal injuries or issues with the tissues, discs, and bones in your spine.
How Will a Physical Therapist Treat My Sciatica?
Physical therapy for sciatica surpasses all other sciatica treatments because it involves a combination of various techniques that are all proven safe and effective in treating sciatica.
Your physical therapist will tailor your treatment plan to your goals, lifestyle, and the underlying cause of your sciatica.
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Some of the techniques that physical therapists commonly use to treat sciatica include:
You will perform stretches that target the tight areas of your body. These stretches will reduce tension and pain in your lower back and legs.
Tightness in the hamstrings and piriformis muscles are common when the sciatic nerve is compressed or entrapped. Loosening up these muscles will relieve your sciatic nerve.
These exercises stretch and move your sciatic nerve. Overtime, flossing exercises can decompress the sciatic nerve so that your symptoms disappear for good.
Your physical therapist will use his or her hands or a specialized tool to massage the injured area, decompress the spine, decompress the sciatic nerve, and mobilize the joints.
Many physical therapy patients feel relief with Active Release Technique, which is a massage technique that relaxes the piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle is a small muscle located in the buttocks. Sciatica is often triggered when the piriformis muscle is tight or inflamed.
Active Release Technique also works to free up the hamstrings that tend to get tight and compress the sciatic nerve.
Ready to Say Goodbye to Sciatica? Here’s a Quick Way to Get Started:
If you have sciatica, you want to make sure it is properly treated and won’t come back.
That’s why our physical therapists at Back in Motion Sport & Spine Physical Therapy in Fort Myers, Florida use the most advanced treatment techniques to help patients say goodbye to sciatica for good.