You are sitting in the driver’s seat headed to work when suddenly a sharp pain sears down your low back and into the back of your leg. Then you feel pins and needles as strange sensations course down your leg. You are experiencing the painful effects of sciatica. When the muscles in the hip place pressure on the sciatic nerve it can cause excruciating pain called sciatica. The sciatic nerve is a major nerve the travels the full length of the body, following the lumbar region of the back and down the leg all the way to the foot. Typically this nerve does not trouble people, but it is vulnerable to pressure due to its path though the hip.
Sciatica can have a severe impact on sufferers’ daily lives and routines. Unable to sleep, simple things like walking, bending, turning and sitting or standing up may not be so simple anymore. Many people have lived with sciatica for years on end finding no relief through traditional medicine or injections. You do not have to live with the pain, discomfort and debilitating symptoms associated with this terrible condition.
The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in your body beginning in your lower back as five smaller nerves join and extend to your pelvis, thigh, knees, calf, ankle, foot and toes. The pain and accompanying sensations may follow the path of this nerve down the legs into the feet and may even radiate into your back. Sciatica pain and symptoms may be different for each person as some experience pain in the back of the legs and others in the front and others may feel this on both legs! Sciatica pain is often so debilitating that it forces people to miss work and other normal activities. According to research, of all patients with low-back pain, sciatica patients have the highest level of disability.
CAUSES OF SCIATICA
There are a wide variety of causes and contributors to Sciatic Nerve Pain including protruded or ruptured discs. Although there may be other contributors irritating your sciatic nerve including vitamin deficiencies, spinal misalignment is the leading cause of pressure on the sciatic nerve. Our nerves (including the sciatic nerve) connect and communicate to our brain through our spinal cord which is encased and protected by our spinal column. Spinal misalignment causes undue pressure on these nerves. A displaced vertebrae causing pressure on a nerve is called a “subluxation.” Sciatica has been reported following accidents, injuries and even childbirth usually due to spinal misalignment TREATING SCIATICA
Many medical doctors seek to relieve sciatica symptoms with painkillers and muscle relaxers, however many patients have found little or no relief using these treatments. It has been shown, however, that exercise and activity is more effective at relieving the pain and symptoms of sciatica than extended rest, and medications. The physical therapy approach offers eliminating the cause rather than masking symptoms.
There are several different types of treatment that a physical therapist can use to relieve the pain and other symptoms of sciatica, some of which you can use yourself at home. Different types of physical therapy include:
When you go to a physical therapist, the first thing they may do is apply heat to the area where you are feeling pain. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, the heat increases the flow of blood to the area and this helps to relieve the pain. Secondly, the heat relaxes muscles that are tight or in spasm, which relieves pain but also prepares these muscles for further treatment like exercise or massage.
Application of an ice pack to a painful area acts like an analgesic by controlling any inflammation that may be present. Cold compresses are particularly helpful when applied soon after the injury occurred or the pain started. They are also effective at the end of a physical therapy session to ease any pain or irritation that may have been caused by the treatment.
Physical therapists will often perform deep massage to release tense or tight muscles. While this can be painful at the time, it is a good way to release pressure and relieve pain. Deep massage is more effective if the area has been warmed by heat packs first.
This technique is used widely by physical therapists now as a more effective method of warming tissue than applying heat packs. The increased blood flow induced by the treatment helps to promote more rapid healing, eliminate scar tissue and reduce inflammation.
Targeted exercises are used by physical therapists to strengthen weak muscles and stretch shortened ones. The therapist will show you how the exercise is performed and then watch you to ensure that you are doing them correctly. You will probably be encouraged to do the exercises at home on a daily basis. The aim of therapeutic exercises is to strengthen your core muscles and help your body regain normal balance and good posture. Both of these strategies will help to relieve sciatica pain in the short and long-term and reduce the incidence of further injury. The exact sciatica exercises you are given will be determined by the cause of your sciatica, but generally they fall into three main categories. Core muscle strength is achieved by strengthening the abdominal group of muscle in the front and the muscles attached to the spine at the back.
Stretching focuses on the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh, the quadriceps in the front of the thigh and the muscles of the neck and lower back which become shortened with poor posture. Aerobic exercise will be encouraged to improve the over-all fitness and general health and possibly to help maintain an ideal body weight. For aerobic exercise to be effective it needs to be strong enough to cause you to be slightly breathless and to increase your heart rate.
Physical therapy is a proven and effective treatment for the relief of sciatica pain and other symptoms.
Premier Therapy’s teams include some of the highest trained and most experienced physical therapists in the tri-state area. The entire team is very familiar in the management of pain while treating many conditions, including sciatica. Their primary concern is relieving your sciatic pain and getting you back on your feet. Make an appointment today with one of our physical therapist and finally get the pain relief you have been looking for. Call 606-329-0910, today! We are dedicated to help you move through life safely and effectively despite the challenges you may face!