Can Physical Therapy Help Alleviate the Pain and Discomfort of Sciatica?

March 25, 2024 by Renee Eder0

Approximately 40% of people in the U.S. will experience sciatic nerve pain during their lifetime. Symptoms range from mild discomfort to intense and debilitating chronic pain that can radiate down the leg from the lower back into the foot. Sciatica symptoms can interfere with routine tasks and make sitting, standing, bending, and walking difficult. Luckily, many patients are able to find relief with exercise, stretching, and physical therapy.

Sciatica Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of sciatica can occur in the lower back, hips, buttocks, legs, feet, and toes. Someone with sciatica may experience mild to severe shooting or radiating pain. Some people describe it as feeling like an electric shock or burning sensation. It’s common to experience sciatica pain with bending or coughing.

Interestingly, the symptoms someone experiences do not always show up in x-rays or MRIs. Why does this happen? The nerve and other sensors in the back and leg can detect ‘danger signals’ and send them to the brain. If the brain determines there is a threat, it will create symptoms like pain or numbness and tingling to warn us and change how we move.

Treating Sciatica with Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is typically prescribed as a first-line conservative treatment for patients who cannot achieve lasting relief with heat, medication, and stretching and exercise at home.

Physical therapy uses targeted stretches and exercises to ease pressure on the sciatic nerve and reduce pain. In addition, physical therapists look for the underlying causes to your pain and work towards addressing those impairments to decrease the pressure on the nerve. Generally, these involve bodyweight and resistance movements designed to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the abdomen, lower back, hips, and thighs which help ease pressure on the nerves throughout.

Physical therapy also includes functional training. This is the reintroduction of routine movements like bending and lifting, but with proper technique and healthy movement patterns to avoid the structural problems that contribute to sciatica symptoms.

Your physical therapist may also incorporate soft-tissue mobilization and joint mobilization or manipulation into your treatment plan to reduce symptoms and facilitate movement. Every physical therapy program is customized to address the patient’s symptoms, limitations, and treatment goals.

With Physical Therapy, the Prognosis for Sciatica is Good!

Most people recover from sciatica with physical therapy and other conservative treatments such as gentle yoga, which can be scheduled at our Fairfax physical therapy office. It’s best to seek treatment at the first sign of a problem because symptoms often respond well to early intervention.

Studies suggest early physical therapy for sciatica offers better outcomes compared to “usual care.” In fact, one clinical trial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that adults who started physical therapy within 90 days of sciatica symptom onset had less pain and better function that those who did not.

Have Sciatica? Contact Us to Set up Physical Therapy Services in Fairfax!

Relief for sciatica pain without surgery or prescription medications may be possible. Physical therapy treatment can help you achieve the healing you need and the relief you deserve. At the Beltway Medical Group physical therapy office in Fairfax, VA, we use a variety of therapies and teach you exercises you can do at home. Contact us today to learn more.

Beltway Medical Group

Beltway Medical Group is a provider specializing in post-operative rehabilitation, sports medicine, and physical therapy needs of clients. With exceptional, patient-centered care, trusted expertise and remarkable outcomes, our goal is to exceed customers' expectations every day.

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