Physical Therapy for Lower Back and Sciatica Pain
Physical therapy is an integral part of treating back pain and preventing future episodes. A physical therapist will perform a comprehensive assessment and tests, then create an individualized treatment plan tailored towards your specific needs and goals.
Physical therapists are specially trained in diagnosing the causes of back and sciatica pain. They employ a range of techniques to reduce your discomfort, increase spinal mobility, core strength, balance and overall wellbeing.
Your initial physical therapy appointment will include a comprehensive medical history and physical exam that gives the therapist an in-depth understanding of your symptoms. They’ll also take note of any medications you are taking, daily activities and lifestyle habits which could be contributing to pain levels.
At your physical exam, a therapist will perform various stretches and motions to assess the length and strength of your muscles in your lower spine. They may also ask you to walk on both heels and toes so they can assess how well your spine supports you when carrying heavy loads.
Sciatica can be caused by a number of conditions, from degenerative disk disease to spinal stenosis. The most common culprit is an herniated disc that presses against a nerve root.
Other causes may include lumbar spinal stenosis, a condition in which the passageways in your spine become narrow and compress the sciatic nerve. This can occur due to injuries or aging and may not resolve itself on its own.
If the compression is severe, it could lead to serious complications. Signs and symptoms of sciatica include numbness and weakness in the leg, foot or lower extremity – making it difficult to walk or even get up from a chair.
In severe cases, numbness and weakness can become permanent. If your pain is intense and unrelenting, you have lost bladder or bowel control, standing without discomfort when trying to stand up, or if other conservative treatments don’t improve things enough for you, surgery may be necessary.
Your physical therapist can suggest a series of exercises you can do at home to reduce pain and keep it under control. These are tailored specifically for you, may involve traction or spinal stabilization, depending on what condition you have.
Pigeon Pose: This stretching exercise is an easy way to loosen the piriformis muscle, which may put pressure on the sciatic nerve when inflamed. Lie on your back, bend your knees and pull each leg toward you until you feel a stretch – repeat 3-5 times per leg.
The piriformis muscle, located deep in your buttocks, can put pressure on the sciatic nerve when in pain. Doing pigeon pose for 10 to 15 minutes daily will help loosen this tight muscle and reduce discomfort.
Low back pain and sciatica can be unbearably uncomfortable. They may interfere with daily activities, cause you to miss out on fun things, or cause you to feel embarrassed or self-conscious.