man lying on massage table while his physical therapist doing special exercises for physical therapy for sciatica and pinched nerve problems

Sciatica: What is it and how can Physical Therapy help?

If you’re experiencing pain in your lower back, buttocks, or legs, you may have sciatica. Sciatica is a condition that results from compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Physical therapy can help to relieve the symptoms of sciatica and improve your quality of life. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what sciatica is, how physical therapy can help, and what you can do to prevent it from recurring.

What is Sciatica and What are the Symptoms?

Sciatica is a condition that can cause pain in your sciatic nerve. This nerve runs from your lower back, down your legs, and into your feet. Often, sciatica is caused by a herniated disc or a bulging disc. When this happens, the disc presses on the sciatic nerve and causes pain.

Other common causes are pregnancy, spinal stenosis, and piriformis syndrome.

Symptoms include sharp or shooting pain that radiates from the low back down into the leg. The pain will get worse when sitting or standing for long periods of time. Additionally, some patients will have weakness or numbness in the leg, and tingling or burning sensations.

Graphic diagram showing the sciatic nerve and common reasons for pressure on the nerve

How Can Physical Therapy Help Treat Sciatic Pain?

Sciatica is a painful condition, but physical therapy can help you find relief.

A common misconception is that rest will allow your sciatica to heal. While for some injuries this is true, it is not for sciatica. Your physical therapist will work with you to stretch and strengthen the muscles in your back and legs. By stretching and strengthening, your muscles will support your spine and relieve the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Additionally, exercises that focus on lengthening the spine can be helpful in treating sciatica.

If you have sciatica, it is important to talk to your physical therapist about the best treatment options for you.

How Long Does PT Take to Relieve Sciatica?

The length of time that it takes to find relief from sciatica pain depends on the underlying cause of the pain. For example, if your sciatica is caused by a herniated disc, it may take longer to find relief than if your sciatica is caused by muscle tightness.

In general, most people begin to feel relief from their symptoms after a few weeks of physical therapy. However, it is important to continue with your exercises even after you start to feel better.

If you have any questions or concerns about your physical therapy treatment, be sure to talk to your physical therapist. They will work with you to create a treatment plan that meets your needs and goals.

Do I Need to Do At-Home Exercises?

Your physical therapist will recommend at-home exercises to help ease your sciatica. You may also find some helpful exercises online. But, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, it’s important to focus on exercises that don’t put additional pressure on the spine. Basically, if you feel pain during or after the exercise, stop immediately.

Second, make sure to keep proper form. As with the first tip, pay good attention to your Physical Therapists instructions so you will not aggravate your sciatica.

Third, poor posture is terrible for sciatica. You can perform all the stretches and exercises your PT suggests. However, if you are not improving your posture and alignment throughout the day then it will only take you so far.

And finally, simple yoga poses done daily can make a world of difference. Yoga can help stretch and relieve tension in the sciatic nerve. Remember to listen to your body and only do what feels comfortable. If any of the poses worsen your pain, stop immediately and consult your doctor or physical therapist.

Final Thoughts

Back pain is a nuisance to your everyday life. It can make it difficult to work, exercise, and even sleep.

You may try over-the-counter medications, ice packs, and DIY exercises. However, a qualified physical therapist provides recovery, instead of just temporary relief.

If you are experiencing pain that does not improve with rest or home treatment, then call Lake Shore Physical Therapy right away. We can help you get on the road to recovery and prevent any future injuries.