Are you experiencing daily sciatica pain? Sciatic pain can be so excruciating and debilitating that you don’t even want to get off the couch. At Avala Physical Therapy, our certified physical therapists want to get you back to feeling like yourself.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is pain in the buttock, leg, or foot associated with back pain. Its name comes from the sciatic nerve that originates in the spine, passes though the pelvis, and runs down the back of the leg. Sciatica can range from mild, intermittent aching to strong pain that impacts normal daily activities and work.
- Possible Causes of Sciatica
- Disc Injury: Between the vertebrae in the lumbar spine, there are flexible discs of cartilage. As we age, these discs can degenerate, and the fluid center of the disc can move in a backward direction putting pressure on nerves inside the disc. In some cases, the disk will herniate and some of the fluid can press on nerves outside the disc, causing pain in the buttock or leg. One physical therapy treatment for this type of problem is the McKenzie approach – which teaches techniques to reduce the pressure on nerves and restore the disc to its proper position.
- Piriformis Syndrome: The sciatic nerve runs though the pelvis and down the back of the leg. In the buttock, it lies very close to a muscle called the piriformis. If the piriformis muscle is tight, it can press on the nerve causing pain in the leg. There are lots of different stretches you can do to loosen up the piriformis. With physical therapy, dry needling is often used to release the muscle before stretching it out.
- Sacro-iliac Joint: The sacro-iliac joint is where the spine joins with the pelvis. The sacro-iliac joints can move out of their normal position causing pain in one or both buttocks, that can also extend down the legs. A physical therapist can examine you to figure out if your sacro-iliac joint is out of position. They can then put this joint back where it belongs and teach you how to keep it there with stretches and exercise.
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the body releases hormones that make ligaments in the spine and pelvis more flexible. This, along with other body changes, can cause back pain and sciatica. For the safety of the baby, taking medicine for pain is discouraged during pregnancy. Physical therapy offers safe techniques to control pain that does not involve medication. Prenatal massages could also be considered.
- Ways to Avoid Sciatica
- Sit Less: If you sit for a living or if you must spend a lot of time in the car, this predisposes you to sciatica. If you must sit for long periods, considering walking throughout the day on breaks, or stretching before and after you drive for long periods of time.
- Ease With Heavy Lifting or Yard Work: When it is time to start doing yard work again and you’re ready to weed the flowerbeds, plant some veggies, or get started on that rock path you have been planning all winter. Repetitive bending and lifting can cause back pain and sciatica in people who are not conditioned for such activities. Consider breaking that work up over a few weekends and give your body time to adapt.
- Stay Active: Lack of regular exercise causes weakness in the muscles that support the spine and pelvis – this in turn causes pain and increases the likelihood of injury. Consider a regular exercise routine such as walking your dog around the neighborhood a few times a week.
- Lose Weight: Excess weight puts stress on the spine and hips causing pain and in some cases sciatica. Consider an exercise routine to get your body moving and add healthier food options daily.
Most cases of sciatica are mild and can be treated using over the counter medication, physical therapy, massage, and other conservative treatments. Occasionally however, symptoms are more severe and merit immediate medical care.
If you feel like you are having a problem with sciatica and would like more information about physical therapy, please contact us using the information below to set-up a complimentary appointment to discuss your options.
Looking for help with your sciatica pain or do you have questions about Avala Physical Therapy or one of its programs, call and schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our Physical Therapist experts today at 985.801.6265.
A physician referral is not necessary and there is no charge for this consultation.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found something useful in this week’s article. Check in next week for more tips and tricks on how to get healthy and stay that way.Paul Jones, Director of Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation Services
Avala Physical Therapy