According to experts at Harvard Medical School, approximately 40% of the population will be affected by Sciatica in their lifetime. As the likelihood of developing complications due to sciatica increases with age, it is essential to understand this common condition and how it treat or prevent its onset. This blog addresses these issues and other frequently asked questions regarding sciatica.
Q: What Is Sciatica?
A: Sciatica is a medical condition that is characterized by the irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the biggest nerve in the human body. Because the human nervous system is pretty much bilaterally symmetrical, two sciatic nerves run from the lower spine and through both legs where it branches out to supply feeling and muscle control for a person’s lower extremities up until the feet. Sciatica is a common cause of lower back and leg pain.
Q: What Causes Sciatica?
A: Sciatica can have several different causes. One of the most common causes of sciatica is from a herniated vertebral disc. When a person’s vertebrae are compressed, the pressure can push vertebral disc tissue through the canals for the sciatic nerve root. This pressure can lead to an inflammatory response that irritates and interferes with the neural signals of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can also result from being pressure caused by boney structures such as bone spurs, or due to the narrowing of the nerve canal. In addition to pain, these circumstances can lead to tingly sensations, muscle weakness, and loss of bowel or bladder control in severe cases. Conditions such as degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis can lead to sciatica.
Q: What Are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
A: A person suffering from sciatica will experience lower back pain, accompanied by a sharp pain that shoots from the lower back and down the leg. Back pain may also present with neuropathy – a sensation of burning, tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness. In extreme cases of sciatica, bowel and bladder function can be impaired, leading to incontinence. In many cases, sciatica symptoms may be triggered in certain positions, depending on the exact cause of the nerve irritation. Symptoms may only present when a person is either laying down, sitting, standing, or through specific movements.
Q: How Can Physical Therapists Treat Sciatica?
A: A physical therapist will first assess patients to identify the cause of their pain. Assessments can involve placing the patient in certain positions or performing movement tests to determine what triggers their symptoms. After the initial assessment, physical therapists may treat a person’s pain using flexibility exercises, mobilizations, nerve slides, or traction.
In situations where disc herniation is the primary cause of sciatica, patients can expect symptoms to subside within about 2 weeks of treatment. If a patient experienced muscle weakness as a result of sciatica, patients will undergo core and leg strengthening exercises to rehabilitate the patient’s muscle control and restore optimum mobility and range of motion.
In severe situations where spinal stenosis causes sciatica, surgery may be required to remove obstructions that are impinging the sciatic nerve. Physical therapists will implement post-operative treatments to help the patient regain muscle function and manage pain.
Q: Can Someone Prevent Sciatica?
A: Patients can take certain steps to help reduce their chances of developing sciatica. When a person is regularly subjected to prolonged laying down, sitting, or standing, remaining in a static position can increase the likelihood of developing complications due to sciatica. Therefore, people should frequently change positions or take breaks to stretch and move around. Because a person’s vertebral disc tissue usually gets poor blood flow – especially in static positions – walking around is essential to promote the flow of nutrients throughout disc tissue. Regular exercises can provide significant relief for sciatic symptoms. However, if a particular activity eventually leads to worsening pain, you should take a break from that activity to rest until the pain subsides to a more tolerable level.
Call ProFysio for Skilled Physical Therapist in Monmouth County
If you are experiencing symptoms that coincide with sciatica, you should make an appointment for an assessment from a knowledgeable physical therapist in Monmouth County. At ProFysio Physical Therapy, we committed to providing excellent therapeutic treatments and interventions to help our patience combat and managing their sciatica symptoms. Our physical therapists are licensed doctors with specialized training in the latest treatment techniques that optimize the potential for maximum rehabilitation and recovery.