Back Pain & Sciatica
Back pain and sciatica are often related. Sciatica causes back pain, numbness and weakness that radiates along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a big nerve that travels the full length of the body, following the lumbar region of the back and down the leg all the way to the feet. Pain begins in the lower back and typically travels to the buttocks and leg. Sciatica pain is sharp and searing. Most sciatica symptoms are a direct result of lower back abnormalities between the L4 and S1. Pressure is usually put upon the lumbar nerve root. It is important to note that sciatica is a symptom of an underlying problem. It is not a diagnosis in itself.
Causes of Sciatica
There can be a variety of root causes of sciatica, such as a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, facet joint dysfunction, osteoarthritis and more. The center of a lumbar disc is filled with a jelly-like substance that can break through the outer layer and press on a nearby nerve root. This nerve compression can cause nerve root pain in the back. Keep in mind that the disc walls are abundant with nerve fibers. Any tear through the wall can cause severe pain. As people age, the lumbar discs lose hydration and wear down. There is no cushion for any impact. Tears can also develop and cause pain. This condition is known as degenerative disc disease.
Facet joint dysfunction can also cause back pain and sciatica. If the cartilage of these joints is damaged or not functioning properly, the end result can be back pain or sciatica. Osteoarthritis is associated with aging. It is a condition that gradually progresses. The discs and facet joints are worn down. It causes back pain, swelling and instability. Any trauma or compression fracture can result in sciatica, such as a car accident or a fall.
Physical Therapy Services for Back Pain and Sciatica
A physical therapist uses many techniques and forms of treatment to help eliminate sciatica. Treatment may include mobilizations, McKenzie-based therapy, manual therapy, spinal stabilization, core strengthening exercises, traction or nerve glides. These are active types of physical therapy treatment. Passive types of physical therapy treatment include ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation, massage, cold laser and heat or ice therapy. Deep tissue massage targets muscle tension that may be compressing the sciatic nerve. Ultrasound treatment sends sound waves into muscle tissues to increase circulation and reduce pain, swelling and muscle spasms. Hot and cold therapies bring more oxygen to the affected area and help reduce spasms that may be causing both back pain and sciatica pain.
The goal of physical therapists is to help manage and eliminate pain from sciatica, improve flexibility, improve range of motion and restore the patient back to normal function. Relief for lower back pain is on the way with the help of a physical therapist. In many cases, physical therapy will result in effective and long lasting sciatica pain relief and back pain relief. It’s an effective treatment rather than drugs or surgery.