Can Physical Therapy Heal My Sciatica?

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Can Physical Therapy Heal My Sciatica?

Sciatica can cause pain, tingling, and numbness anywhere along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back and down the legs to the feet. The symptoms can last weeks to months and may cause significant problems with mobility and overall quality of life.

Our team at Advanced Pain Management in Castro Valley, California, led by Dr. Ravi Panjabi, specializes in comprehensive pain management services for teens and adults. Conditions like sciatica often respond well to physical therapy, a noninvasive treatment that targets the symptoms and underlying causes.

Read more from our team about sciatica and physical therapy's role in treating this common disorder.

Understanding sciatica

Sciatica is usually caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve that starts in the lower back and travels down the backs of the legs. Common causes of sciatica include herniated disc, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease.

Symptoms associated with sciatica can vary. Yours may include sharp or burning pain, tingling, or numbness that starts in the lower back and radiates into the leg. The pain can be mild or severe and may worsen with movements such as coughing or sneezing.

Physical therapy for sciatica

Physical therapy for sciatica aims to reduce pain, improve flexibility, and enhance strength through targeted exercises, stretches, and other noninvasive treatments.

Guided by Dr. Panjabi’s diagnosis, the therapist tailors a treatment plan to address the underlying issues contributing to sciatic nerve compression. Your plan might include:

Pain management

Physical therapists employ various techniques to manage pain, including hot and cold therapies and ultrasound treatments. These modalities help alleviate discomfort, making it easier for patients to engage in rehabilitative exercises.

Targeted exercises

Specific exercises are designed to stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, relieving pressure on the sciatic nerve. Core stabilization exercises, nerve gliding exercises, and lumbar stretches are often incorporated into the regimen to treat the root causes of sciatica.

Posture and body mechanics

Improving posture and teaching proper body mechanics are essential components of physical therapy. Correcting habits contributing to sciatica, such as poor sitting or lifting techniques, can prevent future flare-ups.

Manual therapy

Hands-on techniques, such as massage and joint mobilization, enhance flexibility, reduce muscle tension, and promote healing. Manual therapy can complement exercise regimens, providing immediate relief in some cases.

Education and lifestyle changes

Our team educates patients on lifestyle modifications that can improve their condition. These may include recommendations for ergonomics, proper footwear, and strategies to maintain a healthy weight, all of which contribute to long-term sciatica management and prevention.

What if physical therapy isn’t enough?

While we can’t call physical therapy a cure-all for sciatica, it’s often a highly effective treatment option. Many patients report significant reductions in pain, increased mobility, and improved overall quality of life after completing a structured physical therapy program for sciatica.

However, if you fail to see adequate results or your pain is significant enough to prevent your participation in physical therapy, Dr. Panjabi may recommend complementary treatments.

These could include epidural steroid injections to relieve inflammation and pain or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections to speed up your body’s natural healing process. 

You may also benefit from a minimally invasive procedure such as radiofrequency rhizotomy (nerve ablation) to disrupt pain signals to the brain.

For more information about treating sciatica and other chronic pain conditions, schedule an evaluation at Advanced Pain Management today. Call our office or request an appointment online.