Did you know that up to 70 percent of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives? With numbers like that, it’s no wonder that many times, low back pain can become a chronic issue. If you or a loved one have been experiencing any early warning signs of a back injury or sciatica that include numbness, tingling, and intense pain – physical and occupational therapy can help. Our experienced therapist has the skills needed to provide safe, effective and non-invasive treatment for patients of all ages. Contact Sports Rehab & Professional Therapy Associates today to learn more about the benefits of physical and occupational therapy for low back pain and sciatica.
What is Sciatica?
When the sciatic nerve becomes irritated, it results in intense and often chronic pain that is called sciatica. Anything that irritates the sciatic nerve can result in pain, from mild to very severe. However, in most cases, sciatica is the result of a compressed nerve in the lower spine. Many people confuse the term sciatica with general low back pain. But this common musculoskeletal condition is not just limited to the lower back. Because the sciatic nerve is the widest and longest nerve in the body, it is possible for patients to experience pain that runs down from the lower back, into the buttocks, then down through the legs and feet.
The sciatic nerve controls a group of muscles in the lower legs, supplying sensation to the lower leg area and the foot. While sciatica is not technically a condition but a symptom of other common issues affecting the sciatic nerve, it is estimated that up to 40 percent of people will suffer from sciatica at least once in their lifetime.
Often, sciatica is the result of an injured spinal disc compressing the sciatic nerve. When a patient has a ruptured disc, it can leak (herniate) or protrude (bulge) out of place and put pressure on the nearby nerve. This type of injury can be the result of regular wear and tear, repetitive stress on the lower back or some form of acute trauma. Other common underlying issues that may result in sciatic nerve pain include:
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Spinal Stenosis
- Bony tumors (in rare cases)
Common Symptoms and Risk Factors Associated with Low Back Pain and Sciatica
While the sciatic nerve originates in the lower spine, some people with the condition may not experience any low back pain at all. Instead, they suffer from a number of different symptoms that affect the nerves that flow into the right or left leg. In cases where sciatica affects the legs, patients may experience symptoms that include:
- Pain radiating from the buttocks, down into the back of the leg and sometimes into the feet.
- Shooting pain in the legs, numbness, and burning pain
- Weakness in the legs
- Decreased reflexes in the legs
Other common symptoms may include back stiffness, a decreased range of motion in the hip area, muscles tenderness and spasms. Patients may also find that their pain and other symptoms seem more severe in the morning and after prolonged periods of standing or sitting. While lower back pain and sciatica can affect people of all ages, it typically affects men aged 30 to 50, people who have very physically demanding jobs, those who have recently experienced some form of physical trauma like a car accident and anyone who may sit or stand a lot. Additionally, diabetes, smoking, and obesity may increase your risk of sciatica and lower back pain.
How Does Physical and Occupational therapy Help Treat Sciatica and Low Back Pain?
Our therapist can help to manage low back pain and sciatica symptoms through the use of targeted physical and occupational therapy treatment. This safe and prescription drug-free treatment option is non-invasive and designed to promote faster natural healing while providing fast pain relief. Instead of simply treating your symptoms, therapy is designed to alleviate pressure on the sciatic nerve for long-lasting relief. Want to learn more about the benefits of physical and occupational therapy for lower back pain and sciatica? Contact our physical therapist today for more information and be sure to schedule an initial appointment. We have our centers at Cherokee, Storm Lake, Ida Grove, Denison, IA.
How do I know if my back pain is serious?
The pain you experience in your back may either be acute or chronic, depending on how it was sustained. Acute pain means that it lasts for a short time and is usually severe. Chronic pain means that it lasts generally three months or longer and it can either cause dull or severe persistent pain. The pain you experience is typically either rooted in your back muscles or the bones in your spine. If your pain is severe enough to hinder you from doing daily tasks, if it suddenly worsens, or if it has lasted longer than three months, then it is time to seek the help of a physical therapist.
How do I get relief from back pain?
You can treat your back pain with physical therapy. Physical therapy can address back pain by helping to improve your range of motion, strengthening the muscles in the affected areas, and using targeted massage to reduce tension. In many situations, working with a physical therapist to improve can significantly reduce the severity of your back pain, and may even help you avoid more invasive procedures, such as surgery.
What is the best physical therapy treatment for back pain?
Your physical therapist will design a treatment plan based on your specific needs. Your individualized treatment plan will incorporate the best methods possible for relieving your pain, facilitating the healing process, and restoring function and movement to the affected area(s) of your back. Your initial appointment will consist of a comprehensive evaluation, which will help your physical therapist discover which forms of treatment will be best for the orthopedic, neurologic, or cardiovascular condition you are experiencing. The main stages of your plan will focus on pain relief, which may include any combination of ice and heat therapies, manual therapy, posture improvement, targeted stretches and exercises, or any other treatment that your physical therapist may deem fit. While there is no singular method for relieving back pain, your physical therapist will make sure you receive the best treatments for your needs.
How do you relieve back pain without drugs?
While medication is easy, it only helps your pain subside for a short amount of time. Over time, certain drugs can cause some unfavorable side effects, and in some cases, they can be habit-forming. With NSAIDs, you run the risk of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke. With corticosteroids, you run the risk of cataracts, high blood sugar levels, and bone loss. Luckily, there is a much safer and healthier alternative to treating persistent back pain: physical therapy. At your initial consultation, your physical therapist will ask you several questions regarding your medical history, lifestyle, and painful area(s). This information will assist your physical therapist in creating the best treatment plan for you and your specific needs, so you can be provided with long-term results.