According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website, 80% of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives. It is one of the main reasons why people miss days of work and also the most common cause of work-related disability. If you are someone who has back pain, please know that you are not alone. By lifting something wrong or twisting the wrong way, you are bound to experience back pain at least once in your lifetime. If the pain is bothering you, and you find yourself unable to get through your daily routine, we urge you to set up an initial appointment for physical therapy to figure out what exactly is going on with you.

Causes of Low Back Pain & Sciatica

Exiting out of your spinal column on either side in your lumbar region, you have two important nerves called the sciatic nerves. These nerves are responsible not only for providing motor input but also sensory input. When the sciatic nerve gets inflamed due to some sort of irritation or compression, an individual can get radiating symptoms into the legs.

Typically, sciatica could be caused by a disc that has either ruptured, herniated or protruded. It could also be caused due to spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spaces in the spine), osteoarthritis (inflammation of joints) or even degeneration of the discs in between the spine. In other cases, compression of the nerve can also happen at the piriformis, commonly known as piriformis syndrome. In rare cases, sciatic symptoms can be caused due to a tumor.

How can Physical Therapy help?

When it comes to sciatica and back pain, physical therapy seems to be the choice that is safe, effective with cost and drug free. By seeing a physical therapist, you can most of the time avoid taking an X-ray and MRI which are expensive.

When you meet with a physical therapist, they will be able to figure out why your nerve is irritated and how exactly to reduce that inflammation. In addition, the physical therapist will perform an evaluation to detect your impairments and find the source of your pain and come up with a treatment plan that will suit your needs to get your longer lasting relief.

In order to help you achieve your goals and get you pain relief, your physical therapist may use the following:

  • Manual therapy using McKenzie and Maitland techniques, cupping, IASTM, etc
  • Modalities such Electrical stimulation, Class IV B Laser, Ultrasound, Mechanical Traction
  • Evidence based therapeutic exercises

If you are experiencing any back pain or sciatic symptoms, we urge you to talk to your physician or your physical therapist (who has direct access) about getting started with physical therapy to help you get back to pain-free life.

Symptoms & Risk Factors

Even though the sciatic nerve comes out of the spine; some individuals will never experience localized back pain. Most of the symptoms that they feel are in either the right or the left leg. Specifically, the symptoms can be pain that travels down into the buttocks and all the way down into the foot. The pain can be described as numbness, burning or tingling. Sometimes individuals may even experience weakness in their legs due to lack of motor input.

Risk factors include:

  • Age related changes in the spine such as bone spurs and disc changes.
  • Occupation – Type of job plays a huge rule; if an individual has a job that requires them to twist, turn and lift heavy.
  • Prolonged Sitting – People who sit for most of the day or lead a very sedentary life also are more likely to suffer from sciatica.