Sciatica is pain that originates in the lower back and then travels down the sciatic nerve into the leg. It can also cause numbness, tingling, and weakness. Sciatica generally causes one-sided pain that is worsened by sitting but can also make standing and walking difficult. It is important to note that sciatica is not a medical condition on its own. Instead, it is indicative of another condition, from degenerative disc disease to spinal stenosis.
The first step in treating sciatica is to identify and treat the underlying condition. However, physical therapy is almost always considered a vital part of treating the pain. Research shows that gentle exercise can help patients recover more quickly from active sciatica, and can reduce future incidences of acute pain. Here’s how it can help.
What Is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy focuses on preventing, treating, and managing temporary or permanent physical disabilities. Licensed physical therapists have extensive training and experience in anatomy and kinesiology, or the science of movement. They understand how all of the different structures of the body, such as joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, work together to move the body.
Physical therapy is customized to the individual. Your first visit will consist of a detailed discussion of your current pain, past history of injuries, ongoing medical conditions and management programs,
Physical therapy is a broad-based field that focuses on preventing, treating, and managing physical disabilities from injuries to ongoing pain. A licensed physical therapist is highly trained in anatomy and kinesiology, or the science of movement. This means that physical therapists have a nuanced understanding of how the various muscles, ligaments, joints, and tendons work together to create normal body movements, and the ways in which things can go wrong.
Physical therapy is highly individualized. The goal is to assess exactly what is causing your pain, to identify the physical structures that are not working optimally, and then to create and implement a targeted treatment plan. This customization makes physical therapy an ideal choice for managing chronic pain, as everyone’s pain is unique. Despite the individual nature of physical therapy, though, exercises generally fall into three basic categories.
Stretching exercises help to loosen the muscles that are rendered tight and inflexible by sciatica. When a part of the body is damaged, such as the lumbar spine, the muscles around it tend to tighten up in a reflexive attempt to compensate. This can quickly become a self-replicating and worsening cycle, as pain tends to cause further tightening. Stretching exercises help to undo these natural tendencies, lengthening the muscles and reducing the pain.
Because the muscles do play such an important role in supporting and protecting the spine, it is important for them to be as strong and healthy as possible. Strengthening exercises for sciatica focus on the body’s core, giving it the strength it needs to keep the spine in alignment and reduce both pain and the risk of further injury.
Aerobic exercise helps to disseminate the nutrients and fluids that speed healing, while triggering a valuable release of the endorphins that naturally reduce pain. For those with sciatica, high-impact exercises are not recommended. However, such low-impact aerobic exercises as yoga, tai chi, and swimming can have the same benefits without aggravating the condition. You might even be prescribed a course of water therapy, in which you perform gradually more challenging exercises while supported by the water in a pool. Using this same
philosophy we encourage all of our patients to continue after treatment with our Redcord suspension therapy program.
Founded by physical therapy innovator Dr. Joseph Simon, the Manhattan Physical Therapy and Pain Center is a leader in pain relief and injury recovery conveniently located in Midtown New York City. We offer several dedicated programs for different conditions, along with the latest innovations in physical therapy for all. If you are ready for the latest treatments for your pain or injury, we invite you to call us today at (212) 213-3480 to learn how we can help.