The sciatic nerve begins at the lower back of the spinal cord and extends down to the buttock area making it the largest nerve in the human body. Responsible for supplying sensation to lower extremities, the sciatic nerve can become pinched causing pain to radiate down the leg. Typically self-diagnosable, sciatic nerve pain causes weakness or numbness in the leg resulting in limited mobility. A variety of sciatica treatments can be applied to relieve sciatica nerve pain including physiotherapy.
What are the causes of sciatica?
1. Lumbar spinal stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis is a condition where the spinal canal narrows gradually. The narrowing compresses the spinal cord resulting in nerves in the lumbar being pinched. This type of condition can result in chronic homeopathic pain.
2. Degenerative disc disease
Degenerative disc disease occurs in the neck or lower back. While it is not a disease, the term refers to the natural changes that occur in spinal discs. Overtime, spinal discs gradually lose water causing the disc to weaken. Weakened discs begin to collapse putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. This results in sciatic nerve pain.
Normally caused by sports, spondyloslisthesis is a spinal disorder where a vertebra slips forward. If the vertebra slips too far forward it rests on the bone below it. This results in the sciatic nerve being compressed.
4. Herniated disc
Typically referred to as a bulging disc, a herniated disc occurs when the disc between the vertebras ruptures. The rubbery cushion center of a disc can tear and leak irritating nearby nerves like the sciatic nerve.
5. Piriformis syndrome
The piriformis muscle located in the buttock region aids in hip rotation to turn the leg and foot outward. When the muscle becomes irritated and spasms it can compress the sciatic nerve.
How is sciatica diagnosed?
Typically, neuropathic pain is self-diagnosable when symptoms persist. Symptoms of sciatica nerve pain include numbness, weakness or a “pins and needles” sensation radiating from the lumbar into the buttock, hip or legs. People with sciatica pain often experience burning sensation, limping as a result of muscle weakness or foot numbness. Once symptoms are recognized an individual may seek sciatica relief by seeing a doctor. At an initial consultation a doctor will perform a physical and neurological exam.
In a physical exam, a doctor will examine range of motion, posture and overall physical condition. The curvature and alignment of the spine will be felt as well as assessing any movement that causes pain. In a neurological exam, reflexes, motor responses and muscle strength are tested to determine information about the nervous system. From physical and neurological exams, a doctor diagnoses sciatica nerve pain. Once sciatic nerve pain is diagnosed, further imaging tests may be ordered to diagnose the cause of sciatica. Imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a computer tomography (CT) or an x-ray can determine if neuropathic pain is the result of a more serious injury or condition.
How can physiotherapy help sciatica pain?
At Pro Fusion Rehab, physiotherapists provide a variety of sciatica treatment options for individuals seeking a sciatica remedy. After diagnosis of sciatica, physiotherapists design a sciatica treatment plan looking at a whole person’s health and well-being along with lifestyle. Patients receiving treatment from Pro Fusion Rehab learn sciatica exercises focusing on decreasing pain, managing inflammation and restoring mobility and strength. Physiotherapy treatments often include heat to help ease piriformis muscle spasms or ice to help decrease inflammation of the sciatica. Physiotherapists perform piriformis muscle stretches aiding to sciatica relief. Such sciatica stretches help release tension of the piriformis muscle resulting in increased flexibility and decreased inflammation. As symptoms of sciatica ease, patients will receive muscle strengthening exercises designed to alleviate the symptoms of sciatica.
How could physiotherapy prevent sciatica?
To prevent the recurrence of sciatica symptoms, physiotherapy teaches patients correct posture techniques and exercises to correct muscle imbalances. Sciatica exercises strengthen abdominal muscles providing support for back muscles and decreasing the likelihood of future injury. With regular sciatica exercises inflammation of the sciatica can be reduced. Since physiotherapists create exercise programs tailored to treating the cause of sciatica, patients learn the correct exercises to prevent injury of the spine worsening future sciatica symptoms.
What are other common sciatic treatments besides physiotherapy?
Massage therapy releases tension in lower back muscles that can compress nerve roots of the sciatica. By using massage therapy, patients experience reduced pain due to the release of endorphins during a massage.
Viewed by some patients as a sciatica cure, acupuncture reduces the pain of sciatica by inserting needles in specific acupuncture points. If sciatica symptoms result from a spinal condition acupuncture can release endorphins aiding in muscle relaxation.
Traditional medicines provide pain relief of sciatica symptoms by combining natural remedies with less side effects as prescription medication. In traditional Chinese medicine trauma is thought to restrict energy flow in the body. To alleviate trauma like sciatica, proper energy flow needs to be restored. While acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine, yoga exercises strengthen the body by peaceful stretches. Yoga also focuses the mind on relieving sciatica symptoms resulting in increased energy flow.
The use of braces for sciatica help prevent further injury while relieving pain. Wearing a brace around the lumbar section of the spine provides light compression to ease symptoms of sciatica. While wearing a brace is not a sciatica cure, it does temporarily ease pain to allow for increased mobility.