Are you struggling with a sharp pain in your lower back, or you know someone who is going through this? There are chances that they might be having Lumbar Radiculopathy that is also commonly referred to as sciatica. However, not all lower back pains are the sign of this condition; one needs to get a medical diagnosis for knowing what exactly is causing the pain.
Sciatica is quite common among the individuals, a condition that occurs due to the pain that starts radiating in the sciatic nerve. It initially starts around the lower back and then further goes down to buttocks and legs. People generally see their effects on one side of their body.
To help you get a better understanding of the disease, here is a list of the symptoms that are seen in the patient suffering from this condition.
- Sharp pain in the lower back region
- Numbness, tingling or weakness while moving or walking
- Pain in the legs worsens while sitting
- Hip pain
Can Physical Therapy Help Lumbar Radiculopathy (Sciatica)?
Once diagnosed with this condition, the doctors often opt for medications, stretches, and physical therapy for treating it. The sciatic pain usually takes a little longer than usual to treat, as it depends on what part of the sciatica nerve is affected. For people who have a question regarding how helpful physical therapy is for such a condition, the answer is that it is one of the most trusted and approved ways to treat this condition.
Depending upon the intensity of your pain and the areas affected, a physical therapist comes up with the course to help you ease the pain. Physical therapy is a recommended procedure for the people going through such conditions as it not only heals the aching areas, but it also helps in preventing the relapse of such conditions. The therapists try and locate the area from where the pain radiates and then start the therapy to help with getting rid of it.
How Can PT Help in Easing the Sciatic Pain?
A physical therapist can combine a series of exercises, stretches and therapies to treat sciatica. All these exercises are decided based on the following factors:
- Level or intensity of pain
- The underlying cause of the pain
- Areas affected by the pain
- A past record of such pain ( if any )
Physical therapy uses a combination of all or some of these following therapies that work well for treating sciatica.
Hot or Cold Compressions
Therapists often recommend or perform hot compressions to increase the blood flow in the affected areas that helps in bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the targeted areas. Heat compressions also help in reducing muscle spasms. Similarly, cold compressions lessen the inflammation and help in alleviating pain. A combination of both these heat and ice packs are used to decrease the pain and its effects.
Exercises and Stretches
Physical therapists also recommend various stretches that can help in increasing spine mobility. Gently stretching the lower back can be beneficial in reducing the pain and also heals the affected areas. There are several exercises included in manual therapy such as joint mobilization, functional retraining, strengthening exercises and other types of exercises that can help in reducing the pain in lower back, hips and thighs. Depending upon your diagnosis, the physical therapist makes a schedule of the various exercises and stretches that along with other therapies, work well for treating sciatic pain.
TENS Therapy for Sciatica
The word TENS stands for Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation. This therapy is given by using a TENS machine that helps in stimulating the muscle by providing the variable intensity of the electric current. TENS therapy is quite a popular one in physical therapy as it helps in reducing the spasms and also provides temporary relief. The therapists have also said that it increases the production of the natural painkillers in the body that can help in reducing the pain. This is one such equipment that can benefit the people suffering from different types of back pains, inflammation, and more.
Like the TENS therapy, Ultrasound therapy is also used for speeding the healing process. This device uses sound waves that are generated by the machine and it reaches the deep muscle tissue. As this device produces a little heat, it can help in better blood circulation and helps in reducing the swelling, cramps and pain in the targeted areas.
Several people also have questions regarding the causes of sciatica and why does it occur. Well, the underlying reason for such pain differs from person to person but here are common factors that can lead to such pain:
- Herniated or Degenerated disc
- Compression in the sciatic nerve root in the lumbar spine
- Muscle spasms in lower back or buttocks
Apart from these causes, various factors may also lead to sciatica, which includes being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle, lifting heavy objects the wrong way and much more.
Physical therapy is one of the most beneficial methods that work for alleviating pain and restoring muscle mobility in people suffering from sciatica. The physical therapy, along with massages and the medications, works together in healing such pain. Although there are many at-home exercises available to ease out such pain, I would advice one and all to seek therapy from the trained and experienced physical therapist only. As they are professionals, they will work with the proper plan and exercises to reduce the symptoms and get relief from such pain.