Back pain and sciatica pain are closely related medical conditions. Many times, sciatica pain is the result of a medical back problem. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body and consists of nerve roots in the lower back and runs through the buttock and down the back of each leg. Portions of this nerve branch out to the thigh, calf, foot, and toes. Sciatica nerve pain is often characterized by the following symptoms.
- Low back pain that radiates down the leg
- Leg pain with burning and tingling
- Numbness in the leg or feet
- Continual pain on one side of the buttock
- Sharp pain
- Trouble sitting and getting up
It’s important to note that sciatica is not a medical diagnosis in itself. It is actually a symptom of an underlying problem. And the root cause must be identified for effective treatment. Common lower back problems that can cause sciatica include degenerative disc disease, lumbar spinal stenosis, lumbar herniated disc and spondylolisthesis.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Disc degeneration is a natural process that often occurs as we age. But, for some people, it can occur young. One or more degenerated discs in the spine or lower back can irritate a nerve root and cause sciatica. This disease is diagnosed when a weakened disc is exposed. Bone spurs may also develop with disc degeneration and cause sciatica.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis is caused by a gradual narrowing of the spinal canal. It’s also common in the aging process and typically affects those over 50. It can be a result of a bulging disc, enlarged facet joints, arthritis or an overgrowth of soft tissue. Whatever the cause, it can result in back pain and sciatica pain.
Lumbar Herniated Disc
This condition occurs when the soft gel material of the disc leaks out and passes through the outer core. It irritates the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is the most common symptom of a herniated disc. It’s also known as bulging disc, slipped disc, ruptured disc or protruding disc.
Spondylolisthesis occurs when a small stress fracture causes one vertebrae to slip forward on another. There’s then a disc space collapse. The nerve can get pinched and result in sciatica. Sciatica pain can range from mild to severe.
Treatment for Back Pain, Sciatica Pain and Low Back Pain: Physical Therapy
Physical therapy for these conditions is effective and usually has two components: passive and active. Passive physical therapy modalities consist of ultrasound, TENS units, heat and ice packs, and iontophoresis. Active physical therapy modalities include stretching exercises, back exercises, and low-impact aerobic conditioning. Physical therapists typically recommend 20 minutes of dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises per day. Core muscle strengthening is also important in the treatment of back pain. Low-impact aerobics are also important and include water therapy, biking, and walking.
Physical therapy is an important component of treating medical issues of the back. When you meet with a physical therapist, there will be a full assessment. Tests will be done and an individualized treatment plan will be developed based on your goals. Your physical therapist is your coach who will help you eliminate pain, perform daily tasks and improve overall general health.
If you’re suffering from back pain, sciatica pain or low back pain, don’t wait any longer for relief. You don’t have to suffer. Be sure to give our office a call to set up a one-on-one consultation and full evaluation. The staff at Armor Physical Therapy has extensive training in orthopedic manual physical therapy (OMPT) and is board certified in Orthopaedics by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (OCS). This includes advanced training in differential diagnosis and treatment of spine and back pain.
Neuromuscular re-education exercise, utilizing the cutting-edge Redcord equipment, is used as an adjunct to manual therapy techniques to assist in re-training the deep spinal stabilizers. Pain and injury inhibit correct spinal muscle function. This form of treatment is proving to be a very successful way of re-training stability, strength, and function.
Our goal is for you to return safely to your previous activities with fewer symptoms and also with the knowledge to appropriately manage and prevent your condition from happening again. If you’re suffering from back pain, sciatica pain or low back pain, don’t wait any longer for relief. Contact us at Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Mattawan, Plainwell & Portage, MI centers to set up a one-on-one consultation and full evaluation.