Sciatica is a condition where pressure on the sciatic nerve causes radiating pain and numbness in the lower back, hip, and legs. Pressure on the sciatic nerve is often caused by a herniated/degenerative disc or bone spur, but it can also be caused by a sedentary lifestyle and poor posture. Whatever the cause, you may want to reach out to a chiropractor to discuss physical therapy options. The University of Utah found that participants who treated sciatica with physical therapy for a few weeks experienced less disability in the following year compared to those who chose to forgo physical therapy. Here are three physical therapy options your chiropractor could use to help you.
If your sciatica is caused by spinal misalignment, joint manipulation can be incredibly helpful in restoring proper function and reducing pressure on the sciatic nerve. Your chiropractor will apply a quick thrusting force with an instrument or their hands to correct any vertebral misalignments. Joint manipulation is incredibly helpful for patients who are in a lot of pain because it restores proper range of motion to the joint and prepares a patient for physical therapy exercises. Besides manipulating joints, your chiropractor might manipulate soft tissue in the lower back, hips, or legs that have gone into spasm. They can perform massage, dry needling, or acupuncture to release tension in hyper-contracted muscle tissue. While more studies need to be conducted, one review found that acupuncture could be more effective than medications at helping patients with sciatica.
Active Assisted Range-of-Motion Stretches
If your sciatica has affected your range of motion, then it may be hard to do stretches or exercise by yourself without experiencing pain. During assisted range-of-motion stretches, your chiropractor will support and move parts of your body, like the legs or hips so that you can experience a deeper stretch and don't have to risk spasms by tensing up your muscles. Stretches that flex and extend the back—like a yoga cat-cow pose—are incredibly helpful at reducing sciatica symptoms; your chiropractor can walk you through these types of stretches in-office first so that you know how to safely perform them at home.
Functional retraining involves exercises that imitate basic everyday motions, such as bending over, lifting and carrying items, etc. The goal of functional retraining is to teach proper form so that you don't worsen your symptoms and have recurrent sciatica. After joint/muscle manipulation and range-of-motion stretches, your chiropractor might introduce low-impact exercises, such as seated leg curls, glute bridges, and pelvic tilts. These exercises should improve blood flow and improve muscle strength so that your back muscles are stabilized. During functional retraining, your chiropractor might have you wear a back brace or hamstring support wrap to reinforce good posture and further support your body as you work out.
Reach out to a physical therapy clinic today for more details.