Back Pain & Sciatica Relief
Back pain is so common that most people will experience it at some point in their lives. In fact, the American Physical Therapy Association says that at any given time, one in four Americans will have experienced back pain within the past three months. That’s a lot of aching backs! Sciatica is a specific type of back pain that is extremely common — and extremely painful. Whether your back pain is due to an injury or strain or a more specific nerve problem like sciatica, working with a physical therapist can restore you to health, and in many cases, can help you avoid the need for back surgery. If you have been diagnosed with a back injury or sciatica, contact Sports & Orthopaedic Therapy Services in Silver Spring, MD as soon as possible so we can help create an individualized physical therapy regimen to help you recover.
What is back pain and sciatica?
“Back pain” is a generalized term that covers a wide range of conditions. Back pain can be caused by a lifting injury, poor posture, an accident, or another cause. Your course of treatment with a physical therapist will depend on the type of back pain, its location, and a lot of other factors. Pain can be acute (short-term) or chronic (lasting more than three months), and it can impact the bones of the spinal structure or muscles in the back.
Sciatica is a specific type of back pain that is intensely painful and easy to diagnose. The pain from sciatica runs along the sciatic nerve — the longest nerve in the body. This nerve extends from your lower back, splits near the base of your spine, and runs down to the bottom of each foot. When the sciatic nerve is “pinched,” it can send a constant, shooting, burning pain from your buttocks to the bottom of your foot.
Causes of back pain and sciatica
Generalized back pain is usually caused by an injury. This can range from a strain or pull in your back muscles (such as bending over to pick up a toddler) to a more serious injury (such as one sustained in a car crash.) A herniated disc in the back is more serious and can lead to tremendous pain, including sciatica. Degenerative disc disease can be caused by obesity or poor posture, and it can lead to dull, aching pain in the lower back.
The longer technical name for sciatica is “lumbar radiculopathy.” It usually impacts people between 30 and 50 years of age. Sciatica can be caused by several different types of injuries, including bone spurs, arthritis, or an injury that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. A fall or a collision during sports, such as soccer or football, can lead to a case of sciatica. The condition can also generate slowly over time, as with the development of arthritis.
How physical therapy helps back pain and sciatica
Recovery from sciatica or other types of back pain is possible with the help of physical therapy. Your course of treatment with a physical therapist will largely depend on your diagnosis. In the early stages of sciatica or back pain, your physical therapist will make specific recommendations to help relieve pain. This can include applying ice packs to affected areas every few hours, going for short walks to remain active, and working on things like your posture to prevent the injury from worsening.
As your condition improves, your physical therapist will work with you on specific exercises, stretches, and treatments. For example, water exercises are a common “prescription” for many back injuries and sciatica, because they will allow you to stay physically active. More intense exercises might not be possible during the early stages of recovery. Your physical therapist will prescribe specific leg exercises to relieve the pain from sciatica, so it’s important to do these. The goal of physical therapy for back pain and sciatica is to improve your range of motion, relieve the pain, and strengthen the body so you can ultimately return to your normal daily activities.
If you have been diagnosed with back pain or sciatica, contact Sports & Orthopaedic Therapy Services in Silver Spring, MD to schedule a consult with a physical therapist. The pain may be intense now, but we will help get you on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.
The pain you experience in your back may either be acute or chronic, depending on how it was sustained. Acute pain means that it lasts for a short time and is usually severe. Chronic pain means that it lasts generally three months or longer and it can either cause dull or severe persistent pain. The pain you experience is typically either rooted in your back muscles or the bones in your spine. If your pain is severe enough to hinder you from doing daily tasks, if it suddenly worsens, or if it has lasted longer than three months, then it is time to seek the help of a physical therapist.
You can treat your back pain with physical therapy. Physical therapy can address back pain by helping to improve your range of motion, strengthening the muscles in the affected areas, and using targeted massage to reduce tension. In many situations, working with a physical therapist to improve can significantly reduce the severity of your back pain, and may even help you avoid more invasive procedures, such as surgery.
Your physical therapist will design a treatment plan based on your specific needs. Your individualized treatment plan will incorporate the best methods possible for relieving your pain, facilitating the healing process, and restoring function and movement to the affected area(s) of your back. Your initial appointment will consist of a comprehensive evaluation, which will help your physical therapist discover which forms of treatment will be best for the orthopedic, neurologic, or cardiovascular condition you are experiencing. The main stages of your plan will focus on pain relief, which may include any combination of ice and heat therapies, manual therapy, posture improvement, targeted stretches and exercises, or any other treatment that your physical therapist may deem fit. While there is no singular method for relieving back pain, your physical therapist will make sure you receive the best treatments for your needs.
While medication is easy, it only helps your pain subside for a short amount of time. Over time, certain drugs can cause some unfavorable side effects, and in some cases, they can be habit-forming. With NSAIDs, you run the risk of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke. With corticosteroids, you run the risk of cataracts, high blood sugar levels, and bone loss. Luckily, there is a much safer and healthier alternative to treating persistent back pain: physical therapy. At your initial consultation, your physical therapist will ask you several questions regarding your medical history, lifestyle, and painful area(s). This information will assist your physical therapist in creating the best treatment plan for you and your specific needs, so you can be provided with long-term results.