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Feeling your Sciatica is a “pain in the butt”?

February 20, 2014

--Bassam S Kassab, DPT,  Regional Director

Sciatica, pronounced (sigh-at-ih-kah), describes the symptoms of leg pain and possibly tingling, numbness or weakness that originates in the lower back and travels through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg to the foot.  The nerve might be pinched inside or outside of the spinal canal as it passes into the leg.  The pain might be worse when you sit, cough, or sneeze.  Sciatica may occur suddenly or it can develop gradually.  Less common symptoms might include the inability to bend your knee or move your foot and toes.

Many reasons exist as to why the sciatic nerve may be symptomatic.  Common problems resulting in sciatica may include a lumbar herniated disc, spinal stenosis, tightness from muscles or misalignmant of the pelvis, arthritic spurs of the spine, and spondylolisthesis.

Feeling concerned that these symptoms are here to stay and there is little you can do about these symptoms is common.  Fortunately, Physical Therapy can be very effective in treating these symptoms.

How does Physical Therapy help?

Physical Therapists have many techniques/forms of treatment that may help.  Treatments may include education in body mechanics and posture as well as ergonomics, muscle energy techniques, mobilizations, spinal stabilization and core strenthening exercises, nerve glides, dry needling, and modalities such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation.  The best therapy treatment for someone with sciatica varies greatly from person to person secondary to the many reasons the sciatica may be present.  All patients are unique with their pain and presentation and each treatment will address each patient's specific needs.  Therefore a customized Physical Therapy program will be developed.  A complete exam, including medical history and a review of your symptoms, can help diagnose sciatica and determine its cause.

You can take steps to protect your back and leg and improve your quality of life.  The therapist can help guide and make suggestions for your future care.  The earlier you get into therapy, the better the outcome may be.  Research recommends seeing a Physical Therapist with 3-4 weeks of onset to optimize outcomes.  Call or stop in to one of our many facilities for a visit.

--Goodman, Boissonnault, Fuller, Pathology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders: 2003. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. copyright 1995-2010. Copyright 1994-2014.

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