March 24, 2022

Sciatica – What to Know and How Physical Therapy Can Help!

Author

Christina Wiese, SPT

Read Time

5 minutes


 

What is Sciatica?

Trying to understand the shooting pain in your leg? Sciatica, sometimes known as lumbar radiculopathy, is diagnosed when there is pain and/or numbness and tingling that shoots down your leg. You may also experience weakness and changes in sensation to physical touch. There is a difference between sciatica and lumbar radiculopathy, however. Sciatica refers to pain of the sciatic nerve, which may be caused by compression of the nerve at any point along its course from the low back into the leg. Lumbar radiculopathy, however, is when this compression occurs as the nerve exits the spine. Whatever the cause of your sciatica, physical therapy (PT) is an effective treatment option to decrease your pain so you can get back to doing what you love!

 

How Can Physical Therapy Help?

At Imagine Physical Therapy, we utilize many treatment options to help decrease your pain, improve your range of motion, and strengthen your muscles. One treatment option is dry needling with electrical stimulation (PENS). In a study by Ghoname et al. PENS decreased pain by approximately 50% in a single treatment session and continued to decrease over 9 treatment sessions compared to alternative treatments. Additionally, 73% of these patients preferred PENS over the other treatment options. However, if you are someone who has a strong dislike of needles, there are still other treatment options for you!


Another treatment Imagine Physical Therapy utilizes is therapeutic ultrasound. When performed at the low back, ultrasound has been shown to decrease pain and improve function with greater long-term improvement compared to traction and laser therapy.


The most common advice given to patients with low back and leg pain is “Stay active.” The therapists at Imagine Physical Therapy have already done the research on the most effective exercises to decrease your pain and strengthen your abdominal and leg muscles. Research has shown that appropriately strengthening the abdominals alone decreases pain in 80% of patients. Let us be the ones to guide you through these exercises.

 

Surgery vs. Physical Therapy

Although surgical repair can be an option, it is generally not recommended until conservative management, such as PT, has been shown to be ineffective. One study looked at patients who either had surgery or began PT. The patients undergoing surgery initially had a 25% decrease in pain compared to those in PT. However, 1 year following the surgery there was no difference in pain between the two groups. Avoiding back surgery is an option when the pain is minimal to moderate.

 

Contact Us!

At Imagine Physical Therapy, we utilize all these treatment options, as well as others not mentioned here, to treat your low back and leg pain. Contact Imagine Physical Therapy for all your PT needs. We will get you feeling better Day 1!

 


 References

1.     Berry JA, Elia C, Saini HS, Miulli DE. A review of lumbar radiculopathy, diagnosis, and treatment. 2019;11(10): e5934. DOI:10.7759/cureus.5934.

2.     Delitto A, George S, van Dillen L, et al. Low back pain: Clinical practice guidelines linked to the international classification of functioning, disability, and health from the orthopaedic section of the American Physical Therapy Association. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2012;42(4):A1-A57.

3.     Ostelo RWJG. Physiotherapy management of sciatica. Aust J Physiother. 2020;66:83-88.

4.     Clarke J, van Tulder M, Blomberg S, et al. Traction for low back pain with or without sciatica: An updated systematic review within the framework of the cochrane collaboration. Spine. 2006;31(14):1591-1599.

5.     Ghoname EA, White PF, Ahmed HE, et al. Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation: An alternative to TENS in the management of sciatica. Pain Rep. 1999;83:193-199.

6.     Unlu Z, Tasc S, Tarhan S, et al. Comparison of 3 physical therapy modalities for acute pain in lumbar disc herniation measured by clinical evaluation and magnetic resonance imaging. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2008;31(3):191-198.

7.     Chan EWM, Hamid MSA, Nadzalan AMd, et al. Abdominal  muscle activation: An EMG study of the Sahrmann five-level core stability test. Hong Kong Physiother J. 2020;40(2):89-97.