Physical Therapy for Sciatica
Physical therapy is one of the best options for sciatica among many other treatments such as pain medications, injections, home remedies, and surgery. A physical therapist uses different tools and equipment to promote quick recovery and prevent further injury by strengthening your body.
Qualified experts use hands-on techniques and specialized programs to guide their patients through the healing process. This includes certain exercises and stretches that you can comfortably do at home to provide more comfort for your back.
Physical therapy is ideal for people with sciatica because it uses non-invasive techniques to reduce pain and inflammation. It boosts the immune system, enhances physical function, and prevents the recurrence of sciatic pain. Passive physical therapy relieves painful soft tissue tension and relaxes your body while active physical therapy improves flexibility, strength, and long-term pain prevention.
Passive Physical Therapy Options for Sciatica
- Hot and Cold Therapies
A physical therapist uses heat to increase the supply of oxygen and essential nutrients by getting more blood to the target area. For instance, placing a heat pack on your piriformis muscle eases the muscle spasms that irritate your sciatic nerve. Cold therapy is used to reduce inflammation and radiating pain by slowing circulation. Your physical therapist can alternate between hot and cold therapies to provide the best benefit from each.
- Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage targets the fascia, hips, upper thigh, and specific spinal muscles that could be compressing the sciatic nerve. A therapist may apply direct pressure and friction to ease the tension in your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The amount of pressure exerted on these areas may vary depending on the severity of your condition.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
This type of passive physical therapy stimulates the muscles through safe, variable intensities of electrical current. It increases the production of your body’s natural painkillers known as endorphins. Your therapist may recommend TENS equipment to a patient for use at home to reduce muscle spasms.
Active Physical Therapy Options for Sciatica
- Therapeutic Stretches and Exercises
A physical therapist will teach you various stretches and exercises to improve your muscle strength and flexibility. Every program is tailored to a specific individual and takes into consideration the health and medical history of a patient. This may include strengthening exercises, aerobic conditioning, and movements that increase range of motion and flexibility. A strong immune system provides a strong defense against sciatic pain.
This type of active physical therapy builds and tones the muscle using the gentle resistance of water. A physical therapist may recommend hydrotherapy to patients who find weight-bearing exercises painful. Swimming and water aerobics are some of the modest types of hydrotherapy that can ease sciatic pain and promote self-healing.
Other Alternative Treatments for Sciatica
Acupuncture and chiropractic care are other ideal therapies commonly used for sciatica or low back pain. Acupuncture works by improving blood circulation, relaxing tight muscles, releasing neurotransmitters that reduce pain, and regulating the nervous system. Acupuncture is an effective treatment for sciatica that addresses the root cause of the problem without causing side effects of prescription pain medication. Chiropractic care involves the use of spinal adjustments or manipulation to treat patients with restricted spinal mobility. It aims primarily at restoring spinal movement, which decreases pain and improves function. Although chiropractic care is a safe and effective treatment for low back pain, it needs to be combined with physical therapy to help with radiating pain.
It is important to make an appointment with your primary care doctor if your symptoms persist for more than a month. Keep in mind that the above-mentioned therapies are not a quick fix for sciatica. It takes several appointments and consistent appointments to achieve the desired results with physical therapy. You need to give full disclosure of your health and medical history so that your therapist can design the best program for your condition. Your treatment plan will include both clinic visits and at-home stretches and exercises to keep you in tip-top shape.