Sciatica & Back Pain Relief
Living with Back Pain or Sciatica? Physical Therapy Can Provide the Treatments You Need
Don’t Live with Back Pain – Find Relief with Physical Therapy!
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, back pain is the most commonly reported pain across the nation, and one out of every four Americans has experienced back pain in the past three months. At R.A. Physical Therapy, our Los Angeles, CA physical therapists will get to the root of the problem and provide long-lasting relief.
If you wake up in the morning with back pain or notice nagging aches in your back, buttock, or thighs, physical therapy in Los Angeles, CA can help you find relief.
While back pain and sciatica are similar, they still have their differences and are often confused with one another. Back pain is found specifically in the upper, middle or lower back. Sciatica is a more diffuse, radiating pain down the buttock, thigh, and even leg.
It is also possible to have radiculopathy, which is a radiating numbness, tingling, burning, or sharp pain to a specific part of the leg. This is often associated with a herniated disc, or entrapment of the nerve in that area, as it exits the spine.
If you are suffering from back pain or sciatica, don’t rely on medicines to help you mask the pain. In many cases, our treatments are even able to eliminate the need for harmful painkilling drugs, such as opioids, or an invasive surgical procedure.
Treating back pain and sciatica with physical therapy
While back pain may come and go, it is always important to treat it right away. If not, it can lead to poor joint movement, core weakness, and poor muscle coordination, which can all lead to unwanted injuries in the future.
The early stages of your physical therapy treatment will focus on quick pain relief. Afterward, your physical therapist will expand your treatment to include strengthening your core muscle group with specific therapeutic exercises and stretches.
This helps improve your strength and range of motion to prevent re-injury of your spine. Our physical therapist will also provide you with ergonomic techniques for taking care of your spine during daily activities, such as sitting at a desk or driving.
For the treatment of sciatica, our physical therapists will implement specific leg stretches into your treatment plan to loosen the sciatic nerve. This restores the natural health of the nerve and quickly reduces symptoms.
Back pain and sciatica are both completely treatable through physical therapy. Our Los Angeles, CA physical therapists will create a specific treatment plan for you based upon your diagnosis.
Herniated Disk Management
Understanding Disc Bulges
Disc bulge, commonly referred to as herniated nucleus pulposas (HNP) is a condition that relates to the spine. HNP can be caused by immediate trauma or injury (sports injury, auto accidents, etc.), as well as long-term trauma such as improper posture. Discs are located between each of the vertebral bodies of the spine. The discs are the shock absorbers of the body. They also help to give the spine more movement and flexibility as we twist and bend.
The discs are shaped like a hockey puck and are made up of cartilage, which is tough and leather like. Each of the discs is constructed like an onion, layered in rings (the annulus). At the center of each disc is a watery, gelatin-like center called the nucleus. In general, the discs have a high content of water and this is what makes them flexible. As we age, the discs lose some of their water content and become less flexible. This makes the layers of the “onion skin” more brittle and weaker.
As we participate in activities that place us in a bent or “flexed” position (sitting, driving, reading, watching TV, etc.), the low back can lose its natural curve, and pressure from the nucleus can be exerted on the back side of the discs. Over time, one layer at a time of the “onion skin” (annulus) splits or cracks and the gelatinous center moves closer to the outside. Eventually this nucleus begins to distort the shape of the disc, causina the disc to bulge. This can happen to the direct back side but most often is slightly to one side or the other. (In rare cases, the bulge can be on the front side.)
The pain is caused because the back side of the disc has many nerves. Another factor is that the spinal cord is directly behind the disc and, as the bulge increases, it begins to irritate the nerves that are attached to the spinal cord. In the low back, these nerves travel down the leg. This can cause feelings of pain as far down as the foot and toes, as well as numbness or tingling in the leg and foot. This is called sciatica.
One way to help with this problem is by beginning extension exercises. By arching the low back, pressure can be taken off the back side of the disc. If this is done with frequency, the layers of the annulus can begin to heal and can form scar tissue. As the disc heals, the bulges reduce in size and take the pressure off the nerves, decreasing or eliminating the sciatica.
“Traction” may also help relieve the sciatica. Consult your doctor or health professional to see if this is an option for you.
Another item that can keep the low back in its proper curve is a lumbar roll. The lumbar roll is placed behind the low back while you sit, and helps keep the back in its proper curve.
In some cases surgery may be necessary if the exercise, traction and lumbar roll do not resolve the condition.
Your doctor or health professional will show you the exercises best suited to your situation. If you have further questions, consult him or her.
Back pain vs sciatica – what’s the difference?
“Back pain” is a term that can be caused by an array of different conditions. For example, you may experience back pain due to poor posture, a motor vehicle accident, or a lifting injury. The treatment plan that our Los Angeles, CA physical therapist sets up for you, will depend on how you developed the back pain, in addition to its exact location and your past medical history. Back pain can be described as acute, meaning it is short-term, or chronic, meaning it is long-term (typically lasting for three months or longer).
Sciatica is a specific type of back pain that is reported as being highly uncomfortable. However, it is also fortunately very simple to diagnose. People with sciatica experience pain along the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in your body. The sciatic nerve begins at your lower back and then splits at the base of your spine to extend further down to your buttocks, legs, and finally ends at the bottom of each foot. The sciatic nerve can become compressed or irritated, which causes a “shooting,” “stinging,” or “burning” sensation in your lower back, buttocks, legs, or feet.
So, why am I experiencing back pain or sciatica?
General back pain typically develops as the result of an injury. This can be due to repetitive straining motions, such as leaning down multiple times throughout the day to pick up a toddler, or a more serious, sudden trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident.
Underlying conditions, such as herniated discs, can also cause immense pain, and cause radiculopathy pain to the thigh, leg, or foot. Degenerative disc disease is a common condition as we age, which can result in back pain. Those with this condition typically report dull, aching pains in their lower back, and have difficulty with prolonged standing or walking.
Sciatica’s technical name is “lumbar radiculopathy.” People who develop this condition are generally between the ages of 30 and 50. Many different types of injuries can cause the development of sciatica, including arthritis, bone spurs, or any other injury that impacts the sciatic nerve.
Most commonly, we find that people lose their flexibility in the hips and pelvis, which causes the gluteus and hip muscles to become tightened. This in turn, alters the mechanics of the spine, and compresses the sciatic nerve as it travels through these tissues.
Contact us to find relief!
If you are experiencing the symptoms of back pain or sciatica, find relief with R.A. Physical Therapy today.