Have you or someone you know ever experienced low back pain that radiated down into your leg? If so, this is most likely sciatica that is causing the pain. Sciatica is common for people that have low back pain, it’s most common for people to experience sciatica on one side of their back.
Sciatica is caused by the pinching of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve follows a path from the back down through the buttocks and into the leg. This is why the pain is felt radiating down the leg. This pain can be felt in a few different ways. It can be a dull pain, sharp pain, kind of like a shock pain, or even just numbness in the leg or even down to the foot.
There are many reasons as to why sciatica is a problem for people. One reason is spine health. Spine health is a very broad category that is affected by many different facets such as disc health, obesity, and even prolonged sitting. Disc health is one of the main causes for sciatica due to bulging discs. The bulging discs will push on the sciatic nerve as it is coming out of the spine in the lower back, causing the pain mentioned above. Obesity also plays a big role in sciatica because of the extra load that is placed on the body. Lastly, prolonged sitting can also lead to problems related to sciatica. After sitting for an extended period of time, especially when this habit is compounded throughout many days, weeks, and even months, muscles will tighten up because of the lack of stretching and use. In fact, a muscle called the piriformis is one of the muscles that causes sciatica. When this muscle gets tight, it presses down on the sciatic nerve, resulting in the presentation of sciatica symptoms. Not only are muscles affected with prolonged sitting, but the spine is also greatly affected, and can even be more prone to problems like bulging or herniated discs. (If you want to learn more about the negative effects of sitting and how to combat those negative effects, check out our other post titled “Sitting: The New Smoking”).
So, what can be done to alleviate the pain that is experienced with sciatica. Because sciatica is related to back injury, the patient can take the first 48 hours to rest. While this is important in the beginning, it is even more important to get moving after those first 48 hours. In order to prevent further problems with the sciatic nerve, it is important to start treating the back.
Treating the back can be accomplished by employing the McKenzie method. The McKenzie method will help the patient with understanding what movements are adding to the pain and what movements or directional preference movements can alleviate the pain that they are experiencing. In fact, I was speaking to an extended family member who lives on the east coast, who indicated that they had back pain. After speaking to them for a few minutes they mentioned a book that was recommended to them by a colleague that resolved their back pain. This book was written by Robin McKenzie, who is the founder of the McKenzie method, the book is entitled “Treat Your Own Back” that is highly recommended for people that are struggling with back pain. Besides teaching the reader about movements or directional preference exercises, it also focuses on the importance of posture and how to have correct posture to help with pain and avoid future back problems. If the book isn’t able to help you treat your back, come in to see us at Pick PT so we can help you get back to living life moving.
Here at Pick PT we have McKenzie method certified physical therapists who can diagnose and treat back pain to help your sciatic pain. When you come in to be treated, exercises will then be prescribed that will aid in alleviating the pain, while also strengthening the back. These exercises will be beneficial to the patient as they continue to do the exercises throughout the day as they start to feel their pain. This helps the patient to learn how to treat their own pain as they start to experience it, rather than waiting for it to become worse, which leads to lack of function, strength, and even surgery. Surgery should be considered a last resort in treating the spine. Overall, evidence shows that the best way to treat chronic back pain and sciatica is MOVEMENT. As a patient once told me, “If you stay still long enough, people will start throwing dirty on you!” So keep moving, so you can Live Life Moving.