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Try out these 4 physical therapy treatments for sciatica



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If you have pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in your leg, you, along with 40% of Americans at some point in their life, may be dealing with sciatica. Pressure on or damage to the sciatic nerve causes sciatica, which is a kind of nerve pain that can range from dull and uncomfortable to a radiating pain that makes you unable to move. Sciatica can be triggered by anything from a slipped disc to poor posture.

Usually, sciatica occurs on only one side of the body, wherever the pinched or damaged nerve is. But even minor sciatica pain can be debilitating. Stretching and strengthening the nerves, muscles and joints in your leg and lower back through physical therapy can help alleviate sciatica pain. Find out the best physical therapy treatments for sciatica and what you can do at home to help reduce your pain.

Physical therapy for sciatica

One of the best treatments for sciatica is physical therapy. By strengthening the muscles and relieving pressure on the sciatic nerve, you can reduce pain and increase your range of motion. Here are a few physical therapy treatments for sciatica that your physical therapist may recommend for you:

  • Postural training — Poor posture can contribute to sciatica pain. Postural training can help you correct bad posture habits, reducing pressure on your spine and the sciatic nerve.
  • Physical therapy — Many forms of physical therapy for sciatica can be helpful. Active modalities such as exercises and passive modalities such as joint mobilization can both help improve mobilization and decrease pain and stiffness.
  • Dry needlingDry needling uses thin, hollow needles to stimulate muscles and trigger points in the body. This treatment can relieve muscle and nerve pain, which may help reduce the symptoms of sciatica.
  • Chiropractic careAdjustments can address misaligned joints and vertebrae that may be contributing to sciatic nerve pain. By realigning joints, chiropractors may reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can decrease pain.

These treatments work on different systems in the body with the goal of decreasing pain and increasing your mobility. Your physical therapist may recommend one or more of these treatments to help you deal with your sciatic nerve pain. 

At-home treatments for sciatica

In addition to physical therapy for sciatica, at-home treatments may also help you reduce inflammation and manage your pain. Here are a few recommended activities to help you deal with your sciatica:

  • Walking — A regular walking route is important to keep you mobile. Make sure that when you walk, you land on your heel first and roll through the foot toward the big toe to push off. This helps to distribute your weight evenly through each step.
  • Sitting — This may not sound like exercise, but proper posture while sitting is especially important if you’re dealing with sciatica. To minimize aggravating the sciatic nerve, sit straight with your shoulders rolled back and your shoulder blades down. Keep your legs hip width apart with your feet flat on the floor. This can prevent you from pinching the sciatic nerve even further.
  • Ice — When you first notice sciatica pain, cold or ice packs can help reduce pain and swelling. You can use an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables in a pinch (but always wrap the frozen object in a towel to prevent cold-related skin injuries). Apply the cold pack for 20 minutes at a time, several times during the day.
  • Heat — After the first few days of using cold or ice, you can switch to a heating pad or warm compress. This may help relieve pain and loosen stiff muscles. Apply the heat for 20 minutes at a time. If you’re still in pain, you can switch between hot and cold packs. You may need to experiment to see which one feels best on your injury.
  • Over-the-counter medicines — Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce pain, swelling and inflammation in and around the sciatic nerve. Follow the directions on the bottle and speak to your physical therapist if it doesn’t relieve the pain.

While these at-home methods might not cure your sciatica, they can help you temporarily relieve pain and other symptoms between your physical therapy appointments.

Start physical therapy today

Sciatica is nothing to joke about. It can cause debilitating pain and prevent you from being active in your day-to-day life. The sooner you begin physical therapy for sciatica nerve pain, the sooner you can get back to doing what you love. Don’t wait until your pain gets worse. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.