Back Pain and Sciatica Relief

Back & Sciatica Pain Relief Midlothian, VA

What is Sciatica?

One of the most common mistakes is to assume that all leg pain must be due to a herniated disc in the back pressing on a nerve. The truth is most leg pain has nothing to do with a herniated disc and it can be treated very effectively with Physical Therapy. There is much confusion about the term Sciatica. Sciatica is not a medical diagnosis in and of itself—it is a symptom of an underlying medical condition. The term sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain—and possibly tingling, numbness, or weakness—that originate in the lower back and travel through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of each leg. There are two explanations for pain one may have in the leg, one is a compressed nerve root, the other is referred pain.

Referred pain is analogous to the pain that radiates down the left arm during a heart attack. It is the result of the extensive network of interconnecting sensory nerves that supply many of the tissues of the low back, pelvis and thigh. Seventy percent of patients with back pain have some radiating pain into their legs. It is usually a dull ache that spreads into the buttock or thighs, it may affect both legs, but usually does not go below the knee. It is important to understand that referred pain is not due to a pinched nerve.

Nerve root compression gives quite a different pain, it is sharp and specific to an area of your leg. Nerve root pain usually radiates below the knee into the foot or toes. Patients often describe the pain with sensations as pins and needles or numbness. It usually affects one only one leg and is much worse than referred pain.  Nerve root pain is much less common than referred leg pain. Furthermore, if you have back pain alone and no leg pain a nerve root problem is very unlikely.

If you have Sciatica symptoms then you should be examined by a Physical Therapist for signs of referred pain or nerve root compression. Our Physical Therapists at The Virginia Center for Spine & Sports Therapy are highly skilled in performing different tests to asses where the pain is coming from.  Should we determine the nerve compression is more serious we can refer you to the best physicians to assist in your care.

What types of physical therapy treat back pain and sciatica?

Working on strength, flexibility and circulation are all crucial components to treating sciatica and low back pain.  Among the most common categories of treatments for sciatica in physical therapy are:

  •  Low-impact aerobic activity, to encourage circulation of nutrients and body fluids (as well pain-killing endorphins) to the areas that need it most. Most aerobic activity can be done outside of your physical therapy session, including walking or swimming, but your physical therapist can show you methods to work around your sciatic stiffness and pain as you do so.
  •  Stretching exercises, to enhance mobility. Sciatica often causes spasms, tightness and limited range of motion in your back and legs. Various exercises and  lower-back moves like a press up, will loosen muscles and boost mobility.
  •  Strength building exercises to help support your spine. Working your abs, hips and glutes will all result in a stronger core that resists lower back pain and sciatica.

 Ready to eradicate your pain?

Our patients are often referred to us by their primary physicians or by a specialist, and our physical therapist will continue to work with your medical team to treat the specific cause of your pain. Our highly trained physical therapists will also give you a full evaluation, including a spinal alignment assessment,  tests to evaluate muscle strength in the areas that support your back and range-of-motion evaluations.

To get started on your back pain and sciatica relief treatment plan, contact us at Midlothian, VA center!


How do I know if my back pain is serious?

The pain you experience in your back may either be acute or chronic, depending on how it was sustained. Acute pain means that it lasts for a short time and is usually severe. Chronic pain means that it lasts generally three months or longer and it can either cause dull or severe persistent pain. The pain you experience is typically either rooted in your back muscles or the bones in your spine. If your pain is severe enough to hinder you from doing daily tasks, if it suddenly worsens, or if it has lasted longer than three months, then it is time to seek the help of a physical therapist.

How do I get relief from back pain?

You can treat your back pain with physical therapy. Physical therapy can address back pain by helping to improve your range of motion, strengthening the muscles in the affected areas, and using targeted massage to reduce tension. In many situations, working with a physical therapist to improve can significantly reduce the severity of your back pain, and may even help you avoid more invasive procedures, such as surgery.

What is the best physical therapy treatment for back pain?

Your physical therapist will design a treatment plan based on your specific needs. Your individualized treatment plan will incorporate the best methods possible for relieving your pain, facilitating the healing process, and restoring function and movement to the affected area(s) of your back. Your initial appointment will consist of a comprehensive evaluation, which will help your physical therapist discover which forms of treatment will be best for the orthopedic, neurologic, or cardiovascular condition you are experiencing. The main stages of your plan will focus on pain relief, which may include any combination of ice and heat therapies, manual therapy, posture improvement, targeted stretches and exercises, or any other treatment that your physical therapist may deem fit. While there is no singular method for relieving back pain, your physical therapist will make sure you receive the best treatments for your needs.

How do you relieve back pain without drugs?

While medication is easy, it only helps your pain subside for a short amount of time. Over time, certain drugs can cause some unfavorable side effects, and in some cases, they can be habit-forming. With NSAIDs, you run the risk of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke. With corticosteroids, you run the risk of cataracts, high blood sugar levels, and bone loss. Luckily, there is a much safer and healthier alternative to treating persistent back pain: physical therapy. At your initial consultation, your physical therapist will ask you several questions regarding your medical history, lifestyle, and painful area(s). This information will assist your physical therapist in creating the best treatment plan for you and your specific needs, so you can be provided with long-term results.

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