WHAT IS SCIATICA?
Pain in the hip, low back, and down the leg. Sciatica is what we call a “bucket diagnosis”, where anything that can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or burning in the back of your leg (where your sciatic nerve lives) can be put into this area without much thought. Many people SUFFER for long periods with poorly managed sciatica because they don’t understand where the symptoms are coming from. They can arise from nerves, joints in your spine or hip, muscle tissues all the way down the back of your leg, poor movement patterns or ergonomics.
Before you read into the broad range of symptoms below, remember: there are LOTS of different issues that go into this diagnosis category. If YOU or someone you know who suffers from sciatica may have only a few of these symptoms, and our job as expert physical therapists is to dig down to the root of WHY your symptoms exist, and therefore what treatments will be the most optimal.
SYMPTOMS OF SCIATICA
Pain, numbness, tingling, aching, burning in the back of one or both legs
Weakness in the leg
Limited flexibility in the leg
Difficulty putting weight on the leg or walking
Pain with extended periods of sitting / standing / walking / lying
Difficulty with daily activities thanks to these symptoms
Sometimes symptoms extend up to the back or wrap around to the front of the hip
HOW CAN PHYSICAL THERAPY HELP?
Pain? LImited range of motion? Weakness? Those sound like hallmark symptoms that physical therapy can address.
A thorough history and evaluation can often lead us to narrowing down what structures the pain is arising from - whether it is a muscle, nerve, tendon, fascia, or joint - and then developing a treatment plan. Depending on the nature of the symptoms, it could involve exercises to decrease stiffness, manual therapies to improve mobility and circulation, progressive strengthening to correct muscle imbalances or suboptimal movement patterns… just to name a few!