Have you ever felt moderate to severe pain in your back, buttocks, and legs? If yes, you may also have experienced weakness in these areas. These may also be common symptoms of Sciatica, a condition caused by an underlying injury to the sciatic nerve or an area that impacts the nerve, such as the vertebrae, which are the bones in your neck and back. Sciatica is most likely to affect people between the ages of 30 and 50 years.
Other sciatica symptoms may include the following:
- Pain that gets worse with movement
- Numbness or weakness in the legs or feet, which is usually felt along the sciatic nerve pathway. In severe cases, the patient may experience a loss of feeling or movement
- Sensation of pins and needles, which involves a painful tingling sensation in the toes or feet
- Episodes of incontinence, which is the inability to control your bladder or bowels. This is a rare symptom of cauda equina syndrome, which is defined below, and requires immediate attention
Caused usually by damage due to years of poor posture, stress, excess workload, improper lifting and carrying weights, excess weight and congenital conditions; sciatica reduces the quality of life to a great extent.
Understanding causes of Sciatica
Sciatica is usually caused by a number of conditions that involve your spine and can affect the nerves running along your back. It can also be an outcome of an injury due to falling or spinal or sciatic nerve tumors.
Common health disorders that can cause sciatica are described below:
The human vertebrae, or spinal bones, are separated by pieces of cartilage. Cartilage is filled with a thick, clear material to provide flexibility and cushioning while you move around. Herniated disks happen when the first layer of the cartilage rips. The substance inside can compress the sciatic nerve, resulting in lower limb pain and numbness. It’s said that one in every 50 people will suffer a herniated disk in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Spinal stenosis is also known as lumbar spinal stenosis. It’s marked by the abnormal narrowing of your lower spinal canal. This narrowing puts pressure on the spinal cord and the sciatic nerve roots.
Spondylolisthesis is one of the related conditions of degenerative disk disorder. When one spinal bone, or vertebra, extends forward over another, the extended spinal bone can pinch the sciatic nerve.
Piriformis syndrome is a rare neuromuscular condition, in which the piriformis muscle involuntarily contracts or tightens, leading to sciatica. The piriformis muscle is the muscle that connects the lower portion of the spine to the thighbones. When it tightens, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, leading to sciatica. This condition can worsen if you sit for long periods, fall, or experience a car crash.
Cauda Equina Syndrome
In rare cases, a herniated disk can press on nerves that cause the patient to lose control of his/ her bowel or bladder. This condition is known as cauda equina syndrome. It can also lead to numbness or tingling in the groin area, decreased sexual sensation, and paralysis if left untreated.
Read along to understand how physiotherapy at home, a branch of medicine which uses physical methods for improving movement and providing pain relief, can bring a major difference in the lives of patients with sciatica. Although, surgery may be needed in case of severe pain or extreme situations, one major advantage of physiotherapy over surgery is that there are almost no risks of complications involved in this mode of treatment. While surgery, an invasive treatment can lead to complications, risk of infections and be life threatening.
Also, on many occasions, one surgery is not enough and repeat surgeries may be required over the years, increasing the risk of complications. Add to that, surgery usually means more pain for the patient.
One important thing to consider is that surgery may not be recommended for patients with conditions diabetes, hypertension, anemia, etc. and other disorders. In such cases, physiotherapy is the best treatment for providing relief from back pain caused by sciatica.
Sciatica physiotherapy treatment
A sciatica physiotherapy treatment program usually has two components:
- Passive physical therapy for sciatica to help reduce the patient’s pain
- Active exercises
- Passive Physiotherapy
In these therapies, the physiotherapist may focus on decreasing pain with passive physical therapies like:Heat/ice packs
Heat and/or ice are easily available and they together help reduce muscle spasm and inflammation. Some patients find more pain relief with heat therapy using heat packs and others with cold therapy such as ice massage. The two may also be alternated. They are generally applied for 10-20 minutes once every two hours, and are more useful early on (the first few days) in the course of an episode of pain.
TENS Units for Electrotherapy
A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) unit uses electrical stimulation to modulate the sensation of low back pain by overriding the painful signals that are sent to the brain. A trial of electrotherapy with the TENS unit is usually done first, and if the patient experiences substantial pain relief, a TENS unit may be used at home for low back pain relief on a long-term basis.
Lontophoresis is a means of delivering steroids through the skin. The steroids then produce an anti-inflammatory effect in the general area that is causing pain. This treatment is especially effective in relieving acute episodes of pain.
Ultrasound is a form of deep heating in which sound waves are applied to the skin and penetrate into the soft tissues. Ultrasound is especially useful in relieving acute episodes of pain and may enhance tissue healing.
2. Active Physiotherapy (Back pain exercises)
In addition to passive therapies, active physical therapy for sciatica patients are also necessary. Generally, a patient’s back exercise program should include stretching exercises for all the relevant muscle groups along with core strengthening exercises. Patients must learn these exercises from their therapists and practice regularly at home. This is an important part of sciatica physiotherapy treatment.
The following steps can help people prevent sciatica or keep it from occurring again:
- Exercise often. Strengthening your back muscles and your stomach or core muscles is the best way to maintaining a healthy back
- Take care of your posture. Make sure your work chair offers proper support for your back, place your feet on the floor while sitting, and utilise the armrest often to rest your body
- Check your movement. Lift heavy objects in the correct way, by bending at your knees and keeping your back straight
Sciatica physiotherapy treatment at home
Sciatica physiotherapy treatment at home has helped many patients recover from chronic pain, worldwide and can be the right treatment for your loved one too. Add to that, it entails no trauma that comes with surgery. A comprehensive sciatica physiotherapy treatment plan for sciatica gives you the freedom to perform the exercises within the safety, privacy & comfort of your home. Trusted by many patients, HealthCare atHOME’s home sciatica physiotherapy treatment is a great option for people looking to lead a pain free life. To avail expert sciatica physiotherapy treatment at home, contact us at 1800-102-4224.