Each of your sciatic nerves runs from either side of your lower back down to each of your legs. That’s why a classic sign of sciatica is having a shooting pain on one side only. While compression of one of your sciatic nerves can literally be a “pain in the butt,” it doesn’t always require medical attention, though sometimes physiotherapy is your best bet to banish sciatica symptoms. So how can you tell when to go it alone, and when to call a physiotherapist?
There are plenty of things you can do at home to ease a mild sciatica flare-up. Alternating with cold and heat is a classic treatment for sciatica symptoms. Use an ice pack, followed by a heating pad, for about 15 minutes per application. Sleeping with a pillow between your knees can also help. If you can’t get comfortable during the day or at night, try a reclining chair to redirect the pressure from your lower back. Going for walks often helps ease sciatica pain, because “babying” your condition can actually make it worse.
While these methods may help with mild sciatica, there are times when a physiotherapy session is a far better strategy. One sign that you should consult a physiotherapist is if your home treatments are having little or no effect in reducing the pain and restricted motion. Another is if the symptoms persist for at least a week. Of course, the worsening of pain is the most important sign that physiotherapy is needed.
If your sciatic nerve becomes seriously compressed, the resulting symptoms can go from uncomfortable to quite painful – and even embarrassing. You may become weak and numb on one side. Sometimes, even getting your leg or foot to move becomes impossible. If the pain hits you suddenly, and with great intensity, it’s probably time to visit a physiotherapist to begin easing the pain.
Another telltale sign? The sciatic nerve can become compressed in the area that controls bladder and/or bowel function. If you lose control of either or both of these functions, you’ll know it’s time for professional help. Visit a doctor to rule out other problems. Your doctor will likely run tests, as well as refer you to a physiotherapist.
Mild sciatica can build up over time, and it may even go away on its own. But when you have an onset of classic sciatica symptoms following a car accident, serious fall or sports injury, contact a doctor and a physiotherapist. The symptoms are more likely to be severe because of the greater impact on the area surrounding the sciatic nerve. It’s important to determine the severity of nerve damage. Your medical team needs to evaluate the need for surgery, steroid injections, or prescription drugs.
Even if your injury requires more aggressive treatment, physiotherapy is often recommended as part of the recovery plan. Your physiotherapist can help you with surgery rehab. They can also focus on extending the benefits of your injections and sciatica medication.
For many people with persistent or severe sciatica, physiotherapy can be a lifeline. You’ll be taught targeted moves that strengthen your lower back. Strong muscles support the area around your sciatic nerve and can prevent future injuries. You’ll also work on improving your posture to keep sciatica symptoms at bay. Increasing range of motion is also part of physiotherapy for sciatica.
Contact Craven SPORT services today to speak with an experienced physiotherapist about how to manage – and even banish – painful sciatica flare-ups.