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Can Physical Therapy Help Me Resolve Recurrent Sciatica for Good?

Physical therapy is essential for treating sciatica, a condition recognized by lower back and shooting leg pain. Participating in physical therapy supports healing, reduces pain, and lowers your risk of developing chronic symptoms and disability.

And yes, physical therapy — and following your personalized exercise regimen at home — may stop recurrent sciatica.

However, there’s no guarantee that it will end recurrent sciatica for good because too many variables can affect your long-term outcomes.

The skilled team at Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center, P.C., in Hood River and The Dalles, Oregon, has helped many people overcome sciatica and prevent recurring symptoms. Here, they explain the role of physical therapy and the top variables influencing your results.

Physical therapy for sciatica

Resting or lying down to ease your pain is the worst thing you can do for sciatica. Exercise prevents the muscles from tightening and improves circulation for healing, reducing inflammation and pain.

In addition to keeping you moving with exercises safe for your spine, physical therapy improves sciatica by taking the pressure off the nerve and ensuring the muscles supporting your spine are strong and flexible.

Your therapist creates a customized treatment plan that includes treatments such as: 

You will also learn techniques that reduce the stress on your lower back. For example, your therapist may teach the best way to bend and lift and how to practice good ergonomics.

Variables affecting recovery

Though 80-90% of people with sciatica improve with conventional care, some will have occasional and unexpected flare-ups.

We can’t predict who might have recurrent sciatica or how often the problem will recur. But we know the following four variables can raise or lower your chances of eliminating the issue.

1. Cause of your sciatica

The cause of your sciatica is one of the most significant factors affecting the potential for physical therapy to stop recurrent sciatica. A compressed sciatic nerve causes your back and leg pain, but the nerve may get pinched by any of the following:

A herniated disc is the only condition listed above that may heal. Since herniated discs account for 90% of all sciatica cases, there’s a reasonable chance physical therapy will help the disc heal and resolve your pain.

The rest of the conditions are age-related changes that cause tissue degeneration and won’t improve with physical therapy. However, if the condition isn’t severe, exercise can slow or prevent tissue degeneration from worsening and may stop recurrent bouts of sciatica.

2. Early treatment

The sooner you seek treatment, the faster you can begin physical therapy that improves healing and prevents stress on your lower spine — steps that lower your risk for ongoing problems.

How long you have sciatica also makes a difference. Ongoing pain affects your nerves, making them more sensitive and increasing your pain. The spinal structures and sciatic nerves will sustain more damage and degeneration the longer you go without seeking treatment.

3. Physical therapy and home exercise participation

Physical therapy can produce remarkable results if you do the work. It’s important to keep your scheduled appointments and actively engage in physical therapy. If you want to prevent recurrent flare-ups, follow through at home.

Your therapist teaches at-home exercises. Keeping up the routine goes a long way toward ending sciatica and preventing recurrences.

4. Lifestyle modifications

Lifestyle changes (if needed) help stop recurrent sciatica. Practicing good posture, losing weight, and avoiding prolonged sitting are three of the most important.

Being overweight, sitting too much, and slouching put excessive stress on your lower back, which only aggravates sciatica.

You can overcome the severe pain of sciatica with exceptional care from the Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center, P.C. team. Call the office or request an appointment online today to take the first step toward recovery.

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