August 1, 2017
The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the entire body. It runs from each side of the lower spine through the buttock and into the thigh, all the way down to the foot. This nerve serves an important role in communicating messages from the spinal cord to the legs and feet, and when it’s damaged, a problem called sciatica can come about and result in radiating symptoms like leg pain in Glenn Dale.
Sciatica is not necessarily a medical diagnosis itself, but a set of symptoms that are related to an issue with the lower back. Common lower back problems that can cause sciatica include a lumbar herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis and spinal stenosis. Sciatica occurs when this nerve becomes pinched, either from one of these conditions or by an overgrowth of bone in the vertebrae, which brings about symptoms. The most common sciatica symptoms include the following:
- Pain that radiates from the lower back down the leg and possibly into the foot
- A constant pain on only one side of the buttock or leg pain that gets worse with sitting
- A burning, stinging or searing pain in the leg
- Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg, foot or toes
- A sharp pain that makes it difficult to stand or walk
Natural, age-related changes are the most common cause for sciatica, and this is why it occurs most frequently between ages 40-50. Other factors that may increase the chances of developing sciatica are the excess weight placed on the spine from obesity, diabetes, leading a sedentary lifestyle (too much time sitting) and possibly jobs that involve lots of twisting of the back.
Although sciatica can be a distraction and a deterrent to your everyday life, in most cases it’s not a major problem and will improve with a course of conservative (non-surgical) treatment. Physical therapy is considered a central component of most conservative sciatica treatment programs, and it’s known to lead to improved outcomes with reduced pain and other symptoms. If you’re dealing with radiating leg pain in Glenn Dale, our physical therapists can help by identifying the source of your sciatica and then creating a treatment program around it. This will usually consist of some of the following components:
- Strengthening exercises: one of the most effective ways to treat sciatica is to strengthen the muscles of the back, as well as the abs, buttocks and core, which support the spine; these exercises will build up muscles in these regions
- Stretching exercises: these exercises will target muscles that are tight and inflexible in the back and hamstrings (back thigh muscles)
- Aerobic exercise: your therapist will recommend low-impact cardiovascular exercise like walking, swimming, biking, yoga or possibly even Tai chi
- Passive treatments: additional treatments like massage, ultrasound and ice or heat therapy will also be applied by your therapist to reduce your pain levels
- Education: finally, your therapist will offer tips and education on how to reduce complications from sciatica, such as using proper posture at all times, avoiding too much time sitting, getting enough sleep and avoiding smoking
Unless your sciatica is severe, following this type of treatment program will lead to benefits that you’ll notice in the short term, and by adopting healthy habits and staying active, you can keep sciatica complications at bay in the long term. So for radiating leg pain in Glenn Dale and other sciatica symptoms, contact CAM Physical Therapy and Wellness Services at 301-464-7390 to schedule an appointment at any of our three clinics in Laurel, Hyattsville or Glenn Dale / Bowie, MD today, or click here for more information on sciatica.