Sciatica Pain Can Be Resolved
Sciatica is a condition that usually presents with pain radiating along the length of the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back area and branches down to both legs. Other symptoms often include tingling, numbness or weakness radiating from the lower back down both legs often to the knee or below. It is a very common condition affecting more than 3 million Americans yearly.
While it is often a self-limiting condition, it is medically treatable and care from a doctor or professional can often reduce the overall time for the condition to resolve. It typically takes about 4 to 8 weeks for the pain to subside but it may take as long as four months for complete recovery to where all movement and strength returns to normal.
When treated by a professional, patients typically see improvement within a few visits, or 1 to 2 weeks. If no improvement is seen after two weeks of treatment, it is possible that sciatica is an incorrect diagnosis and the problem lies elsewhere. Once the pain has subsided and motion and strength are back to normal, there is a minimal chance for the sciatica to return. The stronger the person is the less likely a recurrence of the sciatica symptoms.
Lower back pain is not always sciatica. Herniated discs can cause pain when bending forward, twisting, coughing, or sneezing and is typically found in those less than 35 years old. People older than 50 are more often subject to stenosis and arthritic pain that usually causes pain with standing or walking, and feels better with sitting. Finally, joint or pelvic problems can cause pain after sitting for long periods.
Treatment for sciatica usually consists of physical therapy and exercises at least once per day, every day. Minimal equipment is used to help advance the goal of the patient being able to be independent and self-manage the condition. Some may need traction, and a professional can provide the resources to get a home traction unit if needed. Many people try to apply ice or heat for sciatica, but neither really affects the condition, although putting ice on the inflamed section of the lower back can sometimes help.
If sciatica is present, it is best to try to sleep on the back or alternatively, the side. When sleeping on the side, change sides and place a pillow between the knees to keep hips, pelvis and spine aligned in a neutral position. A pillow between the knees has been found to be the most pain free.
Fortunately, while sciatica is a debilitating condition, recovery can be helped by professional treatment, exercise and common sense. In most cases, it can be resolved completely within a couple of weeks.
Dr. Noah Abrahams, PT, DPT and the staff at Applied Physical Therapy located at 6606 E. Carondelet Dr., Tucson, provide a full range of physical therapy services. For more information, call 520-296-8513, or visit AppliedPhysicalMedicine.com. See ad page 25.