Back Pain + Sciatica

Back pain is one of the most common reoccurring injuries in the United States. Once you experience back pain, it often comes on more frequently and lasts longer each time that it presents itself.

Sciatica is a general term referring to inflammation of the sciatic nerve, which can include numbness and weakness that radiates along the back of the thigh on the affected side. Back pain and sciatica are often related. The sciatic nerve is a big nerve that travels from the lumbar region of the back and down the leg all the way to the feet. Pain may begin in the lower back and travel to the buttocks and/or leg. Sciatica pain is sharp, searing, and burning type pain. Most sciatica symptoms are a direct result of lower back abnormalities between the L4 and S1 vertebrae, where pressure is usually put upon the lumbar nerve root.

The symptoms of Sciatica can also be related to tightness through the hip and buttock muscles, specifically a muscle called the piriformis, as the sciatic nerve runs right through it – or near it. It is important to note that sciatica is a symptom of an underlying problem – it is not a diagnosis in itself.

Causes of Back Pain/Sciatica

There can be a variety of root causes of sciatica, such as a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, facet joint dysfunction, osteoarthritis, muscular tightness, and more. The center of a lumbar disc is filled with a jelly-like substance that can break through the outer layer and press on a nearby nerve root. This nerve compression can cause nerve root pain in the back. Keep in mind that the disc walls are abundant with nerve fibers. Any tear through the wall can cause severe pain. As people age, the lumbar discs lose hydration and wear down, creating limited space for the nerves and decreasing the amount of cushion for any impact. This condition is known as degenerative disc disease.

Facet joint dysfunction can also cause back pain and sciatica. Facet joints are the tiny joints on each side of the vertebrae. If the cartilage of these joints is damaged or not functioning properly, there is limited movement of the joints in the spine, and the end result can be back pain.

Treatment at Reneu

A physical therapist uses many techniques and forms of treatment to help eliminate back pain and sciatica. Our goal at Reneu is to eliminate the acute pain, restore proper movement, and strengthen the surrounding tissues to prevent re-injury. Treatment may include joint mobilizations, McKenzie-based therapy, manual therapy, spinal stabilization, core strengthening exercises, traction and nerve glides. Soft tissue work targets muscle and fascial tension that may also be compressing the sciatic nerve – this is most common. Hot and cold therapies, such as cryotherapy, can also bring more blood flow and oxygen to the affected area and help reduce spasms and increase healing.

In many cases, our treatments can result in immediate relief from your back pain or sciatica. It may only take 1-2 sessions, and is an effective treatment compared to drugs or surgery.