Have you ever had pain that runs down your leg?
What about burning, tingling, numbness?
If so, you might have had Sciatica.
Sciatica is a catch-all diagnosis that refers to symptoms that run down your leg (along your sciatic nerve) but it doesn’t tell you much about where it’s actually coming from. There are many reasons you might have pain or neurological symptoms running down your leg which is why it is important to get evaluated by a physical therapist who can determine where your symptoms originate.
How can a physical therapist help? Depending on the source, anywhere from 13-40% of people will develop sciatica in their lifetime and 1-5% will battle these symptoms annually. Physical therapy can determine where the pain is coming from. Effective treatment is dependent on where in your leg the pain is, the positions or activities that provoke it, and how intense your symptoms are. This is important because sciatica can originate from your low back, the muscles surrounding the nerves exiting your spine, around musculature in your hip or “sit bones”, and anywhere else along the sciatic nerve. Without effective diagnosis of where the issue begins, treatment may not be as successful.
It is important to know that most of the time sciatica is a benign injury. With successful rehabilitation there is no lasting damage or harm that occurs, no matter how severe the symptoms were initially. Typically, getting an X-ray or MRI is not required and most people respond to physical therapy! We might be biased, but, effectively managing sciatica requires a good relationship with a physical therapist who can listen to your symptoms and work with you to address your goals! With 3 clinics in South Burlington, Shelburne, and Hinesburg we are here to help you feel good again. We also have board certified specialists in both Sports and Orthopedics to help you kick sciatica’s butt.
See below for a few exercises to start this process! Remember these exercises are not substitutes for medical advice and you should consult a physical therapist for the best course of action. Contact us here if you’re interested in setting up a visit! Also check out our blog post on low back pain for additional information.
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent up and feet flat on the floor. Pull your belly button in towards your spine to tighten up your abdominal muscles and hold this while you lift your hips up towards the ceiling. Try to squeeze your glutes as you lift, hold for a second and then return to starting position. Perform 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
Band Resisted Clamshell:
With a resistance band tied or looped around just above your knees, start by lying on your side (affected side up) with your knees bent to about 90 degrees. Open your top leg up towards the ceiling against the resistance and then return to start position. Try to keep your pelvis from rotating backwards as you lift. Repeat 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
Start by lying on your stomach with your elbows stacked underneath your shoulders. Slowly lift your body up off the floor into a plank position, keeping your hips in a straight line with your shoulders and ankles. Try to keep your abdominal muscles tight and your gluteal muscles engaged. Hold for as long as you can while keeping good form and then rest, repeat 3-5 times.
Sciatic Nerve Glide:
Start by sitting in a chair or on the edge of your bed. On your affected side, bring your toes up towards your nose. Then simultaneously straighten out your knee while looking up towards the ceiling. Return back to the starting position – bending your knee, pointing your toes, and tucking your chin towards your chest. If this is painful at any time, reduce your range of motion. Repeat 2 rounds of 10 repetitions.