Pain, irritation, numbness, or weakness in the back could be coming from the sciatic nerve. If you suffer from back pain, there is much truth to the age-old statement that “you’ve got some nerve”! The sciatic nerve is the largest in the body. Sometimes it is challenging to identify where back pain originates from, and sometimes you can pinpoint it reasonably easily. Dr. Brent Marr from ProActive Physical Therapy with 10 locations in Tucson, AZ, shares details on precisely what can cause sciatic pain, symptoms, relief, and treatment options.
Where is the sciatic nerve located?
The sciatic nerve originates in the lower spine made up of motor and sensory nerves that exit the spine from L4-S3 (Lumbosacral), then forms a thick common nerve that runs through the buttock into the back of the leg, that then terminates at the foot.
What causes sciatic nerve pain?
Sciatic nerve pain is caused by any entrapment or irritation of the nerve. This can occur where the nerve exits the spine in the low back or anywhere along the buttock, leg, or foot where the nerve pathway runs. If the pain stems from the low back, we call it lumbar radiculopathy. If it stems from somewhere along the nerve pathway, we call it sciatic neuropathy.
What are the most common symptoms of sciatica?
The most common symptoms are pain, numbness/tingling, or weakness below the site of the pathology (from the low back into the buttock and down the back of the leg). These symptoms can be brought on by altering body position, prolonged positions, repetitive motions, or tension on the nerve. There are no specific gold standard symptoms because there can be so many different reasons the sciatic nerve is irritated. If it is coming from the back, the symptoms may present differently than if it is coming from the buttock/leg.
How soon can you find pain relief after physical therapy?
Relief can be found within the first treatment. The biggest goal for any therapist is to figure out what structure impairs the nerve and treat those structures accordingly.
What is the best treatment for sciatica nerve pain?
Again, there are many different treatments because of the many ways the sciatic nerve can be affected. If it is coming from the back, we will focus on what structures in the back are affecting the nerve, which may involve soft tissue mobilizations, manual traction, or spinal joint mobilizations. If it is coming from the buttock or leg, we may utilize instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), trigger point dry needling, and manual nerve glides.
What are some home exercises to help relieve sciatica nerve pain?
Initially, we would have the patient begin with some self-mobilization techniques to loosen up musculoskeletal structures, then some stretches of the low back and lower extremities to improve tissue extensibility, and lastly, we would incorporate some nerve glides to keep the sciatic nerve moving freely from the low back to the foot.
Physical therapy can be an excellent tool for those who suffer back pain due to sciatic nerve pain. ProActive Physical Therapy provides quality, hands-on physical therapy to patients throughout the greater Tucson area. Our highly trained staff has expertise in many areas and can help you with any pain or injury you might be suffering from. If you are in pain, schedule a free injury assessment today.