Can an osteopath help with sciatica?
An osteopath will use a combination of manual therapy and corrective exercise prescription to help strengthen and mobilize tissues in the lower back, pelvis, abdomen, buttocks, and thighs to alleviate sciatic symptoms.
The goals of physical therapy and exercise in treating the signs and symptoms of sciatica are to:
- Restore pain-free functional movement patterns
- Relieve lower back, buttock, thigh, and leg pain
- Reduce muscle spasm
- Restore function of the lumbar spine and the sacroiliac joint
- Improve mobility of the lower body
- Foster a better healing environment in the lower back
- Promote neurologic adaptations to reduce the perception of pain
- Prevent future pain flareups and reduce fear associated with movement
Commitment and frequency are important attributes to a successful treatment outcome when using manual therapy therapy and exercise for sciatica.
What are the common symptoms of sciatica?
Conservative treatment like osteopathy is usually the first-line treatment for relieving, treating, and preventing sciatica symptoms. Typical sciatica signs and symptoms through physical therapy include:
- Lower back, hip, and/or leg pain
- Numbness, tingling, and/or weakness in the buttock, thigh, leg, and/or foot
What can cause sciatica?
Underlying medical conditions, such as a herniated or degenerated disc, or nerve root compression in the lumbar spine may cause radiating symptoms into the leg, commonly known as sciatica.
What does an osteopathic treatment for sciatica look like?
In treating sciatica, osteopathy may:
- Provide symptom relief
- Promote healing of the underlying cause
- Prevent recurrences and flareups
An osteopath may prescribe a combination of various types of physical, manual, soft tissue mobilization, and/or exercise therapies in treating sciatica. Specific exercises depend on the underlying cause of sciatica, as well as other factors, such as the patient’s level of pain and overall conditioning.
Common techniques used by an osteopath to treat sciatic:
- Strengthening exercises include bodyweight and resistance exercises to strengthen the muscles of the abdomen, low back, hips, and legs.
- Functional retraining includes reintroducing movements, such as lifting, carrying, and bending or squatting. The use of proper technique and healthy movement patterns are incorporated to reduce pain and prevent re-injury.
- Nerve glides (nerve mobilization) involves active or passive techniques on a symptomatic nerve when it is placed into and out of tension to facilitate movement and reduce symptoms.
- Joint mobilization is a manual therapy technique in which the therapist applies pressure to a joint to mobilize it and produce a therapeutic effect.
- Joint manipulation is a manual technique in which the therapist applies a quick, thrust force at the end range of motion of a joint to promote pain relief and restore normal movement.
- Dry needling is a technique in which a certified healthcare provider uses a small needle to target a trigger point in a muscle. This technique is performed to release hyper-irritable and/or hyper-contracted muscle tissue to reduce pain.
- Muscle energy technique is a form of manual therapy that involves the patient performing gentle muscle contractions in conjunction with the therapist moving the painful joints through a specific range of motion. This technique may help reduce pain and restore function.
- Myofascial release and soft tissue mobilization include the therapist using their hands or an instrument to mobilize the tissues in the lower back, hips, or legs to treat fascial (underlying soft tissue) restrictions and decrease muscle tension or spasm.
- Gait training includes analysis of walking technique and retraining correct gait patterns. This technique may include video analysis.
- Active assisted range of motion includes therapist-assisted movement of parts of the lower body, such as the hip and legs. This technique helps facilitate the movement of specific joints or muscles that cause pain.
In addition to physical therapy and exercise, committing to correct and ergonomically supported posture while sitting, standing, and walking is essential in treating and preventing sciatica. Daily routines, such as following ergonomically safe lifting techniques and using good sleep postures are also important to follow.
Here are our 3 favorite exercises to fix sciatica!
When sciatica is severe, patients may find the pain hard to bear and may need to rest a day or two. However, resting for more than a couple of days is generally not advised, as prolonged rest or inactivity can increase pain and lead to deconditioning. Regular movement is important to allow the flow of healing nutrients to the injured structures that cause pain.
While physical therapy is usually elective, meaning that it is the individual’s decision to participate or not, it is typically an essential component of resolving the signs and symptoms and aiding in the long-term prevention of sciatica.
Don’t hesitate to explore the benefits of shockwave therapy and osteopathy at Equilibrium Sports and Spine Clinic. Book your appointment today!