Do you wake up in the morning with that nagging back pain? Are you feeling achy pain into your back, buttock, or even thigh? Are you having to watch what you do, because you are afraid you may hurt your back?
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, back pain is the most commonly reported pain across the nation, and one out of every four Americans has experienced back pain in the past three months.
Back pain and sciatica differ but are often confused with each other. Back is specific to the upper, mid or low back. Sciatica is a more diffuse, radiating pain down the buttock, thigh, and even leg. It is also possible to have radiculopathy, which is a radiating numbness, tingling, burning, or sharp pain to a specific part of the leg. This is often associated with a herniated disc, or entrapment of the nerve of that area, as it exits the spine.
If you searching for back pain relief or sciatica relief, don’t rely on medicines to mask the symptoms. Your body is telling you of the deeper root cause of the problem, that needs to be fixed. Know that physical therapy should be your first treatment of choice, which eliminates your need for harmful painkilling drugs, such as opioids, or possibly avoid an invasive surgical procedure.
What’s the difference between back pain and sciatica?
“Back pain” is a term that can be caused by an array of different conditions. For example, you may experience back pain due to poor posture, a car accident, or a lifting injury. The treatment plan that your Kirkland, WA physical therapist sets up for you, will depend on how you developed the back pain, in addition to its exact location and your past medical history.
Back pain can be described as acute, meaning it is short-term, or chronic, meaning it is long-term (typically lasting for three months or longer).
Sciatica is a specific type of back pain that is reported as being highly uncomfortable. However, it is also fortunately very simple to diagnose. People with sciatica experience pain along their sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in your body.
The sciatic nerve begins at your lower back and then splits at the base of your spine to extend further down to your buttocks, legs, and finally to the bottom of each foot. The sciatic nerve can become compressed or irritated, which causes a “shooting,” “stinging,” or “burning” sensation in your lower back, buttocks, legs, or feet.
How do back pain and sciatica develop?
General back pain typically develops as the result of an injury. This can be due to repetitive straining motions, such as leaning down multiple times throughout the day to pick up a toddler, or a more serious, sudden trauma, such as a car accident. Underlying conditions, such as herniated discs, can also cause immense pain, and cause radiculopathy pain to the thigh, leg, or foot. Degenerative disc disease is a common condition as we age, which can result in back pain. Those with this condition typically report dull, aching pains in their lower back, and have difficulty with prolonged standing or walking.
Sciatica’s technical name is “lumbar radiculopathy.” People who develop this condition are generally between the ages of 30 and 50. Many different types of injuries can cause the development of sciatica, including arthritis, bone spurs, or any other injury that impacts the sciatic nerve. Most commonly, we find that people lose their flexibility in the hips and pelvis, which causes the gluteus and hip muscles to become tightened. This is turn, alters the mechanics of the spine, and compression to the sciatic nerve as it travels through these tissues.
Why you shouldn’t just deal with that nagging pain
For most people, back pain will come and go. However, what many people don’t realize, is that the underlying problem of poor joint movement, core weakness, and poor muscle coordination, will set them up for a future back injury, which can be significantly worse.
Back pain and sciatica are both completely treatable through physical therapy. Your physical therapist creates a specific treatment plan for you that is dependent upon your diagnosis. The early stages of your physical therapy treatment focuses on quick pain relief.
As your pain reduces, your physical therapist will expand on strengthening your core muscle group with specific therapeutic exercises and stretches. The goal here is to increase your strength and range of motion to prevent re-injury of your spine. Finally, we teach you ergonomics and ways to make sure you know how to take care of your spine, avoiding future problems.
If you are suffering from sciatica, our physical therapists will implement specific leg stretches into your treatment plan to loosen the sciatic nerve. This restores the natural health of the nerve and quickly reduces symptoms.
If you are experiencing back pain or sciatica, make an appointment with one of our specialists at Washington Physical Therapy. No matter how severe the pain may be, we will help you get on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.
How do I know if my back pain is serious?
The pain you experience in your back may either be acute or chronic, depending on how it was sustained. Acute pain means that it lasts for a short time and is usually severe. Chronic pain means that it lasts generally three months or longer and it can either cause dull or severe persistent pain. The pain you experience is typically either rooted in your back muscles or the bones in your spine. If your pain is severe enough to hinder you from doing daily tasks, if it suddenly worsens, or if it has lasted longer than three months, then it is time to seek the help of a physical therapist.
How do I get relief from back pain?
You can treat your back pain with physical therapy. Physical therapy can address back pain by helping to improve your range of motion, strengthening the muscles in the affected areas, and using targeted massage to reduce tension. In many situations, working with a physical therapist to improve can significantly reduce the severity of your back pain, and may even help you avoid more invasive procedures, such as surgery.
What is the best physical therapy treatment for back pain?
Your physical therapist will design a treatment plan based on your specific needs. Your individualized treatment plan will incorporate the best methods possible for relieving your pain, facilitating the healing process, and restoring function and movement to the affected area(s) of your back. Your initial appointment will consist of a comprehensive evaluation, which will help your physical therapist discover which forms of treatment will be best for the orthopedic, neurologic, or cardiovascular condition you are experiencing. The main stages of your plan will focus on pain relief, which may include any combination of ice and heat therapies, manual therapy, posture improvement, targeted stretches and exercises, or any other treatment that your physical therapist may deem fit. While there is no singular method for relieving back pain, your physical therapist will make sure you receive the best treatments for your needs.
How do you relieve back pain without drugs?
While medication is easy, it only helps your pain subside for a short amount of time. Over time, certain drugs can cause some unfavorable side effects, and in some cases, they can be habit-forming. With NSAIDs, you run the risk of blood clots, heart attack, or stroke. With corticosteroids, you run the risk of cataracts, high blood sugar levels, and bone loss. Luckily, there is a much safer and healthier alternative to treating persistent back pain: physical therapy. At your initial consultation, your physical therapist will ask you several questions regarding your medical history, lifestyle, and painful area(s). This information will assist your physical therapist in creating the best treatment plan for you and your specific needs, so you can be provided with long-term results.