Treating Sciatica with Physical Therapy

Living with Sciatica

If you have sciatica, your doctor might recommend physical therapy to treat your condition. The goal of physical therapy is to help patients regain the function lost due to sciatic nerve compression. Physical therapists accomplish this through exercises that address weak supporting muscles, such as range of motion, stretching, heat massages, and ultrasounds. While these exercises are often learned in a session with a licensed physical therapist, patients are also encouraged to continue the exercises at home as well.

Any physical therapy program should be undertaken with the guidance of your primary care doctor, but independent research can help you get a better idea of what to expect when you go for a session. The following exercises are typical examples of those taught by physical therapists to help patients return to comfortable everyday activities

Does Stretching Your Back Help with Sciatica?

Your physical therapy exercises for sciatica may begin by extending your back. Spinal extension occurs when we bend backward and this exercise can help stretch the spinal column.

  1. Begin by lying down with your stomach on the floor, bracing yourself with your elbows and forearms, and positioning your palms on the floor.
  2. While keeping your stomach on the floor, push down with your hands and gently push your shoulders backward, stretching the stomach and bending the spine.
  3. Keep your neck extended and hold this position for five to 10 seconds, returning to the starting position at the conclusion.
  4. You can repeat this exercise eight to 10 times.
  5. The opposite of this move, bending forward, also known as spinal flexion, can also provide a nice stretch for the spine.

Does Stretching Your Legs Help with Sciatica?

When it comes to treating sciatica in the legs, physical therapy techniques may target the hamstring muscles located behind the knees. This exercise does the same.

  1. Start on your back, with your knees bent, feet on the floor and head resting on a flat support object.
  2. Bend one knee toward your chest, then grasp behind your knee and bring your foot toward you while straightening the knee.
  3. When you feel the stretch in your hamstring, hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds, then return to your starting position.
  4. Perform this stretch two to three more times on each leg.

When to Consider Sciatica Surgery Over Physical Therapy

Patients may consider sciatica surgery if they do not find relief from conservative therapies. Oftentimes, patients join physical therapy to build muscle, regain stability, and improve flexibility. Many patients can find relief from chronic pain through the use of these nonsurgical treatments. 
However, in the case where these treatments do not provide pain relief, sciatica surgery may become an option. At BEST Health System, we offer premier surgical options for patients dealing with chronic pain. Contact BEST today to learn more about our minimally invasive surgical procedures.