Back pain can be caused by a plethora of things like poor posture, weak back muscles, not moving enough during the work day, or even straining to lift heavy items like a baby improperly.

Sometimes it can also be a problem with your spine or back – sciatica, clinically known as lumbar radiculopathy, is caused by irritation to the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. (Here’s a great explainer on back pain vs. sciatica from DynamX Physical Therapy, a Physiquality member in Southern California.)

Black and white image of a man holding his back; his lower back is highlighted in red, to imply pain.

The experts at Physiquality member Sports Care Physical Therapy in Georgia explain that sciatica often presents as aching pain that appears in the buttocks and can travel to the thighs. It often also causes numbness or tingling. Waiting too long to talk to a healthcare professional can lead to long-term damage, which is why they recommend calling your physical therapist or physician if these symptoms last longer than three days.

The good news is that there are many ways physical therapy can help to relieve these symptoms. The experts at Pace Physical Therapy, a Physiquality member in San Jose, CA, explain how PT can help in a variety of ways:

  • Manual therapy can reduce nerve compression.
  • Strengthening the core and back can help to support the spine and relieve tension.
  • Stretching can target the muscles that become tight with pain. Sciatica patients also do nerve stretching exercises to target the cause of their pain.
Female trainer kneels to help a woman stretch her IT band in a gym.

In addition, they suggest doing low-impact exercise like walking or swimming to help your body grow stronger and release endorphins, your body’s natural painkiller. (Don’t forget that working with physical therapists on the cause of your pain is better for your body in the long run compared to treating the pain with opiates or NSAIDs, which merely masks the symptoms.)

The experts at Physiquality member HealthQuest Physical Therapy point out that working through this issue with your doctor in conjunction with therapy is the ideal scenario. Using physical therapy as your first choice of treatment options has been shown to have better results than surgery, targeting the cause of pain and improving your long-term health. If your symptoms persist, they add, your doctor may recommend further diagnostic testing such as a CT scan or MRI to determine what exactly is causing the pain.

Want to work with a physical therapist to reduce your back pain? Use our locator below to find a Physiquality physical therapist near you.

Thank you to our contributors:

DynamX Physical Therapy is a Physiquality member with four locations throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Founded in 2013, DynamX is committed to giving patients the best physical therapy services Southern California has to offer.

Physiquality member HealthQuest Physical Therapy has more than 30 locations throughout Michigan. Started by Bill Knight and Stuart Siegner in 1999, their goals remain the same as when they opened their first clinic: provide high-quality rehabilitation and promote proactive healthcare.

Pace Physical Therapy is a Physiquality member in San Jose, California. Founded by Vidya Devarapalli, DPT, they strive to get you back to living your best life.

Sports Care Physical Therapy is a Physiquality member with two locations in Georgia. Their scientific approach to patient care, combined with outstanding customer service, gives patients the outcomes that they deserve.

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