If you wake up in the morning with back pain or notice nagging aches in your back, buttocks, or thighs, physical therapy in Austin, TX can help you find relief. 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.
While back pain and sciatica are similar, they still have their differences and are often confused with one another.
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 more spread out with radiating pain down the 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 ends at the bottom of each foot. It is highly uncomfortable but easy to diagnose.
When the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or irritated, it causes a “shooting,” “stinging,” or “burning” sensation in your lower back, buttocks, legs, or feet. 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 in that area, as it exits the spine.
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 motor vehicle 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, in turn, alters the mechanics of the spine and compresses the sciatic nerve as it travels through these tissues.
The early stages of your physical therapy treatment for back pain or sciatica will focus on quick pain relief. Afterward, our Austin, TX physical therapist will expand your treatment to include strengthening your core muscle group with specific therapeutic exercises. This helps improve your strength and range of motion to prevent re-injury of your spine. Our physical therapist will also provide you with ergonomic techniques for taking care of your spine during daily activities, such as sitting at a desk or driving.
While back pain may come and go, it is always important to treat it right away. If not, it can lead to poor joint movement (abnormal movement patterns), core weakness, and poor muscle coordination (muscular imbalance), which can all lead to unwanted injuries in the future.
Back pain and sciatica are both completely treatable through physical therapy. Our Austin, TX physical therapists will create a specific treatment plan for you based upon your diagnosis.
For the treatment of sciatica, our physical therapists will evaluate the specific nature of the nerve involvement and provide proven manual therapy techniques and highly specific therapeutic exercises to address and correct the sciatic nerve pain. This restores the natural health of the nerve and quickly reduces symptoms.