Sciatica in St. Louis. Anyone who has ever experienced sciatica will struggle to find words powerful enough to convey the caliber of pain it causes and the degree of distress and disability the condition can wreak on your life. If you have been diagnosed with or believe you suffer from sciatica, or a condition that affects the sciatic nerve, seek expert medical care right away.
Axes Physical Therapy is a group of fifteen physical therapy treatment locations positioned in Greater St. Louis and throughout Missouri. These provider-owned and operated movement wellness offices bring you thoughtful, personalized, strategic care for your sciatica or other conditions. Speak to a physical therapist about your sciatica today or make an appointment online now.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is the irritation of the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the human body. The sciatic nerve originates from the nerve roots in the lower spine, then from the pelvis it branches out to each buttock and travels down and through the back of each leg. Sciatica can be distinguished from general low back pain or other conditions because the pain from sciatica radiates from this precise nerve path.
The term sciatica is not, in itself, a diagnosis — contrary to popular assumption. In fact, sciatica describes a set of symptoms related to the sciatic nerve that arise when an underlying medical condition causes the sciatic nerve to be irritated, inflamed, pinched, or compressed. The symptoms of sciatica vary greatly, but commonly include pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling down the buttock and leg. Unlike low back pain, people with sciatica experience symptoms down into the buttock, legs, or feet.
Do I Have Sciatica? – Sciatica Symptoms
The type and severity of sciatica symptoms vary from case to case and the exact presentation of your sciatica depends on where along the nerve root the damage or pressure exists. Sciatica typically includes symptoms like pain, numbness, weakness, tingling, and pain that worsens when in certain positions.
The hallmark of sciatica is the sensation of pain that follows the path of the sciatic nerve which begins in the lower spine and travels through the hips and posterior, down the back of each leg. Most of the time, symptoms appear only on one side — either down the right buttock and leg or the left buttock and leg. However, it is possible for a patient to experience sciatic pain and symptoms down both nerve paths. This simply depends on where on the sciatic nerve the irritation or compression occurs.
Pain is such a significant component of the sciatica experience for St. Louis sciatica sufferers. This nerve-related pain is described by patients as:
If you are suffering from the debilitating pain and other limiting symptoms of sciatica, contact a medical professional specializing in spine health right away. The physical and occupational therapists of Axes Physical Therapy in Greater St. Louis will guide you in your recovery and craft a plan to return you to the life you want to live.
What Causes Sciatica?
Most instances of sciatica are caused, in one way or another, by the irritation or inflammation of the sciatic nerve. These cases are nearly always successfully resolved with physical therapy designed to target the underlying cause of your sciatica symptoms, or may even resolve on their own over time with proper exercise and self care. Other cases, when the sciatica is a result of direct compression of the sciatic nerve, may call for a more invasive treatment such as surgery.
Often, patients with conditions such as sciatica pain do not know what caused their pain to begin with. Whether you suffered an acute injury while playing sports or being active or woke up one day with sharp pains down your left leg that you can’t explain, our St. Louis area physical therapists have the clinical success and up-to-date evidence-based knowledge you need and deserve from your sciatica treatment professional.
Common Causes of Sciatica Pain
- Herniated disc
- Slipped disc
- Bone spur
- Spinal stenosis
- Piriformis syndrome
- Degenerative disc disease
- Vertebral fracture
Risk Factors for Sciatica in St. Louis
Certain activities and conditions could put you at a higher risk of developing painful, restrictive, debilitating conditions like sciatica. You are more likely to suffer from sciatica based on the following risk factors:
- Age. As we age, our bodies undergo natural wear and tear, and the bone and soft tissue in joints, including the spine, can wear away and increase your risk of sciatica.
- Weight. The more weight on your body, the harder your back muscles must work, and the more pressure the tissue in your spine and pelvic joints face.
- Other medical conditions. Diabetes causes a higher rate of nerve damage in patients, and conditions like osteoarthritis can cause pain and pressure on your spine and sciatic nerve.
- Occupation/Daily activities. Jobs that require lifting heavy loads for long periods, frequent bending and twisting, or driving (causing the up-and-down movement and vibration of the body) can cause sciatica.
- Lifestyle. Lifestyle choices like a sedentary lifestyle or the use of nicotine can cause weakness and eventual irritation related to sciatica.
What Sciatica Treatments in St. Louis Are Right for Me?
There are a number of treatments that are often used to treat sciatica patients. These treatments, ranging from conservative recommendations like cold and heat applications to surgical operations, vary in proven efficacy. The one thing that medical professionals agree on when it comes to sciatica treatment is that phyiscal activity is a critical component of managing and treating sciatica. This is contrary to outdated recommendations to confine sicatica patients to bed rest, which is no longer an accepted treatment fo sciatica as it does not improve disabiity or pain in patients.
Ultimately, you must consult with a licensed medical professional before making any decisions about your medical care. The physical and occupational therapists of Axes Physical Therapy in the St. Louis area have dedicated our careers to guiding individuals of all types in the St. Louis area to optimal movement health. In your case, that means understanding your medical history, sciatica symptoms, and other key information. Your dedicated Axes Physical Therapy movement healthcare provider near St. Louis will perform a complimentary screening prior to beginning any treatment so that we can best understand your condition and develop a personalized treatment plan for your needs.
Treatments Options for Sciatica in St. Louis
The medical community and especially medical professionals specializing in spine health and neurology have found the following methods to be helpful in the treatment of sciatica for certain patients. Your physician, Axes Physical Therapy doctor, and any other necessary medical professionals will work together as a team to lay forth and carry out the most promising sciatica treatment plan for you.
- Medications. There is some conflicting information about which drugs are recommended for treating sciatica, but as with any medications for any condition, every medication comes with risk. Largely used in mitigating the experience of sciatica symptoms, some drugs that can be used for sciatca patients include:
- Muscle relaxers
- Opiod pain medications
- Physical therapy. Physical therapy is an impactful sciatica care approach that should be included inmost sciatica treatment plans. Physical therapy employs a wide range of treatment modalities that address the body as a whole and repair the source of your sciatica pain. Working with a physical therapist can help you obtain pain relief, improve your mobility, heal stronger, avoid permanent disability and nerve damage, and protect you from developing future injuries or sciatica flair-ups. Your St. Louis physical therapist will treat your sciatica pain with treatment methods that improve your posture, restore balance, increase flexibility, improve strength, and release pressure.
- Injections. In some cases, your doctor might recommend an injection or series of injections to the affected area. Common injection treatments for sciata are nerve root blocks, which apply a steroid and local anesthetic directly to the affected sciatic nerve root, or epidural injections, which deposit the steroid and anesthetic to the epidural space surrounding the nerve. Injections in sciatica patients are often used to temporarily supress inflammation around the irritated nerve to provide pain relief and potentially preserve mobility. The effects can wear off in weeks or months.
- Surgery. Due to its risk and inherent invasive nature, surgery is usually reserved for patients with the most severe symptoms or those who have not responded well to more conservative treatment methods. There are a number of operations that can be used to address sciatic, such as a microdiscectomy where the surgeon removes the herniated disc or a laminectomy where the surgeon removes part of the vertebral bones to remove direct pressure on your sicatic nerve. For best chances of success, surgery should be paired with pre- and post-operative physical therapy care.
You should consider surgery for your sciatica if:
- you have loss of bowel or bladder control
- you have spinal stenosis, where bone spurs are pressing on your sciatic nerve
- you have severe neurological dysfunction
- other treatment methods have not helped or are no longer effective
Benefits of St. Louis Physical Therapy for Sciatica
One of the best things you can do for your sciatica is to move. Staying active, stretching, and practicing exercises that target the source of your sciatica are highly effective and critical parts of any St. Louis sciatica treatment plan.
Coincidentally, these are all major elements to any physical therapy care we provide St. Louis area sciatica patients through the Axes Physical Therapy network of physical therapy offices. By working with a St. Louis physical therapist, you can strengthen and mobilize tissues in the lower back, pelvis, abdomen, buttocks, and thighs and find true relief from your sciatica.
The goals of physical therapy and exercise in treating sciatica are to:
- Improve functional movement
- Relieve sciatic nerve pain
- Reduce muscle spasms
- 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
- Restore overall balance and proper posture in the back and legs
- Promote neurologic adaptations to reduce the perception of pain
- Prevent future pain flareups and permanent nerve damage
- Foster confidence in your ability to move pain-free
In order to restore your movement health and deliver you sustainable relief from sciatica pain, your Axes physical therapist in Greater St. Louis might include a number of different treatment modalities in your sciatica treatment plan, such as:
- Hot and cold therapies
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stiumlation
- Flexbiliby and strength exercises
- Joint manipulation
- Soft tissue mobilization
- Dry needling
- Education and training for posure, safe technique, and activity modifications
Trust your spine and musculoskeletal expert at Axes Physical Therapy to determine the sciatica treatment modalities you would benefit from most and act as an integral player in your larger healthcare team to help you manage your sciatica symptoms, alleviate the underlying irritation of your sciatic nerve, and reclaim the strength, flexibility, and full range of motion of a healthy individual. Speak to a St. Louis specialist now to discuss your sciatica treatment options, including a quality, tailored physical therapy plan.
Get Relief for your Sciatica in St. Louis Now
When the excruciating pain and alarming limitations of sciatica get in the way of the life you want and the activities you enjoy, get quality care for your sciatica right away. Receiving prompt and personalized physical therapy for your sciatica in the St. Louis area can relieve your pain and restore the movement you depend upon to go about your life.
Access convenient, effective sciatica treatment from Axes Physical Therapy today. Our fifteen Missouri physical therapy locations make it easy for you to get the care you need. Find the location nearest you or request an appointment online right now.