Sciatica and Physical Therapy

If you have sciatica and physical therapy is recommended this is what you can expect.

The physical therapist should take a thorough history and examine you to make sure you really do have sciatica. Most people (95%) have simple lower back pain not sciatic back pain.

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Your physical therapist should examine your neurology.

  • Reflexes
  • Sensation
  • Power

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The examination may also include a test called the Straight Leg Raise. This is a pretty reliable test for ruling OUT a sciatic nerve problem.Your physical therapist will lift your leg up and pull your ankle toward your nose.

If the ankle movement changes your pain you may have sciatica.

If the test is positive it does not mean that you definitely do have a sciatic nerve problem. However, if it is negative it’s pretty likely that you don’t have an irritated nerve.

Sciatic Nerve Test - Straight Leg Raise

sciatic nerve test

 

Following an examination your physiotherapist should be able to give you an idea which one of your nerve roots is being irritated by using the dermatome chart below.

Dermatome Chart

sciatica and physical therapy dermatome chart

If your sciatica is caused by a disc bulge there is not really a lot anyone can do to 'un-bulge' it. The main point of physical therapy is to help you manage your pain and offer advice on sciatica exercises and helping you to keep active. Most disc bulges resolve in their own time, some remain a problem and need to be surgically managed.

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