Back Pain vs. Sciatica: What’s the Difference?

Did you know that one in every four Americans has experienced back pain within the past three months? According to the American Physical Therapy Association, back pain is the most commonly experienced type of pain across the United States.  Sciatica is a term used for a radiating pain that comes from the back or buttock and runs down into the leg. The posterior and/or the outer side of the leg is affected and the pain can go all the way to the toes. This can also include numbness and tingling in the leg and foot.  In severe cases the muscles in the leg become weak and you might develop a foot drop.

Sciatica is most often thought of as irritation or compression to the sciatic nerve and runs along the similar pathways as the nerve does as it exits the lumbar spine and goes down the leg.  However, you can also have sciatica type of symptoms resulting from trigger points in the back and hip muscles and also from joint irritation in the back.

Physical therapy is often very effective in treating both back pain and sciatica.  Our treatment can eliminate the need for harmful pain-management drugs, such as opioids, or an invasive surgical procedure. If you are suffering from back pain, contact Grelot Physical Therapy today. One of our dedicated physical therapists will design a treatment plan specific for your needs, in order to provide relief and recovery.

Why do back pain and sciatica occur?

With a lot of moving parts in the spine, many things can go wrong:  You have the bony vertebrae, the ligaments that hold them together, the discs that cushion the bodies of the vertebrae so they don’t bang into each other, joints that control the movements, nerves that exit the spine and a bunch of different muscles, both large and small: And every one of these structures can be injured and be a source of your pain.

Frequently patients describe an injury: lifting, a car accident, falls; but just as often they really do not know why or how the pain happened.  “I just bent down to tie my shoe” is not an uncommon 1st reason for the back pain.   The pain can come on gradually or acutely.  It can last for a couple of days or stay with you for years.

Our job at Grelot Physical Therapy is to figure out how and why your pain started, what makes it worse or better and then set you on a path to recovery with our treatment.  Whether your pain has just started or it has made your life miserable for years, we can help.

Contact Grelot Physical Therapy:

If you’re suffering from back pain or sciatica, you can find safe and effective treatments with Grelot Physical Therapy. Our highly-trained physical therapists will help determine your diagnosis before creating your treatment plan. The initial stages of your plan will focus on pain relief, which may include manual therapy, posture improvement, targeted stretches, and exercises, or any other treatment that our physical therapist deems fit.

As you progress and improve, your physical therapist will expand on your exercises and stretches by making them more intensive over time. This will help increase your overall strength, flexibility, and range of motion to functionally prepare you for the activities you like to do.  At Grelot Physical Therapy, we want to help you get back to living your daily life, without having to worry about pain or discomfort.

If you are suffering from back pain or sciatica, contact our Mobile physical therapy office today to schedule your initial consultation. No matter how severe the pain may be, Grelot Physical Therapy will help relieve it so you can get back to doing the activities you love.

What are the causes of back pain?

There are a large number of conditions that can result in back pain. For example, poor posture, car accidents, and sports-related injuries are just a few of the ways that someone may develop back pain. Injury is the most common cause of back pain. This can happen in one of two ways: 1) an instant, sudden trauma, such as a car accident, or 2) repetitive use that puts excessive stress on the back over time, such as bending down several times throughout the week to pick up boxes. Some other factors that may contribute to your back pain include degenerative disc disease, lumbar spinal stenosis, fractures, herniated disc, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and tumors of the spine.

Why does my back hurt?

Back pain commonly results from a muscle strain or injury; however, it can also develop as a result of an underlying condition, such as a herniated disc, sciatica, or degenerative disc disease. Poor posture, car accidents, and sports-related injuries are also common ways that someone may develop back pain. Your physical therapist will focus on treating the root of your back pain, in order to help you regain mobility, function, and comfort.

How can I get relief from back pain?

You can treat your back pain with physical therapy. Physical therapy can address back pain by helping to improve your range of motion, strengthening the muscles in the affected areas, and using targeted massage to reduce tension. In many situations, working with a physical therapist to improve can significantly reduce the severity of your back pain, and may even help you avoid more invasive procedures, such as surgery.

What are the best exercises for back pain?

It is common that the muscles used to support the lower back may become weakened from inactivity. We’ll prescribe targeted, easy-to-do exercises that we will walk you through, in order to help your back muscles regain their strength. This will help provide greater support to your spine and reduce any inflammation you may be experiencing. While the best exercises for your back pain are relative to your specific conditions, some common ones your physical therapist may have you do include spine stretches, bridges, and pelvic tilts.