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Top 10 Most Burning Questions for Sciatica
1. Q. How long is this going to take to go away?
A. It depends…it depends on YOU.
In general, it takes 4 to 8 weeks to go through the first 2 phases of healing (no pain, all movement and strength back to normal.
It may take another 1 to 4 months to get back to all activities you want to do…depending on how active you are. This is the third phase of healing.
Here are some variables that determine how fast someone can heal;
√ Overall health. Healthy people heal faster. Young people heal faster.
√ Other health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, tobacco use, alcohol abuse and body weight all influence healing rates and make the time to heal longer.
√ Diet. People who consume more nutrients in their calories (Dr. Joel Fuhrman calls this “Nutrarian”) heal faster than those who primarily eat processed foods.
√ Rest levels. Our bodies need sleep and rest to rebuild. A lack of sleep slows healing time.
√ Stress levels. People who have high levels of stress heal more slowly.
√ Sedentary lifestyle. People who sit all day for work or to watch TV heal more slowly.
√ People who follow advice and instruction from top level healthcare professionals heal more quickly than those who do not follow through with care.
√ People who are highly aware of their daily postures and habits heal more quickly, because they can adjust habits such as sleep or sitting positions more quickly.
2. Q: How long before I see improvements?
A: Most people we see in the clinic feel better in 2 to 3 visits or within 1 to 2 weeks. If you go longer than 2 weeks without feeling better or moving better, you may be wrong about the cause of your sciatica.
Because we offer one on one care with our patients, your therapist can and will reassess you progress before and during you visit to assure you are getting the care you need to meet your goals.
3. Q: Can I be completely healed or will this come back again:
A: Most people we see who complete the 3 Phases of Healing (meaning they no longer have pain, motion and strength are back to normal and they’re back to doing all the activites they want to do without pain) have a minimal chance the pain will return. The stronger the person is, the less likely the sciatica symptoms will come back.
Your body is a bit like a car. If you take care of it, regularly change the oil and keep it running and fine tuned, there is little chance it will break down. If you ignore it, it is very likely to break down and be in need of repair.
4. Q: Do I need any special equipment?
A: At Therapydia NOLA we use a minimalist approach. We do no use big fancy equipment. [Our model focuses on one on one hands on physical therapy.] We use a variety of techniques including, manual therapy, instrument assisted manual therapy, dry needing, SFMA, and if needed, we have a traction unit in our private treatment room. All patient treatment plans for both in clinic and at home exercises are tailored to each individual and monitored closely by their Doctor of Physical Therapy. Our patients are never handed off to an assistant or tech.
5. Q: Should I use heat or ice on my leg?
A: The cause of most sciatica (pain, numbness or tingling in the leg) is in the lower back. Ice or heat on the leg will not change this.
Consider that sciatica is “inflammation”. So if you’re inflamed, do you want to put heat on it and make it more inflamed? Or ice to calm the inflammation down? We have seen some people use ice on the lower back to calm down the inflammation temporarily.
6. Q: Which exercises should I do:
A: The best exercises for you depend on what the cause of your sciatica is.
We cover the 3 most common causes;
Pelvic or SI joint problem
Each has a series of gradually more advanced exercises. Your therapist will address this and design your exercise program.
7. Q: How often should I do the exercises: And do I need to do them forever?
A: Most people we work with in the clinic for sciatica do the exercises at least once per day, every day. Some will do them up to 3 times per day.
Doing the same exact exercises for years without changing could be a mistake. In general, to get stronger, your exercise should progress and get more difficult. With training your body adapts.
Keep in mind, there are 2 rules for training;
1. Everything works.
2. Nothing works forever.
One of the best programs you can move on to once you complete the 3 Phases of Healing for your sciatica is a consistent walking program. People who walk every day have less risk of reinjuring their back and sciatica.
8. Q: What do I need to do for complete care? Am I going to relapse?
A: The best thing to do for sciatica, if you are worried about it coming back again in the future, is to complete all 3 Phases of Healing.
Phase One is where you focus on getting rid of the pain, numbness and tingling.
Phase Two is where you focus on getting normal movement back and full strength.
Phase Three is where you go back to previous activities you want to do.
We will want to know what your previous activities were before your sciatica, once you are at phase 3 we will guide you back into those activities slowly, after a couple of months we will want to re-check your progress. However, it is very important that you also continue your home program of exercises to insure your body continues to get stronger.
Some people will have a relapse. We will then take a look at the activity and at the program to help them get back on the right track. As mentioned before, people who are stronger recover more quickly. It is usually only one to two visits before that person is on the right track again.
9. Q: How do I know the cause of my pain?
A: There are 3 common cause of pain and here are some general guidelines for each;
-People with sciatica from herniated disc usually have pain bending forward, twisting, coughing or sneezing. The sciatic pain they experience is usually sharp and runs specifically down the back of the leg, possibly into the foot. Herniated disc sufferers are usually 35 years of age or younger.
-People suffering from sciatica because of stenosis or arthritis usually answer yes to these 3 questions;
50 years of age or older?
Pain with standing or walking?
Relief with sitting?
-People suffering with sciatica from SI Joint or Pelvic problems usually have pain with sitting for long periods of time. The sciatica they experience is usually on the outside of the thigh. Symptoms may include heaviness of one leg or feeling twisted.
10. Q: Which position should I sleep in?
A: On your back is best. Next would be on your side. Last would be your stomach.
Regardless, it is best to keep your spine in a neutral position and not twisted to the left or the right, keeping it’s natural curve. Pillows or folded towels can be placed under your knees, side, or feet to help you sleep in the least painful position for you.