How Physical Therapy can Help Treat Sciatica Pain

by | Feb 14, 2023 | Articles, Physical Therapy

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica (Lumbar Radiculopathy) is a condition characterized by pain in the lower back and legs. The sciatic nerve is a major nerve that controls each leg. The sciatic nerve splits off the spinal cord, exits the lumbar spine, and runs centrally down the back of each leg into the bottoms of the feet. The sciatic nerve plays an integral role in muscle activation, sensation, and general function of each leg.

sciatic nerve
Sciatic Nerve

How could the sciatic nerve become compressed?

The sciatic nerve can become compressed for a few reasons. The nerve can be compressed due to a disc herniation where the nerve exits the spine, a rotation in the vertebrae of the lumbar spine, arthritis in the spine, tightness of a muscle that runs over the nerve, or any other obstruction along the pathway of the nerve.


​When the sciatic nerve is compressed, symptoms generally include numbness, tingling, or pain in the leg or foot. Other symptoms may include low back pain, weakness, or loss of range of motion. These symptoms generally are felt along the pathway of the sciatic nerve.

How do INVIVO Wellness physical therapists treat Sciatica?

Physical therapy for sciatica starts with an evaluation to discover what is happening in your situation.
Physical therapy treatment sessions for sciatica may include:

  • Hands-on technique: spinal lumbar adjustments or joint manipulation
  • Manual or dry needling release of the muscles along the sciatic nerve pathway
  • Heat or cold therapy to relieve pain and muscle spasms
  • Electrical stimulation to relieve pain and improve muscle function
  • Stretching exercises or mobility work to relieve tension in the muscles that cause sciatica
  • Strengthening exercises to support the back and muscles surrounding the nerve
  • Exercise programs to improve posture, balance, and flexibility
  • Passive or active nerve glide or nerve flossing exercises stretch the nerves and facilitate smooth and regular movement
  • Educate patients on proper posture, body mechanics, and ergonomics to reduce the risk of future sciatica episodes and manage pain

When to seek help and treatment for sciatica

Physical therapy aims to alleviate pain, improve mobility and prevent future sciatica flare-ups. A physical therapist can create a personalized treatment plan to address your specific symptoms and goals.

Schedule an evaluation appointment with INVIVO Wellness physical therapy today. Our physical therapists also offer a complimentary screening to see if physical therapy is the best option for your situation.

If you are experiencing sciatica-like symptoms like weakness, numbness, or tingling in your lower leg and foot and they last for more than a week, seek medical care. It’s important to see a doctor to rule out any underlying conditions that may be causing your sciatica and to determine the best course of treatment.

INVIVO Wellness in Milwaukee, Wisconsin offers a whole-body approach to physical therapy meeting the needs of all age groups. Our therapists specialize in evaluating and treating disorders of the joints, muscles, fascia, and nerves that prevent normal movement, cause pain, and limit an active lifestyle.

Treatment plans may include hands-on manual therapies of joint and spine mobilizations/manipulations, massage and stretching techniques, electrical stimulation, therapeutic exercise programs, dry needling, and self-management recommendations. Ensure you can enjoy the benefits of an active, pain-free lifestyle.

INVIVO Wellness FREE Walking Club 2023

INVIVO Wellness FREE Walking Club 2023

Join INVIVO’s FREE weekly walking club Thursdays at 6 pm. Free from judgement, these walks will be led by INVIVO Members and Staff. We’ll walk to various landmarks or other nearby areas. Register each week.

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