We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are the Different Types of Physical Therapy for Sciatica?

By Elle Blake
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Sciatica is the name given to a group of symptoms characterized by pain in the lower back, buttocks and legs. The pain may be accompanied by muscle weakness, numbness or a prolonged feeling of "pins and needles," and it is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerves in the lower back. This can occur for a variety of reasons, the most common being a slipped disc, and it usually is treated with a mixture of pain medication and specialized physical therapy for sciatica. The three main types of physical therapy for sciatica are physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic medicine.

Physiotherapy is usually prescribed as the main physical therapy for sciatica, alongside pain and anti-inflammatory medications. The physiotherapy usually begins after two weeks of bed rest, which has been proved to help with most cases of sciatica. For this reason, it is important for physiotherapy to start slowly. The first few sessions might consist of light bending and stretching exercises as well as discussing relevant lifestyle changes. Core strength and stability exercises will then be introduced, and an exercise ball might be used to help with this.

Osteopathy is another physical therapy for sciatica, and it might occur in conjunction with physiotherapy. The osteopath will attempt to find out the cause of the nerve damage and might use massage or palpitations to relieve pain and pressure. Osteopaths also will concentrate on creating a healthy posture and preventing a recurrence of sciatica or further back problems that might be caused by a poor posture or lifestyle.

The last common physical therapy for sciatica is chiropractic medicine. This usually involves several elements, including hot and cold therapy, the use of a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine and spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation is a form of physical therapy that involves manipulating the ligaments and discs into a natural position in order to relieve pressure on and damage to the nerves. The adjustment usually is not painful, because the ligaments are simply moved into their correct position in the spinal column.

Chiropractors might use slightly different interpretations of the same therapy, so it is important for patients to communicate with their physical therapists to ensure that they know if the patient is in any pain. Some cases of sciatica require gentle, sweeping motions, and others might require more forceful movements. Neither method should cause discomfort.

Physical treatments for sciatica usually are prescribed with medication, including an effective pain reliever and an anti-inflammatory. Severe cases might also require an epidural injection. Referral to an occupational therapist might be appropriate as well.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By andee — On Aug 11, 2012

I think lower back pain can be hard to treat, and it seems like I have very few days when I am completely pain free. I have pretty much learned to live with it.

My sciatica back pain was so bad when I finally went to a doctor that he told me I had to take one week of and do absolutely nothing. This was very hard for me to do, but that was the beginning of my treatment.

Now I control the pain through treatment, exercises and medication. I think all three of those things play an important part in my treatment, and don't want to see what might happen if I skipped any of them.

By myharley — On Aug 11, 2012

I have to use more than one form of sciatic nerve treatment to get much relief. I go to physiotherapy, and also have to use pain relievers to control the pain.

If I don't, the pain can be hard to live with, and I am miserable. I already feel like I really baby my back, but I never know what might set something off.

By Mykol — On Aug 10, 2012

I was having a lot of pain shooting down my legs and thought something was wrong with my legs. I found out all of this was caused by sciatic nerve pain in my back.

I see an osteopathic doctor for treatment who does spinal manipulation. This sounds like it might be painful, but it really isn't, and has made a big difference in how I feel.

As long as I go for regular treatments, I can avoid taking pain relievers, which is wonderful.

By bagley79 — On Aug 09, 2012

I dealt with some chronic lower back pain for a long time, but when the "pins and needles" feeling didn't go away, I knew it was time to seek out some help.

When my doctor told me this was sciatic back pain, I really had no idea what he was talking about. I just wanted my back pain to go away. Little did I know that some of the exercises I would have to do would be so painful.

I stuck with it, and have disciplined myself to continue on with these exercises as a form of prevention. On the days that I feel like skipping my exercises, I remind myself of what it felt like to have constant pain, and go ahead and do my exercises.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.