Sciatica And The 3 Phases Of Healing

In my last post, I went through what sciatica is, along with its most common causes.  Now that we have this information, we can move onto the most important part.  Namely, how to get better!

In order to help my Physical Therapy patients in Elizabeth and Jersey City get back in to tip top shape after experiencing a setback due to the symptoms of sciatica creeping up on you, l have created what I like to call “The 3 Phases of Healing.”  These 3 phases create realistic, definable goals that you, the patient, can use to measure your progress on how your Physical Therapy is progressing.  So let’s go through each one, shall we?

Phase One: Get Rid Of Pain, Numbness, And Tingling

Now, getting rid of the pain, numbness, and tingling that you’re feeling because of sciatica seems easier said than done.  And this could, honestly, take the longest out of all the three phases.  But it’s not impossible.  And there isn’t enough room on this blog to go through the full range of methods, modalities, exercises, and manupulations that we use as Physical Therapists to help you get rid of these symptoms.  What I will say is that a lot of it depends on the skill of your Physical Therapist, but the larger amount depends on you, the patient.

Are you currently a very healthy person?  Are you under a lot of stress?  Are you active or sedentary?  Are you the type of person that will follow your Physical Therapist’s home exercise program step by step and keep up with it?  And, probably most importantly, do you even believe that you can make things better?  No matter how skilled your therapist is in delivering Physical Therapy care, nothing is going to change if the patient doesn’t take an ACTIVE role in their recovery

Phase Two: Get Normal Movement Back And Full Strength

As your Physical Therapist is helping you reduce your pain symptoms, you will be tasked with completing an in-clinic exercise program.  These simple, goal based exercises should have the goal of retraining your body to handle normal movement and help you get back to full strength.  Don’t worry, your Physical Therapist should and will be monitoring the progress of your in-clinic Physical Therapy exercise program, updating and progressing your program as you are getting better.

When it comes to in-clinic programs, I want you to remember 2 things:  EVERYTHING works, and NOTHING works forever.  By this, I mean that any exercise that you do in a Physical Therapy clinic may make you stronger, even if it’s painful at first.  But once your body adapts, it’s time to move onto something different or more challenging.  All of these exercises should help you move on to Phase Three.

Phase Three: Get Back To Your Previous Activities

Phase three is where we try to transition you from goal specific in-clinic Physical Therapy exercises and back to the previous activities that you want to do.  In our Physical Therapy clinic, once we see a patient that’s relatively pain free and at full strength, we ask the question,

“What activities have you avoided in the past month that you want to get back to doing?”

Some will say walking, or gardening, or going back to the gym, or sports…something along those lines.  So now that the patient is pain free and back to full strength, it’s time to get back to those activities!  Take the next month and do those activities that you’ve been waiting to get back to.  And most importantly, continue to complete home exercise program as instructed by your Physical Therapist, so that you’ll continue to get stronger and stronger.  We always tell our patients, “We can get you better with Physical Therapy in the clinic, but it’s up to you to follow our instructions once you leave so that you can STAY better.”

Do setbacks occur?  Of course they do.  But I’m fully confident that if you stick to the 3 Phases of healing and really work at each one, you’ll reach your ultimate goal of being pain free and back to your normal life in no time!

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Dr. Asha Koshy is a Physical Therapist and co-owner of Complete Physical Rehabilitation in Jersey City and Elizabeth, NJ.

She is a McKenzie certified back pain Physical Therapist specialist, an LSVT BIG certified specialist for Parkinson’s Disease, and also specializes in treating Vestibular conditions relating to vertigo, dizziness, and other balance disorders.

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