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Why Physical Therapy Is The Answer For Herniated Discs and Sciatica

If you’re experiencing lower back pain you are not alone. About 65 million people struggle with back pain yearly in the United States – that’s 8% of all adults! To add insult to injury, Americans will go on to spend 50 billion dollars on relieving low back pain. It’s no wonder back pain has become one of the most googled health related topics.

Most people reach out to their doctor when the pain becomes unbearable but are often disappointed with the results. About half of patients with back pain will have recurring pain within the year and 5% will develop chronic low back pain. That is not the success rate a patient in pain is looking for. They are told to rest until the pain dies down. They shrink their lives to avoid doing the hobbies that cause flare-ups. Not only does their quality of life shrink but their pain grows. Studies show stiffness is the main precursor to pain and stiffness comes directly from not moving the body.

Yet as pain increases from a lack of movement, Doctors continue to prescribe medicine and instruct patients to rest.

Herniated Discs and Sciatica often compliment one another. Typically Sciatica comes from nerve root compression which is often the result of a herniated disc. Movement can be the best remedy for this pain. According to Dr. Haroun, a Chiropractor at Living Well Balanced, “prescribing medicine treats the symptoms of back pain but fails to address the root cause.” Medicine essentially numbs the issue but doesn’t provide a cure. Below are just a few ways movement can help provide relief.

  1. Stretching the muscles that lie above the nerve canal
  2. Stretching the nerve canal itself with nerve glides
  3. Strengthening the supporting muscles around the injury
  4. Moving the spine in the direction the disc herniation prefers


Stretching The Muscles

When it comes to Sciatica, the main muscle around the nerve orientation is the Piriformis muscle. The muscle lies directly above the Sciatic nerve. Never moving this muscle would create more stiffness which can lead to tightness and pain. Taking medication would temporarily relieve the pain but not correct the issue. Stretching the muscle would loosen the pressure on the nerve and alleviate the pain.

Stretching The Nerve Canal

Stretching the nerve canal involves mobilizing the muscles and joints around the nerve that is pinched. When a nerve is injured it won’t be able to glide normally through the surrounding tunnel, which can result in sharp pain. Similar to muscles, nerves can be stretched carefully to reduce inflammation or compression and ultimately allow the nerves to glide normally.


Strengthening The Supporting Muscles Around The Injury

Strength training is very important when it comes to managing low back pain. Lower back pain is often correlated with weak core stabilizer muscles. The muscles underneath the Rectus Abdominus, dubbed the six pack muscle, are very important muscles of the core and connect to the spine. When these are weak, they cannot support the back properly. The most common Physical Therapy exercises for slipped disc treatment involves strengthening the core, glutes and hamstrings.


Disc Preference Movement

Our spine is comprised of vertebrae and the tissue in between that separate them are known as “discs.” Imagine the spine as a jelly donut. The outer part of the donut is the vertebrae and the jelly is the disc. A herniated disc occurs when the “jelly is squeezed out of the donut.” According to Dr. Mariah Moore, a Doctor of Physical Therapy at Living Well Balanced, determining which direction the spine gets relief from moving is key to extinguishing pain. This treatment philosophy comes from the famous McKenzie Technique, a Physical Therapy technique used to treat herniated disc issues by locating a directional preference that feels comfortable to the patient. If a patient feels better bending forward to touch their toes, all of their repetitive exercises will involve bending the spine in that direction. The idea is the constant motion will gently glide the jelly back into place. Studies show McKenzie treatment leads to reduced surgery rates, is more cost effective and results in longer lasting relief when compared to traditional pharmaceutical options.

Lower back pain can be a devastating set back in life, however, relief does exist. If you or someone you know is seeking back pain remedies consider movement specialists such as Chiropractors, Physical Therapists and Massage Therapists for relief. If you are in the New York area, consider Living Well Balanced for your care. We have all three of these specialists under one umbrella. We can help you take your life back. Muscle strains, Spinal Stenosis, muscle spasms, lower back pain, herniated discs and neck pain do not have to control your life.


  1. American Chiropractic Association (2020). Back Pain Facts and Statistics [Online]. Available from: https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/What-is-Chiropractic/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics/ [Accessed 6 December 2020].
  2. “The Benefits of MDT.” The McKENZIE International Institute, 2012, https://mckenzieinstitute.org/clinicians/benefits-of-mdt/
  3. The Good Body (2020). 21 Back Injury Statistics: Spine-chilling Facts and Figures [Online]. Available from: https://www.thegoodbody.com/back-injury-statistics/ [Accessed 6 December 2020].
  4. Annals of Internal Medicine (2018). Chronic Pain Among Suicide Decedents, 2003 to 2014: Findings From the National Violent Death Reporting System [Online]. Available from: https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M18-0830/ [Accessed 6 December 2020].
  5. “39 Back Pain Statistics to Send a Shiver Down Your Spine.” The Good Body, 11 Dec. 2020, https://www.thegoodbody.com/back-pain-statistics/