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Can Physio treatment aggrevate the sciatic nerve?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
I had a minor disc herniation for two months and started to go to a new Physio, on the recommendation of my doctor since I had no improvement with a Chiropractor. She is brutual and I was severely bruised after the first two sessions. Two days after the second session, I ended up in A&E with the worst sciatic pain (which I hadn't had before). Admittedly the day of the session, I had felt fantastic and done alot of things I hadn't been able to do for months (lifting, cleaning etc) so I might well have done this myself.

I had to wait 8 days (stuck in bed, in agonising pain, unable to stand or sit for longer than 3 minutes before nearly passing out) for a cortisone injection which I had two weeks ago. It took my pain level down from a 10 to a 7-8 and I have been mobile since and able to drive. Still pretty sore in the mornings when I wake up though but I find an ice pack and a Celebrex seems to help take the edge off to help me function. I am having a second cortisone shot tomorrow morning and they say that this one should be more effective than the first.

I am just wondering whether the Physio could be doing more harm than good, mainly because I am desperate for a solution/answer I guess!

Has anyone had a similar situation with good healing results? I cannot imagine living with this pain, although from what I read here it seems that alot of people have. It sucks!


  • Physio can agravate it, but I know that I have to watch what I do and not overdo it when I am trying the heal.

    My PT told me to stop trying certain exercises, becuase they bother the sciatica. Ham-string pulling for me sets off my nerves, to the point where I can barely walk.

    I do not use a Chiro, just my fear factor.

    Cheers - David
  • I am sorry that you had this bad an experience with PT and I can tell you based upon my experience it can be worse. If I had to do it all over again I would have asked friends and checked reviews before just going to the PT person in my doctor's office.

    The PT person was doing 2 people at the same time which meant little time to do any exercises but instead turning on a machine and I will be right back. Also the the doctor in my case thought I had pirformis syndrome so the few exercises we did were really not good for a herniated disc. But even after the herniated disc they never did any mckenzie exercises or exercises to strengthen my core.

    I have made more progress with my own research and this site than any PT person. In the end this is your body and your time. Ask questions, do research and do not accept no answer.

    It is your body and the only one you will have so make sure you are informed. This site is amazing and you may be able like myself to develop a pretty good program and than the next time you see the PT person you will be able to have a much more intelligent discussion.

    Good luck and hope you make a turn around soon...

  • I know what you mean...started with one and he just seemed to get me to point of using a cane...real bad. But now that I look back the things that are making the most difference are all the things he wanted which was posture issues and proper S curve back.

    I may go back once this all ends but honestly if this ever ends I will probably just sit and do nothing for a month and just enjoy the pain free feeling.
  • Thanks for the replies everyone. It's so difficult to know whether what she is doing is helping or not, given that I started Celebrex and got the injection as well. It is the deep tissue massage which she does on my left butt cheek which has me climbing the walls in agony when she is kneeding away!

    Has anyone had success from a couple of injections?

    I'd love to be able to sit on the sofa and watch a movie in comfort! Although perhaps that is what got me here in the first place ........!
  • I found some relief from my second epidural for my leg pain. I hope it helps you. I had acupuncture which relaxed me more than traction or massage. Use ice after the injection and take it easy. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I've seen three PTs for my back issues, and one in particular was not good. My last PT was very cautious. She never made me do any exercises that hurt me. Her recommendation was to stop any exercises that aggravated the pain until the nerve calmed down.

  • I know exactly what you mean by deep tissue massage and lighting you up like a pinball machine. My PT person decided to do same thing on my right buttock. In the middle I explained if you keep going I will not be able to walk off this table. I was feeling great before I got into the office. He gave me the strangest look as if I was nuts and said "This is a massage and you should feel better." I said obviously not...

    Kiwi do your own research and try some out on your own. What got me started was the half cobra. I could not believe the difference it made...from there I knew I was on the right path. I have the same thing as you where they said it was a mild herniation. Start with the mini cobra every two hours and see if the pain moves up the leg and into the back.

    I have not seen my PT in about a month and tomorrow I go back and will give him a set a questions and exercises I want to make sure I am doing properly.

    As far as injections I have had numerous and two epidurals. The first epidural did drop the pain by about 50% but the second did nothing really and infact made it a bit worse till I went and worked really hard on more prone position exercises that moved the pain back up the leg.

    Based upon my experience I would not depend on those shots to be the answer. I would just give it time and these exercises as the best route.

  • Dear Kiwigirl,

    My sympathies to you for your recent discomfort and I do hope you find some relief really soon.
    It sounds very much in your case that she did aggravate the nerve and do more harm than good especially as you say you were feeling physically ok before you went. My own experience with a physio was exactly the same as yours. It is becoming very apparent to me that the treatment and diagnosis of sciatica is very much a hit and miss affair. I wish to make sure I get this across correctly here, I do not think it is necessarily a case of a bad physio (although they will exist) but perhaps the right treatment at the wrong time if that makes sense. What also works for one may not work for another but goodness me, get it wrong and the consequences beat the hell out of anything else I have known!

    My fondest wishes to you

  • I have the second shot today and when I went for the first, they told me that I would probably get the most benefit from the second. The first took me from a 9-10 to a 7-8, so if it has the same affect then that will be a 5-6 and I'd be happy, lol. Funny what we settle for!

    My physio did say she didn't want to see me for a week after the shot, to give it time to work and not to do the exercises in that time. I'll follow everything by the book. It's been 10 weeks since this hideous affair started and before that I had knee surgery, which seems to be the trigger for this back problem. The theory was that I was walking with a limp for 18 months and it threw my spine out. Who knows? I just want all the pain gone.

    I promise to exercise, swim, stop eating chocolate and be a good girl if the pain will go away :o)
  • I had four injections before my surgeries. First one helped about 70%, the second and third very little improvement. the fourth one helped about 50%.
  • kiwi girl,
    you sound just like me. I can not wait to excercise, swim, walk, pilates everything I never used to do and i would do anything to be able to do them. I tell my back how good I am going to be to it if it will just pull through this pain. I had a very full on session with my therapist a week ago and since then i have been flat on my back. Most of my pain is in my lower legs ankles and feet and to stand on them for even a few minutes results in agonising pain for hours. I have finally decided to get a facet joint injection which i have been avoiding since the results in this forum would indicate only very rare pain relief, but I am going to be positive. As you said if I could just get the pain down to a manageable 6 or 7 then i would be over the moon.

    Good Luck we will get through it
  • Kiwigirl,
    It is always a balance in that the collective benefit of the treatment should assist with the pain and it is all dependent of what the underlying cause and symptoms are. For many this mobilisation is the first line strategy and only time will determine if this process has been more helpful than not.

    Pain and especially sciatic pain restricts our mobility over time from its very nature it originates at the central spine and we may only be dealing with the symptoms rather than the origin as with any treatment one would expect the emphasis of the pain to increase, only you can compare and contrast what is reasonable and for what length of time one might expect any peak of reaction. This is a partnership and we can be expected to be encouraged and supported through this changing process.

    It is always an emotional time and we all have that expectation of liveable pain levels and knowledge through this evaluating stage of what is causing this pain. We all move incrementally from one process to the next and have memory of just how difficult this stage was.

    Take care and well done you.

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