Move The Pain Into Your Back.
If you suffer from back pain and sciatica you know it can be very frustrating and confusing. I often get asked why does my pain change? Sometimes my back hurts so bad I can hardly move while other times my leg aches or burns like crazy and my back doesn’t hurt at all or much less.
This is a very common thing for people who suffer with back pain and sciatica and it is known as the Centralization of Pain Phenomena.
As a Physical Therapist, one of the first questions I ask someone in pain is, “Does your pain feel better or worse with sitting, standing or walking or what positions change your pain.” This is so important, because many times we are so busy with our lives and we don’t realize these connections. Or don’t understand the significance of these positions and how we can use them to manage and ultimately eliminate our pain.
The symptoms of sciatica vary greatly. The classic complaints are a numbness, tingling or burning sensation that goes down the back or side of one leg all the way down to the toes. As the pain moves further away from the center of the body the pain in the back often eases or is gone entirely.
It is not just numbness and tingling either. It can be a strong ache into parts of the leg or just the foot.
Here’s the part that can be confusing and frustrating. If there is pain, numbness, tingling, burning etc. in the leg or foot and treatment begins to help it, what can happen is that your back pain can get worse or more intense. Ugh!
Actually, if treatment helps the pain to move towards the center of the body it is getting better e.g. I have heard many times “ the pain/tingling was in my toes, now it only goes to my calf or outside of my knee. Back pain doesn’t always get worse or more intense when the leg lessens but knowing that it can will help manage it.
I know this can be hard to swallow but that’s how it works. I didn’t make the rules.
I have worked with many people how say, “Well I’d rather have the numbness in my foot than that strong back pain.” I usually ask them why the want to settle for any pain.
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