Supervised sessions of physical therapy provided immediate and long-term relief for patients with sciatica, according to secondary analysis of a recent study.
165 patients with moderate and severe sciatica pain participated in several supervised physical therapy sessions for three months. Immediately following a session, 85% of patients experienced reduced leg pain through a process known as centralization. Centralization occurs when radiating leg pain retreats to the spine, where the pain originates. Centralization is generally associated with a good prognosis in patients with sciatica, and researchers wanted to determine whether certain patients were more prone to centralization after physical therapy sessions.
The fact that the majority of patients experienced centralization means that physical therapy can reduce pain in sciatica patients, regardless of what type of disc lesion caused their pain. After three months of treatment, all patients saw a reduction in leg pain and were better able to perform normal activities. Patients who had immediate centralization experienced the most improvements, but even those who did not experience immediate relief after a session had improved symptoms in the long run. For all patients, these benefits persisted at the 1 year follow-up.
This study confirms how the appropriate physical therapy can reduce radiating leg pain immediately for most patients, and provide substantial long-term benefits.
Albert, Hanne, Eva Hauge, and Claus Manniche. Centralization in patients with sciatica: are pain responses to repeated movement and positioning associated with outcome or types of disc lesions?. European Spine Journal. 2011, August; DOI 10.1007/s00586-011-2018-9.
Albert, Hanne and Claus Manniche. The efficacy of systematic active conservative treatment for patients with severe sciatica.: A single-blind randomized clinical controlled trial. Spine; 2011, April; doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31821ace7f.