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Lower Back Pain and Sciatica: 3 Mistakes to Avoid

Dec. 16, 2016

When it comes to eliminating lower back pain and getting back to all the activities you enjoy, with or without sciatica pain, there are quite a few potential roadblocks along the way.

If you’ve ever attended one of our “Lower Back Pain & Sciatica” workshops, you’re already familiar with our 2-step approach to successful treatment:

Step 1: determine the ROOT CAUSE of your pain. In other words, don’t start trying to treat yourself until you truly understand what type of pain you’re actually dealing with. And don’t start watching YouTube videos and trying every exercise you come across, as you’ll often make your pain worse.

Step 2: eliminate your pain using HANDS-ON physical therapy, followed by corrective exercises. The hands-on PT allows you to eliminate the pain, while the exercises get you back to the activities you love and also help you prevent the pain from coming back in the future.

Earlier this week, I delivered my lower back pain and sciatica talk to about 50 employees at WA Trust, and after covering these 2 points, as well as some basic advice about doing yoga (to increase flexibility) and Pilates (to increase strength), an excellent question came from a lady in the audience:


“If you already have back pain, will doing these exercises help eliminate the pain? Or do you have to get rid of your back pain first before you can start exercising?”


The answer to her question led me to this blog post. So let’s look at the first part of the answer.

Part 1: Don’t perform exercises if they increase your pain. We see this all the time with people trying to treat their own pain by working through it. After all, “no pain, no gain” right? WRONG! Absolutely, wrong.

If you’re at the point where you’re trying some recommended exercises to reduce your pain level and just become more active in general, make sure you’re focusing on exercises that don’t hurt when you’re doing them.

Ideally, you shouldn’t have increased pain after as well, although a little muscle soreness is just fine (and often times actually feels good). But this sensation is much different than pain, especially sharp pain.

Part 2: Don’t skip the hands-on PT. While people with very mild pain may be able to just make a few simple changes and reduce their pain level, if you’ve been dealing with lower back pain and/or sciatica for more than about 2 weeks, you’ll very likely require some skilled, hands-on treatment.

The reason is simple: if you don’t get down to the ROOT CAUSE of your issue, it’s very unlikely that you can exercise your way through it. In other words, you’ll probably have some structures that need immediate relief before you can attempt to stretch or strengthen them.

At Gordon PT, our basic treatment flow breaks down your recovery into 3 distinct phases, which we refer to as the “3 Phases of Recovery”.

Here are the 3 Phases of Recovery: reduce the pain and inflammation, improve flexibility and strength, and return to full function (plus maintaining gains and preventing future problems).

In essence, if you try to start with exercises to treat your lower back pain and sciatica, you’ve decided to skip the first phase of reducing the pain and inflammation. Again, for folks with very mild pain, this might work (and it might not).

But if you’ve been suffering with your pain for longer, you’ll definitely want to start with phase 1, so you can reduce your pain and inflammation before trying to increase your exercise level.

That was a lot to cover in one blog post! So let’s recap really quickly:

Successful PT treatment involves 2 things: determining the ROOT CAUSE of your pain, then treating it with HANDS-ON PT followed by corrective exercises (in that order!).

Avoid these 2 mistakes: don’t perform exercises that increase your pain, and don’t think you can skip phase 1 (pain reduction) and jump right into phase 2 (exercises to increase strength and flexibility).

Sounds easy, right?

Now all you need is a guide!

So if you’ve been suffering with lower back and sciatica pain for more than 2 weeks, we’re ready to help you navigate this process to feeling better and regaining your high level of activity.

Not ready to commit to PT yet? Or not sure if PT with us is the right solution to your problem? If that’s the case, we created our FREE 30-minute Discovery Visits for people just like you!

During your free 30-minute consultation with one of our PTs, you’ll discovery the ROOT CAUSE of your pain as well as what successful treatment looks like for you (all without a referral from your doctor or needing to check your insurance benefits).

Give us a call today at (509) 892-5442 if you’re ready to get started!

Happy healing 🙂

– Luke Gordon

spokane valley gordon physical therapy

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Gordon Physical Therapy - Spokane Valley, WA

626 North Mullan Road #4, Spokane Valley, WA 99206

(509) 892-5442

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