From my experience, physical therapy is a disaster for treatment of herniated disk in the lumbar spine (L4-L5). Physical therapy was never proven to work for fixing herniated disk or aleviating any of the symptoms or pain related to that (such as sciatic pain). If your symptoms improved during the physical therapy, they would have probably improved without the physical therapy.
However, physical therapy, in particular when it involves mobilization/manipulation in the lower back, can be disastrous and might lead to what might be permanent and life long damages and pain.
My first physical therapist told me to sit straight and gave me a couple of exercises to do at my home and work. Before seeing her I had almost full range of motion. After I tried to sit straight according to her instructions and did the exercises that she recommended, my range of motion was reduced substantially and it was much harder for me to bend. It was a very bad experience.
After discussing the exercises that she gave me with 2 other physical therapists, they said that I should have never been given these exerces. And the original physical therapist who gave me these exercises was very experienced and specialized in back problems...
The experience from my second physical therapist was even much worse. I might have life long unpleasant tingling sensations in my leg due to his malpractice.
He is actually a very nice person who is an expert (with certificates) in the McKenzie method, which is now a leading method in physical therapy.
One of the reasons that I came to his clinic was because I did not want to spend time and money working with physical therapy assistants, but with licensed physical therapists.
However, he had a physical therapy student who was doing a rotation with him for 10 weeks. He gradually let her take care of my PT exercises. However, he also let her work for 15 minutes on my lower back in doing mobilization/manipulation. Immediately after these 15 minutes of her work, while I was still at the clinic, I started to suffer from constant unpleasant tingling (the medical term is paresthesia) sensations in my leg. I currently (around 5 months after the 'treatment') still have these sensations, even after a successful surgery that got rid of the pain, but not of these unpleasant tingling sensations.
Notice, when you do physical therapy, at least where I live, I am in a room with many bother patients and my physical therapist or physical therapy assistant also had 1 other patient when seeing me. The famous physical therapist who I saw barely remebered what were my symptoms. The method of seeing 2 patients at a time means that your time and money are wasted as you don't get the full attention of the caregiver.
Did you ever see a Dr for a 1 hour meeting and the Dr saw another patient at the same time?
My sincere suggestion to patients who suffer from sciatic pain related to a herniated disk, is to avoid physical therapy. If for some reason you want to give it a try, avoid manipulations/mobilizations in the lower back as they were never proven to help but can surely cause side effects that the physical therapist and their assistants have no clue how to fix.
Physical therapy has helped me regain some strngth , endurance and helps with spastisiy and stiffness. It wears me out some days, but it is worth it. I try not to schedule to much else on the therapy days so I can go home and rest.
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Physical Therapy (PT)
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