Sciatica: What is it and How Massage can help

Sciatica is the term used to refer to pain along the sciatic nerve, which extends from your lower back, through your hips and buttocks, and down both legs .

The sciatic nerve branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Sciatica is a condition that occurs when this nerve, which happens to be the largest nerve in the body, is irritated or inflamed, causing pain, tingling, and/or numbness or weakness in the affected leg and foot. These sensations are felt along part or all of the nerve path and most often starts in the low back or the buttock and travels down the outer leg, sometimes all the way down to the foot. Sciatica typically affects only one side of your body and can range in severity from mild to severe.

Sciatica can interfere with your daily activities and make standing, walking, and even sitting difficult. If you’d like to try an alternative to traditional painkillers, massage may be able to help. It won’t treat the underlying cause of your sciatica, but it may provide some temporary relief from pain.

There are two primary causes of sciatica; Piriformis Syndrome and spinal abnormalities in the low back. Piriformis syndrome is when your piriformis muscle, a small muscle located deep in the buttock that starts at the lower spine and connects to the upper surface of the thighbone, presses onto and irritates the sciatic nerve. Due to the location of the nerve as it runs directly under this piriformis muscle (and in some people, it actually runs right through the muscle itself) sciatica is quite common to develop. The upper portion of the nerve, as it comes out of the spinal cord, is also prone to irritation from components of the spine. This could be due to stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal) or a disc issue such as a herniated or bulging disc. Any of these spinal conditions could result in pressure on the Sciatic nerve root, creating that pain and irritation felt in the hip and leg.

Massage therapy has been shown to be an effective way to relieve pain. A 2014 study even found that deep tissue massage may be as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for relieving low back pain, which can be a symptom of sciatica.

When it comes to sciatica, massage can help in two ways. Massage’s main benefit is soothing tense muscles that are causing irritation to the sciatic nerve. When your muscles are tense, they can put more pressure on your nerves, including your sciatic nerve. Massaging these tense muscles may help to reduce pressure on your sciatic nerve.

That may mean focused massage through the hips and low back as well as stretching and movement therapies. Massage therapy can also decrease inflammation in the area, easing the swelling of the nerve and thereby decreasing symptoms.

Soft tissue massage may also help to increase your pain threshold by stimulating the release of endorphins. Endorphins boost pleasure and relieve pain, causing an increased feeling of well-being.

If you’re struggling with sciatica, you know it’s literally a pain in the butt. Massage for sciatica won’t cure the underlying cause of your pain, but it can help to temporarily relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Speak to your doctor about your symptoms as a first step in finding the cause. The next step is booking a massage.

Body & Soul Massage in Salem Ma offers Therapeutic Massage for Pain Relief. To learn more about our Pain Relief programs or Massage Membership visit www.bodysoulsalem.com. To schedule your appointment call 978-825-0040. Health Savings Plans accepted.