What exactly is sciatica? Can sciatica massage help?
The sciatic nerve is the lengthiest and is also the main spinal nerve in the body. Sciatica is when a person gets pain that travels along their sciatic nerve and goes from the lower back to the hips, buttocks and down the legs. It can affect one or both sides of the body and can also cause numbing or tingling and weakness. The pain has been described as ranging in harshness from mild to extremely severe.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica can be caused by several things, including:
- Bulging herniated discs in the back
- Trauma such as from a car accident or sports injury
- Spinal tumors can compress the sciatic nerve
- Spondylolisthesis, which is when a vertebra slips overtop another vertebra in the lumbar area of the spine
- Piriformis Syndrome, which is when there are muscle spasms in the Piriformis muscle which cause compression of the sciatic nerve
- Spinal Stenosis, which is a disorder in which nerves in the spine are compressed
- Pelvic injury or fracture
If you suspect you have sciatica, a doctor can confirm this via tests such as x-rays, MRIs or a CT scan.
Relief From Sciatica Pain
Many people who suffer from sciatica want relief from it without taking strong pain medications so they are asking what is sciatica massage? Can it help relieve my sciatica pain? The answer is yes massage therapy has been shown to be very effective in relieving sciatica pain.
A study was done in 2014 that revealed certain types of massage such as deep tissue massage was just as good at relieving lower back pain as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. This study showed that persons receiving a 30 minute deep tissue massage 5 days a week in a two-week timeframe got effective relief from their sciatica pain.
How does massage relieve sciatica pain?
Massage can help to soothe tense muscles in the body. One of the causes for sciatica pain is that tense muscles are compressing the sciatic nerve, so if the massage can relieve this tension, it can in turn help relieve the pain. Additionally, soft tissue types of massage are known to stimulate endorphins to be released. Endorphins help people feel pleasurable feelings, thereby helping to get rid of pain and help the person have a feeling of well-being. Additionally, massage is known to help promote better blood circulation to the inflamed areas of the back, hips, buttocks or legs.
Massage therapy has been shown to bring relief to sciatica sufferers if their pain was due to tight or tense muscles. Therefore, you should get evaluated by a doctor prior to beginning a massage therapy to see what is causing your sciatica pain, as if it is caused by some of the other reasons, massage could actually make your pain get worse.
So if you doctor clears you to get massage to treat your sciatica pain, here are some of the types used:
Deep tissue massage
Deep tissue massage is a very aggressive type of massage using slow strokes along with deep pressure from the fingers. It uses quite intense pressure, so be forewarned that it is not the same as massage used for relaxation. You will possibly be sore after a deep tissue massage session.
However after the massage is done, your body can start to get a more relaxed feeling as time goes on and the kinks and tension in your muscles has been relieved. It is at that point you should get relief from sciatica pain. It is best done at least once a week to start, then every other week.
Swedish massage is similar to deep tissue massage, but isn’t as deep or as intense as the pressure during deep tissue massage. Instead, the therapist will use slower, kneading type movement that is used to stimulate the nerve ending in connective tissue, as well as help increase blood circulation. It thereby relieve the tension in the muscles and helps the person relax.
Neuromuscular massage is a more advanced type of massage therapy. It combines deep tissue massage and friction. This is done to relieve muscle tension and to release contracted muscles.
Myofascial release is a massage therapy that works to relax contracted muscles, improve blood circulation, and improve lymphatic circulation by stretching the muscles.
Hot stone massage
Hot stone massage helps to promote a relaxing feeling and to relieve muscle tension. The therapist will put heated stones on certain parts of the body. Then they will massage the body, sometimes combining the stone massage with Swedish massage.
Self-massage therapy types
If you cant go to a professional massage therapist, you can try the following self-massage types to get relief from your sciatica pain:
Palm and Thumb Massage
If you want to try to do massage therapy on your own, here is one way to do it. First place your palms onto your lower back, then start rubbing your pelvic area in the direction of the spine, and downward to your buttocks. Then, put your hands on your waist and make sure the thumbs of your hands are placed near the spine onto the muscles there, and wrap the fingers around your sides. Use the thumbs to cause firm and steady pressure in the direction of your spine. Apply gentle and firm pressure, but don’t do it hard enough to hurt.
Tennis Ball Massage
Another do it yourself sciatica massage can be done with tennis balls. Put two tennis balls into a sock, then put the sock onto the floor. Then, sit on the floor and place your feet flat onto the floor and your knees should be bent. Put the sock with the tennis balls behind you.
Lay down onto the floor with the sock full of tennis balls resting on the area of your back with the sciatica pain, say this way for about one minute. It should start to relieve the tension in your back. You can then place the sock in another painful area of the back and repeat the process.
This uses your hands and fists to do the sciatica massage. Lay down on your back, bend your knees and put your feet flat onto the floor. Make your hands into fists, then put them onto the right and left side of the lower back. Your palms should face downward with your knuckles pushing against the back. They should be between your spine and your lower back.
Stay like this for about a minute. Then roll to your side into a fetal position slowly, use your arm for a pillow and stay like this for about five minutes.
All in all the above massage types may help relieve certain kinds of sciatica pain. If they don’t help you, then see your doctor for advice or try out my back pain coach program.