If you’re experiencing the painful effects of sciatica, you should know that sciatica symptoms can be improved by massage. We’ll discuss which muscles and nerves are impacted by sciatica, and how massage can help reduce or even eliminate sciatica.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is pain in the sciatic nerve, which runs down the low back and leg. Sciatica pain can make it difficult to walk, sit, and move normally.
Technically, sciatica is caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs from the spinal column all the way down the back of the body, separates at the tailbone and continues along each buttock and down into the leg. The five roots of the sciatic nerve originate in the lower spinal column, weaving together to form the sciatic nerve.
When the sciatic nerve becomes inflamed or compressed, the symptoms of sciatica begin to rear their head. These sciatica symptoms include lower back pain, buttock pain and numbness, radiating leg pain, a pins and needles sensation, and difficulty feeling or moving the affected leg. Sciatica symptoms typically affect only one side of the body, though it’s possible for them to occur in both sides of the body, with debilitating results.
Ugh! What caused my sciatica?
Sciatica can be caused by a number of underlying conditions, including piriformis syndrome (the tightening of the piriformis muscle, located in the buttock), a herniated disc in the back, sacroiliac joint dysfunction (a weight-bearing joint in the lower back), and others. While there are many possible causes of sciatica, massage treatment for sciatica will always focus on relieving the sciatic nerve entrapment in order to reduce the sciatic pain.
Sciatica is especially common in pregnant women since the expanding uterus places extra pressure on the sciatic nerve, and in people whose jobs require them to drive long distances or sit for long periods of time.
How massage can help sciatica
It’s important to understand that sciatica is a set of symptoms, not a disease which can be treated or cured by massage alone. However, many of the underlying causes of sciatica are responsive to massage therapy. Up to 10% of those suffering from low back pain have sciatica, and low back pain is a condition that is highly responsive to massage therapy. One study shows that both deep tissue massage and Swedish massage provide significant improvements for those suffering from low back pain, providing relief lasting for up to 6 months.
Massage can help sciatica by relieving tension in the muscles that are wrapped around the sciatic nerve, allowing the nerve to function normally. These muscles include the quadratus lumborum (which runs vertically in the low back), the piriformis and glutes (buttock muscles), and the iliopsoas (a large muscle which runs downward from the low back and wraps around the inner thigh). Loosening up muscle tension and knots in these areas can relieve sciatica symptoms.
What kind of massage will help my sciatica?
Massages that includes assisted stretching, such as sports massage, can alleviate nerve compression and reduce pain from sciatica. Many massage therapists can also recommend at home massage and stretching movements to help relieve sciatica symptoms between massages. Remember to let your massage therapist know that you are suffering from sciatica symptoms so she can ensure your massage focuses on reducing your sciatica discomfort.
Marcy is the SVP of People and Communications at Zeel. In addition to overseeing the humans of Zeel, Marcy has written about workplace topics for more than 20 years both at Zeel and as VP of Content for Vault.com, a career information web site and publisher.