Have you experienced shooting pain that seems to start in your back and travels down your leg to your foot?
This often excruciating pain may actually be sciatica, a symptom of irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. Massage therapy has long been used to effectively alleviate and prevent sciatic pain and discomfort.
What is Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve starts at the lower back and branches to run down the buttocks and the backs of the legs. Sciatica may be experienced along the range of a dull ache to debilitating pain felt going from the back and down the back and/or outer side of the leg. The pain and discomfort of sciatica are usually felt on just one side of the body, but there are instances in which both sides are affected.
The condition may be made worse by prolonged sitting and certain movements. In its mild form, sciatica may clear up on its own within a few months, but there is always the possibility of it making an unexpected reappearance.
Trauma from injuries (as in a car accident) is a common cause of sciatica. Other causes include:
- nerve root irritation from a herniated lumbar disc often referred to as pinched nerve, ruptured disc or slipped disc.
- a pinched nerve resulting from a small stress fracture causing one vertebra to slip forward onto another
- natural aging processes such as degenerative disc disease and narrowing of the spinal column, both of which irritate the nerve roots
- pregnancy, as the weight of the fetus presses on the sciatic nerve during sitting or during leg spasms
- tumors impacting on the nerve roots
How Massage Can Help
It is important that the therapist works on all of the muscles that surround and are affected by the sciatic nerve. A massage that includes assisted stretching is very effective in relieving sciatic pain, since stretching helps to release the compression of the nerve roots.
The benefits of massage treatment include:
- reduce lower back and leg pain
- increase range of motion
- ease anxiety and depression
- improved sleep
- better blood and lymph circulation which boosts the body’s natural healing ability
- decreased requirements of over the counter pain medications
To maintain the benefits of massage therapy, it is advised that you follow a thorough stretching routine that helps to keep the muscles loose and relieves nerve compression. You can ask your therapist for advice on this along with how to use ice and heat to help alleviate the pain and keep it at bay.
Up to 40% of adults will suffer from sciatica at some point. Much needed relief can be found in the services of a qualified massage therapist with experience in the specialized techniques used for treating sciatica.