Massage for sciatica can be very effective, especially when the symptoms are muscle-based. The causes and symptoms for Sciatica vary greatly and diagnosis can sometimes exclude the possibility of muscle tension. Because sciatic pain can originate in a number of places, it follows that many different muscles could be involved. For example, muscle tension in the Gluteus Medius and/or the Piriformis can cause sciatica-like pain. Massage for these two muscles, which are located in the back of the hip, including assessment of the low back and hamstring muscles can be a very effective approach to treatment of sciatica.
It is important to note how deeply interrelated the low back and the back of the hip are; the sciatic nerve is actually a bundle of nerves that starts in the low back and runs through the posterior hips into the thighs. Also, in movement, the low back functions best when it moves very little and acts supportively, while the hip generates movement. Unfortunately, due to lack of flexibility in many hips, the low back is frequently forced to move more than it should when, say, walking, which puts a lot of strain on it. Strain in the low back can lead to strain on its nerves. While this is not claiming to be an exact illustration for how Sciatic nerve pain is created, it does illuminate the relationship between the low back and hips. For this reason, research on Sciatica is commonly part of low back pain research. With this in mind, research supports the theory that massage can help sciatica, and can sometimes be as helpful as pain medication
Best type of massage for sciatica
When deciding to use massage for the treatment of sciatica, it is sometimes confusing to know which kind of massage one should get. There are many different “types” of massage out there that vary in technique, but its most important that the massage therapist giving the massage understands the intention for the massage as pain relief, not simply relaxation, and can therefore customize a session that uses the most effective techniques- sometimes in combination. Below are common types of massage/techniques chosen for massage treating sciatica.
Deep tissue massage for sciatica
Deep tissue massage is one of the many techniques that can be used for sciatica pain relief. It is effective because it addresses deeper layers of muscle tissue specifically. This kind of massage can :
- Break up adhesions or scar tissue
- Restore proper blood and oxygen circulation
- Restore function in the muscles addressed
- Decrease pain and tension
- Many have also noted that, in general, massage can help the body to release endorphins- those “feel good” hormones- which also helps to reduce pain.
Trigger point massage for sciatica
Trigger point therapy could be called a technique of Deep tissue massage, as it is under the umbrella of massage that targets deeper tissues, specifically, and is intended for pain relief. A trigger point in a muscle is usually felt as a nodule to the massage therapist, that, when pressed, can twitch and/or cause pain in another part of the client’s body. This is known as referral pain. The technique consists of the therapist applying specific pressure to the nodule until it softens and the pain referral stops. This requires feedback from the client regarding pain level.
Trigger point therapy usually evolves naturally during the course of a massage intended for pain relief. As the therapist assesses the region of muscles involved, he or she is naturally looking for the exact points of binding in the tissue- where muscle fibers are shortened and stuck together. Frequently after warming and softening this region, trigger points are revealed at the epicenter of the regional tension and must be released in order for the region to be considered fully treated.
Piriformis massage for sciatica
Tension in the Piriformis can be the key player in sciatic nerve impingement which causes sciatic-like pain. Everyone has two Piriformis’- one on each side of the back hip; it extends between the midpoint of the pelvis to each hip joint respectively. Frequently, the Piriformis is shortened, which causes a persons lower limb to be continuously rotated outward away from the body. This posture puts a lot of stress on the entire body, including the sciatic nerve, because it changes alignment greatly. For example, when the hips and lower limbs are rotated out, the lower body cannot properly support the pelvis and back because they are no longer directly beneath them structurally. This can cause a lot of strain in the lower back as well, which, as we’ve noted, is very related to sciatic pain. It is important to restore the natural length of the piriformis with massage, which in turn reduces its tension, its potential to impinge the sciatic nerve, and cause pain.
Self massage for sciatica
Massage will always only be part of your overall treatment plan because it enhances your capability for change; however if this capacity is not reinforced in daily life, real change can be hindered. With this in mind, it is important to do self care. Self-care for sciatica can include:
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time
- Strengthen your core to support your spine
- Seek help from a physical therapist