Sciatica, also known as lumbar radiculopathy, is a painful condition in which one or both sides of the sciatic nerve is compressed. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body, stretching from the lower back and splitting into two at the pelvis, with one nerve going down each leg. It is responsible for sending and receiving electrical impulses from the brain, essentially telling the muscles in the legs and feet when to contract.
There are several different factors known to play a role in the formation of sciatica, including weight gain, spinal disc herniation, spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, pregnancy, and trauma to the spine or surrounding tissue. Normally, the sciatic nerve remains unconstrained, but there are certain conditions, diseases and injuries that will compress the nerve, resulting in sciatica.
Symptoms of sciatica may include one or more of the following:
- Pain radiating from the lower back to the leg
- Dull aching
- Feeling of pins and needles in the foot
- Numbness in the leg or foot
Note: pain and other symptoms of sciatica can range from mild to severe.
Massage Therapy For Relief of Sciatica
Massage therapy is a very viable strategy for addressing the root cause of the problem, rather than masking the symptoms. Going back to the basics of this condition, sciatica is caused from compression against the sciatic nerve by either a bony structure (i.e., disc) or soft tissues (i.e., excessively contracted muscles). By releasing this pressure, you’ll treat the source of this condition and find relief from its associated symptoms.
Massage therapy is a safe and effective way to release pressure on the sciatic nerve. A licensed professional massage therapist will first discuss your symptoms and the location of these symptoms. Using this information, he or she will begin to massage the involved muscles and other soft tissues in an attempt to release the compression placed against the sciatic nerve.
When various muscles of the hip become tight and remain in a constricted state, normal nerve impulses to the sciatic nerve may become inhibited. It’s not uncommon for a professional massage therapist to focus on the piriformis muscles, intending to relax these and surrounding muscles and to restore normal muscle tone. Deep-tissue massage and other massage therapy techniques can promoting natural relaxation and tension release.
Massage therapy for sciatica is typically performed using long strokes with pressure varying depending on the client’s preference, but moderate pressure is the most effective in treating sciatica. A massage therapist may also recommend certain at-home care activities including self massage to further relieve sciatic nerve pressure.