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Can MASSAGE Help Sciatica?

Suffering with sciatic nerve pain is, in the first place…well, a pain in the a**, literally! So, will massage help sciatica?

Can massage help sciatica, the short answer is yes, massage for sciatic nerve pain works wonders!

A little anatomy

The sciatic nerve is the largest and thickest nerve of the body.  It begins from the spinal cord in the lumbar (lower) back and runs down the buttock muscles and down the legs.  As it moves down the legs it branches into multiple sections. Being that this nerve is so large it can and does cause a lot of pain.

Common symptoms of sciatica include:

Pain in the low back, hip, and/or buttocks.  You may have shooting pain that is constant or only upon specific movement.  Burning and/or tingling sensations around the buttocks or down the back of the legs. 

Causes of sciatica can be:

Lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back), Degenerative disc disease (breakdown of discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae), Spondylolisthesis (a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another one), Pregnancy, or Muscle spasm in the back or buttocks.

The good news is that a lot of the time the cause is over use, miss use, under use, causing muscle spasms in the buttock muscles.

Multiple studies have shown that massage therapy is effective for treating low back pain.  In my experience, sciatica is extremely responsive to massage therapy.  There are specific ways to treat this condition.  Here are the steps to treating your pain.

Assess- Do you remember a specific event that created this pain or did it come on slowly? 

If you there was trauma, it is best to visit your doctor for evaluation.  You must rule out a muscle tear or injury to the spine.  If this came on slowly it is more likely a posture and positioning issue.  Check with your doctor if you are unsure.

R.I.C.E. it. The first 3 days of a new injury, it is considered the acute phase.  In this time, it is best to use the old R.I.C.E. method.  It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.  This is easier on some parts of the body than others.  Rest your back and buttock muscles by reducing activity in the acute phase.  Ice it down, apply ice pack with a barrier on your skin so you don’t get frost bite.

A note about ice:

Ice therapy or cryotherapy has been used for years and recently it has been noted that there is not enough evidence to show that it is therapeutic in recovery. Basically, use ice if it helps you. If it feels awful then skip it completely.

Compression can be a bit challenging because of the area.  The best way to accomplish this is to use a back brace.  Use this brace intermittently, taking it on and off throughout the day.  Use your instincts as to what feels the best. 

Elevation means putting the area of concern above your heart. So, if you can stand on your head, go right ahead!  If you aren’t experienced with this, you can skip this step

Creating more awareness

Can Massage help Sciatica?

In a word, bring more awareness to your body.  How are you standing, sitting, and bending. Most times, imbalanced posture is what irritates the tissue. 

Stand evenly, with equal weight on both legs.  Bend mindfully, using your legs.  Sit with your feet and knees at a 90-degree angle.  Your bones should stack so your muscles can relax.

Start moving.  Once The acute phase is over, it is time to move your body. Light and mindful activities like walking, yoga, stretching and light weights can help the healing process.  Be mindful of balancing ease and effort with your body movement.  Proper stretching is not painful, only stretch until you feel a slight resistance and hold it there for at least 20 seconds while breathing deeply.

can massage help sciatica

Get Professional Help. 

Here is a list of the many benefits of massage therapy from the American Massage Therapy Association.

In my practice, I’ve experienced great results using massage for sciatic nerve pain and piriformis syndrome.  Massage for sciatica works and many people can attest to that. If you do not have a regular massage therapist, ask for referrals from friends and family. 

Do some research for a someone with a background in medical, sports, or injury massage.  Look for a high level of experience and specializations.  There are many modalities (types of massage treatment) that are helpful for sciatica. Deep Tissue, Trigger Point, NMT (Neuromusclar Reeducation), and Sports Massage are a few helpful styles for this condition.

Can Massage Help Sciatica?

Additionally, I’ve found it is best to receive 3-5 massage sessions within a 2-3-week period for best results.  During the massage treatment, pay attention to the areas of soreness and what feels relieving to the pain. 

This area can be very sensitive, be sure to relax and take deep breathes during the massage.  Tell you therapist to lighten the intensity if you find yourself holding your breath or wincing.  Follow your massage with the R.I.C.E. method.

To help reduce the cost, you can ask for a 30-minute massage session instead of 60 minutes.

Get the most out of your massage, check out my blog, Learn to receive a better massage.

If you are not able to get professional help, do self massage.  Helpful tools like a tennis ball or foam roller can make it possible to massage sciatica away.  Patience and persistence are also key. 

First, it helps to know a little about the anatomy of the area.  I’ve found it best to work from right next to your sacrum out towards your femur.  Use the tennis ball or foam roller to slowly go back and forth in this area. Work on the area with a slow increase in pressure. 

Start light and let the tissue resistance decrease before working deeper into it.  Remember to let up on your pressure if you feel any numbness or increased sharp nerve pain. Do this for 5-10 minutes, then use the R.I.C.E. method.  Once a day, after the acute phase.

Additionally, other modalities of medicine like acupuncture and chiropractic can be helpful in relieving symptoms.

To summarize, make efforts toward healing this and you will heal.

teaching yoga
Gina, Teaching yoga in Florida

About the Author:

For over a decade, Gina has been a practicing Licensed Massage Therapist in Florida.  Over the years she has added personal trainer, yoga teacher, and certified continuing education to her resume.  She specializes in seniors, post injury care, PTSD and post rehab care.  Sharing knowledge is her passion. MA45474

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