The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It runs from the lumbar spine at the lower back, moves through the buttocks and branches out to extend down both legs to the feet.  It is responsible for sensations experienced in the lower back, hips, legs, outside of the knee, upper foot as well as the heels and soles of the feet.  When the sciatic nerve is inflamed or becomes irritated (sciatica), it can cause throbbing, burning pain, numbness or tingling down the legs and may restrict mobility.

Sciatica can be caused by:

  • Spinal diseases such as:
    • compression of the spine at the lower back (Lumbar spinal stenosis)
    • bulging or herniated discs causing deterioration of the cushioning discs between vertebrae of the lower back (Spondylolisthesis)
    • Piriformis Syndrome – muscle spasms in the Piriformis, a small muscle located deep within the buttocks that attach the upper femur to the lower spine
    • tumor in the lower back that presses on the sciatic nerve
  • sports injuries or accidents that twist or damage the back or pelvis
  • Body changes during pregnancy
  • lower back or buttocks muscles that go into spasm
  • being overweight
  • lack of exercise
  • prolonged periods of lying down or sitting that cause muscles to become stiff
  • sleeping on a too hard or soft a mattress

Exercise and Sciatica

Medical experts suggest that, while seeming counterintuitive to the condition, low-impact exercises such as water aerobics, yoga or stationary bike workouts can help the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. Movement in exercise routines also increases blood flow and oxygen to tight muscles, which relax and loosen up.

Treatments for Sciatica can include a number of complementary approaches including chiropractic care, acupuncture, acupressure, application of topical materials or ice/heat treatment. The use of muscle relaxants, OTC pain relievers, and RF (radio frequency) therapy are also potential sources of relief from sciatica. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

Massage and Sciatica

One of the most effective treatments for Sciatica is massage because it can reduce inflammation in the body.

Endorphin production producing natural painkillers within the body. Deep tissue or Swedish massage can help target and loosen tightness and tension back or leg muscles that make sciatica pain worse.

Like exercise, massage can improve blood circulation which helps heal inflammation. Trigger point massage can be especially effective in treating spasms in the Piriform muscles that can be a cause of sciatica.

Safety Note:

Because sciatica can be indicative of more serious medical issues, it is best to consult your health care provider for a diagnosis to determine if massage is right for you. In some cases where the cause is structural, massage may be contraindicated. 

Although massage may not completely cure the sciatic conditions, it can support deeper relaxation within the body that can provide relief from symptoms that can allow time for the source of the inflammation to heal.

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