Curated from the article Massage Therapy for Sciatic Nerve Pain written by Dr. Anthony Odney, D.C. and published in Massage Today on March 3, 2020.
Sciatic pain occurs when there is pain along the sciatic nerve, which extends from your lower back, through your hips and buttocks, and down each leg. Sciatica generally affects only one side of the body and can range in severity from mild to severe. This painful condition can result in sudden and sharp pain, soreness, numbness and/or tingling, and some people may struggle with walking or standing due to the pain.
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Massage Benefits for Sciatic Nerve Pain
Massage therapy is an effective way to manage pain for those suffering from sciatic nerve pain. Targeting lower back muscles and the area surrounding the sciatic nerve causes several beneficial changes to the body allowing pain relief. Here’s how:
Massage relieves lower back pain
First, massage therapy offers pain relief from lower back pain, a common symptom of sciatica. According to a 2014 study published in the Scientific World Journal, deep tissue massage may be as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for relieving lower back pain. For sciatica patients who prefer an alternative to prescription drugs, massage therapy is an ideal option.
Massage soothes tense muscles and release pressure on nerves.
Tight, tense muscles can increase pressure on nerves—including the sciatic nerve. Massage therapy, unlike other pain management therapies, begins with muscle tightness and reduces pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Massage boosts flexibility and range of motion
Massage therapy can also help with sciatic pain while moving or walking. Generally speaking, massage can increase flexibility and range of motion, which results in increased mobility and faster recovery.
Massage reduces stress and anxiety
Finally, massage therapy can help reduce stress and anxiety that can accompany sciatica pain. Relaxation can help sciatica patients cope with the stress of injury while also helping to speed recovery.
Types of Massage for Sciatica Pain
There are several different types of massage that can help relieve sciatic pain. Let’s explore the options:
Deep tissue massage
Deep tissue massage uses slow, deep strokes and deep finger pressure to release tension from muscles and connective tissue. Specifically, deep tissue massage relaxes tense muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve, which helps reduce pain in the area.
Swedish massage is a gentler technique that uses less pressure and applies flowing and kneading movements to release tension and promote relaxation for pain relief. A tight lower back can put increased pressure on inflamed sciatic nerves. Working out those tight areas can ease pressure bringing relief.
Myofascial release is a massage technique that focuses on myofascial tissues, those tough tissues that support your muscles. A myofascial release massage pinpoints trigger points in these tissues, aims to release tension for pain relief, and allows the underlying cause to better heal. For sciatic pain, myofascial release may be a good solution depending on the trigger point on your sciatic nerve.
Trigger point therapy
Trigger point therapy targets the exact location of the pain source with focused pressure and release touch. Trigger points include rigid, immovable areas within the myofascial tissues which cause pain and stiffness. This can be an effective technique for sciatica pain because it concentrates on the area containing the pinched nerve to resolve pressure and tension.
Classic Series Pro Basic table
Fluid Motion Soft Tissue Tools
Classic Series Hanging Front Arm Rest Shelf
Neuromuscular massage resolves trigger points, as well as nerve compression, postural issues and poor circulation. This multi-functional technique works to relax tight muscles and recover tissues through deep tissue pressure and friction for enhanced blood flow.
Hot stone massage
Hot stone massage uses heat to promote relaxation and to ease tense muscles. Heated stones are placed on specific places on the body to warm and relax muscles during the massage.
Talk to your doctor
People experiencing sciatic pain should speak to their primary care physicians about their symptoms to make sure massage is an appropriate option. The National Institutes of Health notes the most common underlying cause of sciatic pain in 90 percent of cases is a herniated disc. Other, more serious, conditions are also possible and need a medical diagnosis.
Sciatic pain may include:
- Lower back pain
- Burning or tingling down the leg
- Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
- Consistent pain on one side of the buttocks
If a client is experiencing any of these symptoms, refer them to their physician for diagnosis before developing a massage treatment plan focused on helping them manage their pain.