Massage for sciatica relief may not be the first treatment that comes to mind when you think of sciatica, but it can be a very practical, non-surgical option. If you have tried other treatments with little or no success, you may want to talk to your doctor about massage therapy.
The sciatic nerve is actually made up of a collection of nerve roots in the lower spine that combine to form the sciatic nerve.
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It travels on both sides of your body from the lower spine all the way down to your feet. Sciatica is pain that travels along the sciatic nerve and is an indication that the sciatic nerve roots are inflamed or irritated.
Sciatica is not a diagnosis, but rather a symptom of a spinal problem, often the result of a nerve being pinched by a herniated disk in your back.
Common symptoms of sciatica can include shooting pain, tingling, or numbness, usually down one leg, even into the toes.
You feel the pain at different points in your lower body depending on which nerve root is impinged. So, you may feel the pain in your calf, or in your toes, for example.
I have pain that radiates to my ankle and sometimes my toes.
There are a lot of different treatment options available for sciatica pain. Every person’s body is different, and each injury is unique, different treatments work for different people.
Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all method for dealing with sciatica pain.
Some treatment options for sciatica include:
- Oral medication, including anti-inflammatories (like Advil or Aleve), or painkillers
- Epidural steroid injections, which are targeted anti-inflammatory shots
- Chiropractic adjustments
- Inversion therapy
- Surgery (hopefully only a worst case scenario)
There are other methods as well, but in this post, I want to focus on massage therapy.
Can massage therapy help?
The benefits of massage therapy include:
- Loosening tight muscles that can put stress on your nerve roots, which help to prevent pinching and irritation
- Massage can help to release endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller
- Help to encourage nutrients and blood to flow to the injured area
This article from WebMD outlines a study of 400 people suffering from moderate-to-severe low back pain. Participants were randomly assigned to massage therapy or usual care.
The group in usual care dealt with back pain on their own, medication, physical therapy, chiropractic, or nothing at all.
After 10 weeks, the massage group showed more significant improvement than those in the usual care group. About 1/3 of the patients in the massage group said their pain was nearly or completely gone, compared to 4% in the usual care group.
The study does go on to say that massage alone should not be used to banish low back pain, but exercise should be incorporated as well.
But it does go to show that massage can definitely help you to get on the road to recovery which will allow you to get back to exercise, which is the best way to beat back pain.
Types of massage that may help
Trigger point massage, though not as relaxing as what you would expect from a massage can definitely provide some relief. Trigger points are areas that cause pain to other parts of your body, so a trigger point massage can provide comfort through a series of pressure and release cycles. This can be somewhat tough to tolerate, but if you can brave it, you may get some quick relief.
Deep tissue massage, also not super relaxing, but can provide some pain relief as well. I mentioned earlier that tight muscles can pressure the nerve roots, and cause sciatica flare-ups. Releasing the strain of the tight muscles on the nerves is the goal here. Also, the release of endorphins can help to reduce the pain you are feeling.
At the end of the day, you will want to check with your doctor and see if you are a candidate for massage therapy.
How to find a massage therapist
Well, this may be as easy as an internet search or asking your friends and family for a referral. Then again it may not be so easy.
You definitely want to find a massage therapist that has experience working with sciatica patients. They will know what techniques to perform and if any, what not to perform. So, you may have to do some homework to find the right fit for you.
The ultimate goal is to provide you with pain relief, and help you get back to a healthy life as soon as possible.
Ask your doctor if he or she knows of a great massage therapist who works with sciatica specifically. This can potentially save you a lot of time and research.
You may also want to check with The American Massage Therapy Association and see if you can find someone qualified in your area.
Finally, you might want to check and see if there is a massage school that may have instructors who teach the proper techniques for sciatica patients. These instructors may provide massages themselves, or be able to direct you to the right person.
If you are looking for other options, you might even want to consider a massage chair. Massage chairs are pretty expensive, and nothing will be quite as good as the real thing, but you would be able to have a great massage whenever you want one.
Check out my post “Best Massage Chairs” for more information.
Other benefits of massage
Although massage therapy may not be the end-all treatment for you, it can help to improve your pain level, and hopefully take your mind off the pain.
Honestly, any type of massage will help you feel better, and increased endorphins will promote healing and reduce pain.
Wrapping up: Massage for sciatica relief
If you are dealing with sciatica and have tried other treatment options, you may want to talk to your doctor about massage therapy. There are a lot of significant benefits a massage can provide.
Even if the massage does not entirely alleviate your pain, this can be part of a well-rounded program to help you along the way.
Massage might be just the thing you need to reduce your pain level enough to begin exercising, which is one of the best ways to beat sciatica.
As with any sciatica treatment program, what works for one person may not work for another. There can be any number of reasons why you are dealing with sciatica, and no one treatment works for everyone.
A massage takes care of your entire body and helps to get the kinks and knots out that are affected by sciatica.
As always, thank you for taking some time out of your day.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I will get back you just as soon as I can.