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Sciatica Massage: What’s the Best Sciatica Pain Massage?

Question:

I quietly endured lower back pain for years before I finally talked to my doctor about it. After submitting to a number of tests, my doctor ultimately diagnosed me with sciatica. Drugs have offered me some relief, but I’m hesitant to continue a narcotic pain regimen that does nothing to eliminate the cause of my pain. Is there a particular massage that could help treat my sciatic nerve pain?

Answer:

Over time, regular massage therapy can address the cause of your sciatic nerve pain and reduces the need for narcotic pain medication. In fact, studies have shown that massage therapy reduces the intake of pain killers by as much as a third compared to other forms of treatment. For this reason, deep tissue massage is one of the more common treatments for sciatic pain. If you want to avoid dependence on narcotic pain medications, massage therapy is an excellent choice.

The sciatic nerve is actually a bundle of nerves that runs from your lower back down into your thighs.[i] You may suffer sciatica if you smoke or are under acute stress. Pain also is common among adults between the ages of 45 and 64. Sciatica can also be caused by frequent bending and twisting, such as if you lift weights regularly.[ii] Frequently, inflamed muscles or knots can place too much pressure on your sciatic nerves, leading to excruciating pain. The good news is that these knots can be loosened with deep tissue massage.

Your treatment typically will begin with the massage therapist carefully assessing specified target regions where you’re feeling the most pain. If you have muscle spasms, constant pressure to those muscles can help them relax. As your muscles relax, spasms decrease and stop the compression of your nerves. Deep pressure also increases circulation in the area, which can help release areas of chronic tension and decrease the pressure on your nerves.

Deep tissue massage involves intense pressure. Be forewarned that for many people, the experience itself is less relaxing than a Swedish massage. Think of the soreness you experience after an intense workout, or after you’ve stretched extensively. A deep tissue massage will feel like this, but likely to a greater extent. The real relief and ability to relax will come after the massage is over. Don’t schedule your massage immediately before you plan to participate in a physically strenuous event, and be prepared to feel sore the next day.

As the kinks loosen, you’ll likely start to notice a decrease in your sciatic nerve pain. Deep tissue massage works best if you schedule massage treatment on a regular basis – say, once a week, or once every other week.[iii] Your massage therapist may not be able to go as deep as they need to go in just one session. Repeatedly working the same muscles can help the massage therapist go into deeper layers. To get the maximum effect from this treatment, consider rebooking with the same massage therapist. To ensure you can order a massage when it’s convenient for you, take notes that you can share with any other therapist you use.

References:

[i] Pacific College of Oriental Medicine: “Massage Treatment for Sciatica Relief” https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2014/12/15/massage-treatment-sciatica-relief

[ii] BMJ: “Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1895638/

[iii] Pain Science: “Massage Therapy for Back Pain, Hip Pain, and Sciatica” https://www.painscience.com/articles/spot-06-gluteus-medius.php

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