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How Massage Can Ease Sciatic Pain

Massage therapy provides a promising way to help ease your sciatica pain1 through a combination of:

  • Relaxing tight muscles

  • Improving blood circulation

  • Reducing stress

  • Fostering a better healing environment.


Sciatica Treatment

Massage therapy is a commonly overlooked treatment for sciatic pain.


The specific benefits of massage on the tissues of your lower back, guidance on finding a good massage therapist, and simple tips for self-administered massages are highlighted below.


The effects of massage on nerves and soft tissues

Depending on the type of massage, a therapist may work on your muscles, joints, nerves, and/or layers of connective tissue deep below your skin. A few examples of massage techniques include deep tissue massage, trigger-point therapy, and neuromuscular therapy.

A massage can cause the following changes to occur in your body, easing the sciatica pain:

  • Loosen and relax muscles. When your trunk, core, and lower back muscles are tight, they can apply pressure on the sciatic nerve root(s) in your lower back. Tight muscles may also get knotted up into small painful nodules, causing trigger point pain. Massage therapy can effectively stretch, loosen, and elongate these muscles, improving pain and function in your lower back and legs

  • Facilitate the circulation of healing nutrients. Hands-on soft tissue manipulation from massage stimulates the blood vessels in your skin and deeper tissues. There is enhanced circulation of blood, oxygen, and other nutrients to the sore areas, promoting healing.

  • Release endorphins. Massage stimulates specific pressure receptors in your brain, which are special nerve fibers. Stimulation of these pressure receptors helps reduce pain by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good hormone.

  • Reduce stress. Stimulation of the pressure receptors also helps reduce the levels of cortisol in your body—the hormone that causes stress. Reduced stress helps provide a feeling of relaxation and relief, with a lesser perception of pain.


Some therapists may use aromatic oils or essential oils to rub into your skin. Some of these oils may have a therapeutic effect on tissues and help reduce pain. The scent from these oils also helps provide an overall relaxed feeling. If certain types of scents bother you, inform your therapist before you start the massage.

Massages are usually safe when performed by a trained professional. Rarely, increased pain, soreness, stiffness, and/or damage to blood vessels and/or nerves may occur from the forceful application of pressure.

Finding the right massage therapist

Therapeutic massages are typically given by qualified, trained professionals, such as massage therapists, physical therapists, sports medicine professionals, occupational therapists, and other qualified health practitioners.

Here are a few pointers to help you identify the right type of massage technique and therapist for your sciatica pain:

  • Identify your goals. Figure out what you want to accomplish before you start your search for a massage therapist. For example, if you want to relieve lower back tension, look for someone who is trained in specific muscle-relaxation techniques, such as neuromuscular therapy. If your goal is simply to raise your endorphin levels, you can head to your local therapist for a basic Swedish (deep tissue) massage.

  • Consult with your doctor. Your doctor may be able to recommend an appropriately qualified health professional who administers therapeutic massage in your area. If you have specific health conditions, such as high blood pressure or nerve problems (neuropathy) in your leg, a doctor can advise if massage is a safe option to consider for your sciatica pain.

  • Check with professional organizations. Such as VTCT, CIBTAC, BTEC etc… These associations provide a searchable list of licensed massage therapists in your area.


Reference

How Massage Can Ease Sciatic Pain. Cooper, G,MD.(2019) cited in https://www.spine-health.com/blog/massage-ease-sciatica-pain


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