Using Massage to Manage Pain from Sciatica

Sep 12, 2019

Anyone suffering from sciatica knows that the pain can be unbearable at times. This means that sciatica can seriously impact a person’s quality of life, making every day tasks such as sitting, sleeping or walking difficult. Finding relief can be hard, but in most cases of acute sciatica pain, symptoms have proven to respond well to safe-care practices such as massage. Find out how below.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a painful condition where nerve pain arises from the sciatic nerve. This large nerve starts in the lower back, and runs down through the hips, buttocks and the back of each leg. Sciatica can occur when pressure is applied to the sciatic nerve, but is often the byproduct of a slipped disc, pinched nerve, or a form of arthritis.

While the sciatic nerve runs down both legs, sciatica typically affects just one side. Pain can vary from mild to severe, depending on the cause of the nerve pressure. It’s often accompanied by symptoms such as a dull and constant ache, throbbing, tingling, numbness and weakness radiating down from the lower back, side of the hip, buttock and side of the leg

Another common cause of sciatica is lower back tightness, which can occur as a result of excessive or heavy weight-bearing exercises, crossing the legs or sitting for extended amounts of time, and even pregnancy. While causes of sciatica vary, relief can be found using self-care methods such as massage.

How massage can help sciatica

Since sciatica can cause tight muscles in the lower back and legs, relief and recovery may be obtained from deep tissue massage techniques (which our covered in our own Deep Tissue Massage for Common Injuries course). These types of massage can help resolve common Sciatica symptoms by:

  • Loosening and relaxing tight muscles
  • Encouraging the release of natural pain-fighting endorphins
  • Promoting blood circulation to inflamed areas
  • Alleviating nerve compression.

It’s important to understand that sciatica is a set of symptoms and not a disease that can be treated by massage alone. However, the symptoms of sciatica are proven to respond well to massage. In a study of 400 sufferers of lower back pain, recipients reported improved function and less pain after receiving massage treatment. Another study also found that deep tissue massage can provide even recovery from lower back pain.

Massage’s main benefit for sufferers of sciatica is soothing tight, sore or tense muscles. This is because when muscles are tight, they put added pressure on your nerves. Therefore, massage can resolve sciatica symptoms by relaxing the muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve. Secondly, massage stimulates the body’s feel-good hormones and induces relaxation, which is beneficial for sciatica sufferers who find it hard to sleep or gain sufficient rest and relaxation due to the pain they experience.

How to find the right massage therapist for sciatica

If you’re suffering from sciatica, you may want to try massage therapy to help relieve your symptoms, or in some cases fix it. While doing a quick online or directory search can show dozens of massage therapists in your area, you want to choose a qualified massage therapist who has experience treating sciatica symptoms. To do this, you can ask friends and families for consultation, and search the International Institute for Complementary Therapists’ database.

When you meet with your massage therapist, you should tell them your symptoms and, if possible, the cause of your sciatica pain to help them administer the best treatment for you. Massage for sciatica pain may require multiple sessions depending on pain severity, but relief can be felt straight away. It’s important to also manage your sciatica in between sessions by avoiding any activity that may worsen symptoms or that caused the sciatic pain in the first place.

For most, sciatica pain symptoms can be improved from regular massage which can help to assist treatment. However, you need to remember that massage therapy isn’t a ‘cure-all’ for sciatica, and if your sciatica is caused by a herniated or slipped disc or other joint-related causes, it is recommended you consult a chiropractor for a treatment plan.

Choose a qualified massage therapist

Choosing a qualified massage therapist to treat and manage your sciatica is essential. Make sure your chosen therapist has credentials with Discover Massage Australia. A qualified massage therapist will be skilled in administering all modalities of massage, including deep-tissue and full body relaxation massage for sciatica pain.

Cameron Aubrey

Cameron Aubrey has over 20 years experience in the massage industry, and leads the team as Course Director at Discover Massage Australia. Cameron holds a Diploma in Remedial Massage, and his expertise runs across a large range of massage techniques, particularly sports, Swedish and whole body massage.