Is Massage Good For Sciatica Pain?

Category: health
Last updated on: 14/07/2018
Massage for sciatica, lower back, pain relief

Pain caused by issues with the sciatica nerve pressing against tight muscles and tendons can be eased using specific massage for sciatica. Learn more about what causes the pain and which treatment might be best for your condition.

The sciatic nerve is the longest single nerve in your body. It runs from the bottom of your spine, through your buttocks, thighs and calves all the way down to your feet.

Sciatica is the term used to describe the pain and discomfort we may experience along our sciatic nerve areas. If any part of your sciatic nerve is pressed or squeezed beyond its normal placement, this can lead to a sharp pain radiating from your lower back all the way down to your feet. The pain can be very uncomfortable and irritating and it is estimated that nearly half of us will suffer from it at some stage in our lives. Massage can help with sciatica problems.


Independent research

In 2014, research published by The Scientific World Journal claimed that deep tissue massage can reduce lower back pain. We believe this claim is accurate and true. It is supported by empirical evidence throughout the world as well as numerous other scientific studies including a recent study comparing the effects of 2 types of massage on chronic low back pain. This supporting study randomly selected 400 people who had all suffered with lower back pain for a period of at least 3 months and divided them into three groups:

Group 1 - participants received weekly full-body relaxation massages (lucky them!)

Group 2 - participants received weekly lower back and hip area massages (lucky them too!)

Group 3 - participants were asked to continue with their usual non-massage care (such as taking pain medications or muscle relaxants, seeing a doctor or doing nothing at all)

After 10 weeks, members of Groups 1 and 2, namely those who had been receiving weekly massage therapy, reported greater average improvements than those in Group 3, who had not received regular massages. In fact, over 35% of the participants in the massage receiving groups reported huge improvements in lower back pain to the point that their pain had nearly or completely disappeared altogether. This compared to only 4% of Group 3 participants reporting the same. Other participants of the massage groups reported less dramatic improvements, but even their improvements were greater than those reported back by those using non-massage remedies such as Ibuprofen. Interestingly, it did not really seem to matter whether the participants had received full-body relaxation massages or targeted lower back massages. Massage just seemed to have a beneficial effect overall.


Is massage or a chiropractor better for sciatica?

The jury is out on that one but the independent research above suggested simple full-body relaxing massage had better results. We believe the better feedback achieved through massage could be due to the release of natural pain relieving hormones, as discussed below.


Happy hormones & massage

Release of endorphins, oxytocin and serotonin (commonly called your Happy Hormones) are renowned for being effective natural pain relievers and generally helping make you feel calmer. Simply spending time with friends, having a calmer approach to issues and even just touching others such as hugging someone can all help release happy hormones into your body. It is perhaps therefore not surprising that getting regular massages - especially from a masseuse that you trust and feel empathy with - is an excellent and effective way to promote the release of natural pain relieving endorphins and other happy hormones. This may be one of the most important aspects that led to the research study participants reporting improvements in their lower back pain.


Is a deep tissue a good massage for sciatica?

The idea behind using deep tissue massage for relief of sciatica is that the Piriformis muscles sits deep inside the buttocks and, if tense, could cause compression of the sciatic nerve. Massage of the Piriformis muscle could help it to relax and therefore reduce the pressure on the nerve.


Gentle stretching

As well as massage we have also found that focussed and appropriate exercise and in particular, stretches, can work wonders. One of our favourite videos for effectively treating sciatica pain through gentle and focused stretching is the one published by Fitness Blender. Over the last several years we have repeatedly found the tips in this video help many customers with many reporting significant improvement felt immediately after the stretching session. Some of our massage therapists use very similar moves as part of their gentle stretches which form part of their overall full-body massage treatment.


Can massage worsen sciatica?

There is no evidence that a properly performed massage for sciatica can worsen the issue. To the contrary, as discussed above, there are many reasons why massage, especially gentle massage, can have a beneficial effect on sciatic pain.


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