I have many clients and guests complaining of sciatica, so I’d like to give my thoughts on the subject, since I too suffer from this painful condition from time to time. The sciatic nerve is the largest in the body and originates in the area of the sacrum (the triangular bone between the upper buttocks) and travels down the back of each thigh.
It then divides and innervates the whole lower leg and into the foot. No wonder this condition can be so debilitating!
Firstly let’s distinguish between sciatic-like pain and true sciatica. True sciatica usually goes the entire length of the nerve so that the painful effects are felt all the way down the leg. Sciatic-like pain usually goes to the knee only. I am no doctor and am only speaking from my experience of working with many people over the years. I work very cautiously with true sciatica because it often indicates damage to a low back disc from trauma or deterioration. These changes put pressure on the sciatic nerve and the results are pain, numbness and tingling. In this case, massage will not fix the problem but can often provide welcome, drugless relief while stretching and strengthening or surgery (just 2 of several options) are considered.
Sciatic-like pain often comes from compression of the nerve by the piriformis muscle in the buttocks. The sciatic runs either in front of, behind, or in some cases through the middle of this hard working muscle, so when it is tight, the sciatic is affected. There can still have been trauma, like a fall, but often the person had poor sleeping or sitting posture, they sat too long, walked too much or moved a certain way, causing the sacrum to go out of alignment and put an unnatural pull on the piriformis. This condition responds well to deep, cumulative massages to loosen the piriformis and allow the sacrum to realign (either on its own or with chiropractic help).
The more we know about how our body works, the better off we are in finding solutions to everyday challenges. Always check with your doctor and ask about massage therapy; more and more physicians are knowledgeable about how massage can dovetail with their protocol.
In a previous newsletter I described how to use a tennis ball to alleviate minor buttock and hip pain. Use it between massages to keep your muscles loose, but don’t forget to stretch the buttocks area often as well, for best results.
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