The excruciating pain of sciatica, which radiates through the entire path of the sciatic nerve, can be debilitating. While the condition sometimes resolves with treatment, it can be quite severe and resistant to treatment for many people. Could massage therapy be the key to relief?
What is Sciatica?
Typically caused by a herniated disc, spinal stenosis or a bone spur on the spine pressing part of the sciatic nerve, sciatica is an exceptionally painful condition which can, in severe cases, make patients candidates for invasive surgical procedures.
Pain often radiates from the lower back through one buttock and down the back of one leg. It may be a dull ache, a searing burn or a jolting, severe pain. Coughing and sneezing may aggravate sciatica, as can sitting for long periods of time. Muscle weakness, tingling and numbness are other common complaints among those who suffer from sciatica. In most cases, only one side of the body will be affected.
Though this condition will sometimes resolve on its own, sciatica can have such a profound effect on your ability to carry out daily activities and do the things you love, that it has a negative impact on your overall quality of life.
Why Treat Sciatica with Massage Therapy?
Massage therapy is conservative, non-invasive and doesn’t involve prescription painkillers. For patients who are eagerly seeking a way to relieve their sciatica pain without potentially addictive and dangerous medications or surgical intervention, massage therapy can provide a viable treatment alternative.
Research shows that deep tissue massage can be as effective as an NSAID pain reliever for many patients, which can translate to fewer pills and lower incidences of liver, kidney and stomach irritation. A licensed and experienced massage therapist can help to ease the strain on your musculoskeletal system caused not only by your condition but also by your attempts to compensate for the pain by using other muscle groups. Massage therapy provides whole-body benefits, not just targeted sciatica relief.
Because soft tissue massage releases endorphins, it can also increase your pain threshold and boost your overall sense of well-being. Levels of cortisol, a known stress hormone, are reduced while serotonin and dopamine production increases. Your body is flooded with "feel-good" chemicals that can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, activate the relaxation response and even help you sleep soundly at night.
For patients with certain types of injury or health conditions, massage therapy may be contraindicated. Before beginning a massage therapy treatment plan, it's wise to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor. For the vast majority of patients, massage therapy is a low-risk, non-invasive treatment without prescription painkillers or surgical intervention that can have real and lasting effects on the pain of sciatica. Because of massage therapy's stress and anxiety-busting benefits, you may feel a heightened sense of overall wellness in conjunction with your reduced sciatica pain.
Establishing a care plan for sciatica with a licensed massage therapist may be the key to pain relief, increased mobility and a higher quality of life overall.