Sciatica – Can massage and Sports Therapy help?

Sciatica – Can massage and Sports Therapy help?

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a term that many people may have heard of.  In this blog Lauren Lyndon Hill (Sports Therapist, BSc (Hons) MSc) addresses if massage and Sports therapy can help sciatica. 

Sciatica is a type of pain, which is essentially caused by an irritated nerve. The sciatic nerve can become irritated through various parts and structures of the body.  For example: the vertebrae, through the muscle, or through certain movements or body positions. 

The sciatic nerve originates from the lower spine, travels down through the buttock, and branches off into numerous nerves into the feet. Due to its structure Sciatica is often associated with the nerve compression within the lower spine or pinching/rubbing through musculoskeletal structures.

In some cases, sciatica can last days, weeks and even months. This can be diagnosed through special diagnostic testing with our Sports Therapist at Keheren Therapy. Although in some cases, further imaging is required. Research conducted by Parreira et al (2018) suggested that poor general health, physical and psychological stress are some of the factors that can increase the risk of lower back pain and sciatica. In addition, more than 30% of people still have re-occurring symptoms after a year of having the onset of sciatica (Bernstein et al., 2017). 

What are the signs and symptoms of sciatica?

  • Moderate to severe pain in the lower back, buttock or down the leg
  • Changes in sensations: e.g. numbness, tingling, pins and needles, sharp pain, jolts or burning sensations.
  • Potential weakness or loss of function of leg. 
  • Often occurs in one leg

See our previous article here regarding when to see a Doctor for back pain.

What can cause sciatica?

Here are just some causes of the more common causes of sciatica:

  • Slipped/Herniated/Prolapsed Disc
  • Sacroiliac (SI) joint in the pelvis
  • Piriformis Syndrome
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Spondylolithesis
  • Pregnancy
  • Bending in an awkward or unusual position
  • Sudden action or movement

How can massage and Sports Therapy help sciatica?

Sciatic pain can cause extreme pain, also causing loss of function in some cases. With this in mind, it is so important to find the right interventions to reduce and relieve pain. 

Here at Keheren Therapy, we see many cases of sciatica. We have the rewarding job (in most cases) of relieving sciatica pain. Diagnostic assessment and testing are used to identify the causes of your pain. Based on where the pain is coming from, a treatment plan in most cases can begin to manage you pain. 

Conservative treatments are interventions involving a combination of exercises and treatments, such as:

  • Massage therapy 
  • Mobilisation techniques
  • Specialised exercises for sciatica 

The sports therapists here at Keheren Therapy will be able to tell you the likely cause of your sciatic pain. They will also be able to advise you on daily activities that can help or promote recovery. In the acute stages of sciatica, we often find that exercise based interventions work very well to help reduce pain. Hands-on techniques and exercises become more effective once the symptoms have started to calm down. In more severe cases, further imaging and/or surgery may be considered depending on patient outcome. However, in most cases, conservative treatment will usually work considerably well. 

How can massage therapy help sciatica?

Depending on what is affecting the sciatic nerve, deep tissue massage can be a very beneficial way of reducing pain. One of the main benefits of massage therapy is to sooth tense muscles, which in turn is likely to reduce pain. 

Stress is often associated to muscle tension. When muscles are tense, this can cause pressure on nerves, whether muscle structures are compressing, rubbing or pinching on the nerve. Massage therapist’s use various techniques to relax the surrounding muscular structures. Massage therapy will also increase sense of well-being by inspiring and encouraging the release of endorphins, and decreasing levels of stress hormones, which are cortisol. Calming and comforting outcome on the nervous system, can reduce muscle tension. Therefore re-energising the release of endorphin, which can improve or develop an individual’s mood. 

Here at Keheren Therapy, massage therapy is carried out on our Hydrotherm system. The client lying face up on two cushions that are filled with warm water, heated between 30-40 degrees. This means clients sciatic pain will be placed directly on heated water filled cushions which will also help significantly to relax the muscles and deliver the area with blood, to encourage healing.

Rehabilitation 

Rehabilitation is also used within conservative rehab. This is defined as specific exercises to help strengthen and mobilise tissues in the lower back, pelvis, abdomen, buttocks, and thighs. The main aim is to help relieve sciatic pain, which could occur in the lower back, buttock, thigh or leg. It is also important to restore pain-free functional movement patterns to allow individuals to return to their daily life activities or routines. 

A treatment plan should be implemented based on patient-specific assessment findings and patient tolerance. There are various structures to keep in mind while assessing and treating patients suffering from sciatica. This may include neurovascular structures and investing fascia of, such as, the lumbar spine, sacroiliac joint, gluteal muscles, hamstring, external rotators of the hip, erector spinae and quadratus lumborum. 

Although some patients have the same cause of sciatica, it is important to remember that everyone’s rehabilitation process is completely different and varied. 

Here is an example of a rehabilitation exercises commonly used by Sports Therapists for those with sciatica: 

Here is a video from Lauren our sports therapist at keheren therapy Truro explaining an exercise for sciatica

Flossing technique for sciatic pain

Education 

Our therapist’s also spend time educating clients on what the real source of their problems are. For example, what may cause the pain that’s occurring, how this may have happened and how this could potentially be avoided from re-occurring in the near future. This helps clients to gain a better understanding of their problem and how our treatment or rehabilitation is going to help them.

If you have any questions regarding if Sports Therapy and massage can help sciatica please feel free to email lauren@keherentherapy.co.uk or give us a call.

You can book your treatments via our online booking page and read more about Sports Massage or Sports Therapy on the linked pages.