Sciatica is a common inflammatory pain emanating from the sciatic nerve. The nerve originates at the base of your spine and runs down each leg. Due to the vast area covered by the nerve, pain can be felt in different body parts for different individuals.
It can be a debilitating condition but can sports massage help sciatica? Thankfully it can. It will help to reduce the pain and improve your quality of life. Here we’ll take a closer look at exactly why it helps and the importance of finding a great physiotherapist.
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Symptoms of sciatica
Although your symptoms may vary, generally sciatic pain can have the following indicators:
- Sharp pain in one (or rarely, both) legs with some discomfort and/or numbness
- Lower back pain (generally, this may be where the pain initially generates, moving down the leg with time)
- Pain or numbness in your buttock, hamstring, calf, or feet may also result from issues with the sciatic nerve.
- Weakness or tingling in your leg without pain
If any of these pains are severe, it’s important to see a doctor. While you can go straight to a physiotherapist, a doctor will ensure that it’s definitely sciatica you’re struggling from, advise on the best treatment and rule out other conditions.
Your doctor or physiotherapist will diagnose the condition, generally after conducting several physical tests and assessing your physical and genetic history.
Your physiotherapist might also need information about previous injuries, ailments, bowel movement or bladder problems, cancers, and weight history. This history helps rule out any serious triggers for sciatic pain, such as bone fractures, infections, or other conditions.
Generally, you will not be required to undertake any detailed imaging tests. However, in some cases, when the pain persists beyond eight weeks, further assessments and evaluation might be required to double down on the underlying trigger for the pain.
Types of Massage Therapy for Sciatica
If you have been diagnosed with sciatica, there are several massage therapies that you can explore. Some of the therapies that are popular for sciatica are:
- Sports massage
- Deep tissue massage
- Swedish massage
- Neuromuscular massage
- Myofascial release
Each massage therapy is different and might yield varying degrees of benefit for different people. Sports and deep tissue massage utilize deep finger pressure to relieve muscular and tissue tension. Regular sessions can help patients alleviate lower back pain.
Neuromuscular massage employs the additional factor of friction in addition to the deep finger technique applied in sports and deep tissue massages. This helps in relieving muscular contraction, tension, and aches.
On the other hand, Swedish massage uses a rubbing motion to help improve blood circulation and stimulate blood flow in the affected area. In addition, myofascial therapy is used for targeted massage to help patients mitigate tension which can develop due to sciatica.
Can a Sports Massage Cure Sciatica?
The short answer is no, sports massages cannot help permanently get rid of sciatica. Sciatica will naturally heal on its own, usually in a month or two. While it will go away, until it does, the pain can be very difficult to deal with.
While sports massage can’t cure sciatica, it will help them manage the symptoms associated with sciatica, such as pain in the back, tension in muscles, and poor quality of sleep. This is why a sports massage is a great idea for this condition.
The massages can help improve blood circulation and relieve the stiffness in the muscles that can develop due to sciatica. Regular massage therapy sessions can also help patients reduce their reliance on pain-relieving drugs and help them improve their overall well-being.
Other Treatments for Sciatica
In addition to physiotherapy, there are a variety of treatment options that may be recommended in the management of sciatica. Depending on the cause and severity of the symptoms, different medications can provide relief from pain.
Pain relievers such as paracetamol, NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen), and opioids (such as codeine) can help alleviate discomfort caused by nerve inflammation. Additionally, certain muscle relaxants or anticonvulsant medications prescribed for neuropathic pain may be beneficial.
Corticosteroids injected directly into the affected area can also reduce swelling and provide long-term relief from sciatica. Alternatively, some patients opt for alternative medicine remedies like acupuncture or chiropractic treatments to manage their symptoms.
In the worse cases, surgery may be required. This is usually when you have severe, long-lasting pain. This procedure, called lumbar decompression surgery, involves removing pressure from the nerve. Recovery time will be approximately 4 to 6 weeks.
It is important to discuss all of these options with your doctor to determine which course of treatment would best suit your needs.
Can Sports Massage Make Sciatica Worse?
While sports massages have been shown to improve the physical condition of people who suffer from sciatica, it is important to find a therapist that understands your condition and has relevant experience dealing with patients who experienced sciatic pain.
Your massage therapist will need to discuss your history and symptoms to understand your pain better and devise the best possible roadmap for your therapy. It’s important to optimize the frequency and intensity of sessions that best suit your physical condition.
Also, it is important for you to discuss a post-massage plan with your massage therapist. Some stretching and self-massage techniques are usually recommended, but it is important to avoid overdoing them as they can exacerbate the pain you have been experiencing. It would help if you also discussed the triggers of sciatic pain with your massage therapist.
You will need to observe and note actions or routines that have initiated or worsened the pain you are trying to relieve. In most cases, routine tasks such as taking a flight of stairs or standing for too long in one spot can act as catalysts for sciatic pain, and you will need to alter your routine so that these triggers can be avoided or mitigated.
If you have been experiencing any discomfort, weakness, tingling, or pain in your spine or lower body, it’s generally a good idea to pay a visit to your doctor or physiotherapist if the pain persists beyond a couple of days.
While sports massage can’t cure sciatica, it will help to lessen your pain while the body heals itself. This will allow you to carry on with your daily activities and reduce your reliance on painkillers. With a combination of rest, painkillers and massage, you’ll be back to your best in no time.