The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. Beginning at the lower back and extending down through the buttocks and leg, it connects the thigh, lower leg and foot muscles, as well as most of the skin on the leg, to the body’s nervous system.
A number of issues in the different muscles and areas of the body connected to the sciatic nerve can lead to it becoming compressed. This is commonly known as sciatica, and can cause severe pain and discomfort in the leg, hip and lower back. While sciatic pain should be treated in consultation with a physician and may require medication or even surgery, massage therapy can play a valuable role providing relief for those with sciatic complaints.
Sciatica is usually caused by other conditions affecting areas or muscles along the sciatic nerve. The nerve can be pinched by a specific injury or develop over time as result of a chronic problem. Some of the most common conditions which can lead to Sciatica are:
Students pursuing their massage therapy diploma can identify sciatica by testing for common symptoms such as shooting pains, numbness, and tingling that extends from the lower back down into the leg, and sometimes the foot. Sciatic pain usually occurs on just one side of the body, and can range from mild or infrequent pain to severe discomfort.
Because sciatica is usually caused by an underlying condition, RMTs will generally focus their treatment on the area causing the issue. For instance, a common cause of sciatic pain is tightness or spasms in the piriformis, which is located in the buttocks near the top of the hip joint, while complaints in other muscles such as the hamstrings, psoas, the quadratus lumborum, and the quadratus fermoris can also result in sciatic issues.
In each of these cases, therapeutic massage college students may find that trigger point therapy treatment consisting of concentrated pressure to the problematic areas can be beneficial, reducing lactic acid buildup and increasing oxygen and blood flow to the muscles to reduce spasms.
Effleurage, petrissage and frictions can also be beneficial to patients with sciatic problems when applied to the muscles in the lower back and buttocks.
While there has been little specific research into massage and sciatica, patients with sciatic complaints have been included in more general studies on lower back pain. A 2001 study by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami demonstrated the effectiveness of massage therapy in reducing lower back pain and improving range of motion in a group of twenty-four adults.
A further 2011 study conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine also showed positive results. Patients received both, a standard Swedish massage for relaxation, and a more structured treatment targeting the area of complaint. As a result, the two groups reported improvements.
Want to find out more about therapeutic massage training?
Contact us to learn more about our program.