The lower back a.k.a the lumbar area of the spine is a very sensitive region. It is extremely vulnerable to stress and injuries as it is the most flexible part of the spine. The lumbar spine holds the entire body together supporting your weight and aiding in balanced movement. Being solely responsible for all these functions, the lumbar area suffers a lot of stress at the hands of bad posture and mishandling of your spine.
The most common problem associated with the lumbar spine is Sciatica pain. The modern sedentary lifestyle has further enhanced the development of this extremely painful condition. Through this article today we will share information to enlighten you about sciatica pain and the possible massage therapies which can remedy this displeasing condition too.
What is Sciatica pain?
The sciatic nerve is a long nerve that runs all the way from your lower back to the end of the leg. The nerve has a function of making you feel sensations like touch, heat, cold and pain. There can be conditions which can lead to this nerve being pressed somewhere in the spine or the buttock. When this happens you feel a sensation of pain originating from the lower back, going to the buttock and the traveling all the way to back of the thigh and leg. The pain can be a mild ache, a dull pain or a sharp severe agonizing pain which totally impairs functioning. Numbness, tingling, and other funny sensations can also be felt in the said areas, owing to the compression of the sciatic nerve.
What can cause Sciatica pain?
There can be a variety of causes leading to Sciatica pain and all of them cause a debilitating and disabling condition which hinders with normal day to day activities. We have listed some of the most common causes for you.
Herniated vertebral disc
The spine is held together with bony segments (vertebrae). In between these bony segments is a pulpy and rubbery tissue (intervertebral disk) which holds two segments together. If this tissue starts to stick out then a multitude of problems are created and one of them is Sciatica pain. The herniated disk can compress the sciatic nerve and cause the production of pain. Excessive body weight, excessive sitting, genetics, and jobs demanding to lift, pushing, bending and twisting all increase the risk of developing a herniated disk. A herniated disk is the most frequent cause of sciatica pain.
Lumbar spinal stenosis
The spinal cord rests in a cavity made by the bony structure of the spine. With increasing age, this cavity may start to get narrow leading to sciatic nerve compression and causing sciatica pain.
The piriformis is a muscle which is attached to the bone in the buttock. Tightness and soreness of the piriformis muscle can compress the nerve roots coming from the lower back and cause shooting pains which travel through the sciatic nerve and hence lead to the development of sciatica.
Injuries like motor vehicle accidents and crush injuries, can cause damage to the bony spine and lead to sciatica due to compressed and damaged nerves.
Massage techniques to kill Sciatica pain
Popping painkillers and investing in expensive medications to relieve your sciatica pain can be a short-lived and physically damaging therapy. Yoga, acupressure, and physical therapy can all be tried to relieve sciatica but massage has been deemed the most beneficial. Trying something purely natural like a massage helps the muscles around the affected area to be loosened and the inflammation to subside exponentially. Muscles affected by sciatica pain get tight and sore. Massaging them leads to the release of built-in toxic materials like the pain causing ‘lactate’ and this leads to the pain being relieved.
Fascia is a type of tissue which surrounds all the cells, tissues and structure of the body and myofascia in particular, refers to fascia surrounding the muscles. Myofascia is a three-dimensional structure and covers a muscle from all sides. Making use of myofascial release massage technique for sciatica especially targets the myofascia which are rich in water and collagen and this makes it very sensitive to massage therapy.
Gently massaging the muscles for myofascial release creates movements which take the pressure off of nerves and muscles which are tight and sore leading to better mobility. Due to the three dimensional structure of the myofascia, the effect of this massage therapy is greatly enhanced.
Myofascial release can be performed by trained massage therapists and physiotherapists. However, if you are looking for saving money and would not want to visit a therapist then the myofascial release can be performed at home all by yourself.
The tennis ball massage is a well-known method of a myofascial release therapy. All you need are two tennis balls in a cloth or sock.
- Place the cloth containing the tennis balls on the floor.
- Now gently sit down on the floor such that your knees are bent and the feet are flat on the ground with the balls behind your back.
- Slowly, start reclining yourself down on the floor till the tennis balls touch the tender and sore areas of the back and if possible stay in the same posture for a minute.
- Keep moving the balls to other areas of the back when the tension from one area is relieved.
- End by rolling onto your side with your arm under your head, assuming a fetal position.
- Rest in the said posture for five minutes before getting up.
Trigger point therapy
Trigger point therapy is also known as neuromuscular massage. Trigger points are areas in the body which hold pain and inflammation and compressing or stimulating them by touch cause the pain to be transmitted to other areas as well. It is a hyperirritable spot and can be extremely painful even if slightly touched. Trigger points can lead to sciatica pain too by irritating and causing inflammation of the muscles in the buttock, thighs, and legs. Trigger points are especially painful when in the ‘active phase’ and can send shooting pains down your whole back and leg.
Relieving sciatica pain by targeting trigger points through massage is quite an effective therapy. An easy and convenient way to deliver a trigger point massage is by the palm and thumb pressure massage technique.
- Place your palms on your lower back such that the fingers are touching the sides of your lower belly and the thumbs your back.
- Grip the muscles of the back firmly in the cavity created by your palms.
- Target the ropey muscles around your spine by gently yet firmly compressing small areas with your thumbs, having a distance of around 4 inches between thumbs.
- Keep compressing the muscles with your thumbs while gliding the hands down to the buttocks.
- Take care to apply adequate pressure so that you do not experience a discomfort of any sort.
Deep tissue massage
Deep tissue massage employs methods like stripping and friction to get rid of scar tissue, knots or adhesions which lead to muscular or nervous pain like sciatica. Knots or adhesions in muscles cause tightness and disrupt blood flow which can ultimately lead to nerve irritation. Deep tissue massage not only takes care of sciatica stricken aching muscles by loosening and relaxing the tissues, it also provides you with an increased range of motion.
Deep tissue massage can feel a little uncomfortable in the beginning as the pain is slightly worsened often at the very first session. But consistently performed deep tissue massage can cure sciatica and heal the nerve and muscles. Deep tissue massages are not recommended for people with blood clots as massaging can lead to the clots being dislodged.
A DIY method of performing deep tissue massage is stripping which makes use of the knuckles to tend to your sore and painful muscles.
- Lie down on the floor in such a manner that the knees are bent and the feet are flat touching the floor.
- Fashion your hands into fists and then place them beneath either side of your lower back.
- The placement of the fists should be such, that the palm side faces the floor while the knuckles stick to your lower back.
- The fists should be in a spot between the spine and the muscles of the lower back.
- Stay in this position for a minute or two.
- Assume a fetal position by rolling onto your side with your arm under your head for support and stay like this for five minutes before getting up.
These massage therapy techniques can be further enhanced for maximum benefit by making use of personalized massaging tools.
The Kong Dog Toy, Spinal roller, Knobble and Body Back Buddy are all massaging equipments which can be used instead of your hands to deliver either a myofascial release, trigger point therapy or a deep tissue massage.
Also check this great video by Rebel Massage: