Sciatica is characterized by pain in the lower back and buttock, which travels down the leg, usually to the knee. This is caused by pressure placed on the Sciatic nerve, which branches out from the spinal column at the base of the spine and travels down the back of each leg. Sometimes this pressure is applied by a disk herniation or vertebral displacement, but more often is the result of hypertension in the Gluteus muscles, or the Piriformis. As the Gluteus muscles are essential for pulling the leg back, and the Piriformis for rotating the leg so the foot travels inward and the knee outward, both can be weakened and stretched through extended periods of sitting, particularly with bad posture or on uncomfortable chairs.
When these muscles are stretched, they tighten and place pressure on the Sciatic nerve. If the nerve is pinched, signals cannot transmit properly, and the irregularly firing neurons report this blockage as pain. Pain can range from slight to excruciating, with potential for numbness, jolts of pain, or a burning sensation. Often, sneezing or coughing can aggravate it.
If Sciatica is the result of injury, the physician may recommend surgery, but often physical therapy and massage, with conscious thought placed on ergonomics, can have a profound effect on pain management and mitigation.
If one starts feeling the sensations of burning or tingling in the lower back and one leg, one should see their Massage Therapist soon, as they will be able to assess the lower back and Gluteus muscles to determine if it is muscular in origin. The Therapist will treat the muscles of the hips and back, easing and loosening any pressure around the Sciatic nerve, which should reduce the symptoms. One should also look at their daily life to determine what may have caused the symptoms. Do they have a desk job? Are they sedentary? Did they suffer an injury? Diabetes may also play a role in Sciatica, so they should speak to their physician if that could be an issue.
Once Sciatica has been determined to be of muscular origin, a regular regimen of Massage and Stretching should be implemented. There are many stretches and rudimentary exercises that are effective to release and strengthen the Gluteus muscles and the Piriformis, including Yoga poses like Pigeon Pose. Please, speak to your Massage Therapist or Physical Therapist about appropriate stretches or exercises for your level of fitness.
If symptoms become severe, or you lose control of bowel or bladder, please consult your physician.