Massage Therapy Treatment for Sciatica
Massage therapy can provide tremendous relief for most any complaint that is musculo-skeletal in nature. And because massage therapy is a natural medicine, it has benefits beyond the obvious; indeed, massage can help you with improving your immune system and even relieving you of feelings of depression! One of the best ways that massage helps with your musculo-skeletal system, however, is by helping to treat sciatica. Sciatica is essentially a term for any pain that affects your lower back, hip, and leg. Usually the pain only affects one leg or the other, and may not even be felt in your back but just one of your legs alone. The reason it is called 'sciatica' is that the pain appears to radiate along the pathway of your sciatic nerve, which starts in the lumbar and sacral regions of your spinal cord. The nerve (actually a bundle of five separate nerves in the beginning) then exits from this region (aka the lumbosacral area), passes behind your hip joint, and runs down the back of your thigh, where it splits again into now only two separate nerves: the peroneal nerve (which travels down the outside of your lower leg to the top of your foot) and the tibial nerve (which passes through your calf muscle and into your heel and sole of your foot). Therefore, sciatic pain can travel quite a distance, affecting in addition to your lower back, a large part or portions thereof, your leg.
The causes of sciatica generally include spinal disc herniation, spinal stenosis (where your spinal cord is compressed for a number of possible reasons), piriformis muscle inflammation, pregnancy, or other issues such as a tumour or trauma of some kind. Before seeking natural therapy, be sure to have your doctor rule out anything that might require surgery or extreme medical intervention. Where your doctor can find no reason for your pain or offer no distinct medical treatment other than medication and exercise, massage therapy may work as an excellent adjunct.
Massage therapy works in a number of ways to affect relief of your sciatica pain. For example, when you're being massaged, something called the relaxation response occurs, whereby your nervous system involuntarily returns to normal. This is basically the opposite of the fight-or-flight response, where your body responds to stress by elevating your blood pressure and increasing your heart rate. Another way massage therapy helps you is by improving your circulation and lymph drainage, thus helping your body eliminate toxins that have been building up in your tissues. In addition, your nerve conduction will improve, as nerves have an easier time growing and functioning in well-conditioned muscle.
When you combine the benefits of massage therapy with the pain and discomfort of sciatica, excellent results can be achieved. Sometimes it takes more than one session to fully relieve all of your pain, but if you're willing to do the right exercise and take the advice of your properly trained, registered massage therapist, you will find the relief that you've been looking for.
By Richard Lobbenberg, BSc BHSc DAc
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