Can complementary medicine methods like a medical massage help reduce sciatica pain?
That pain that seems to run all the way down the outside of your leg, sometimes radiating in a way that feels like you are being poked by a thousand needles and other times more of an aching numbness, is called sciatica. The name comes from the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body. It starts in the lower region of the back and runs through the buttocks and hips and continues on down past the knee.
Sciatic nerve pain is typically the result of something putting pressure on the nerve. A bone spur that has developed on the spine may be the culprit, or the cause may be a narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) or a herniated disk. When any of these happen, the result is inflammation and compression of the nerve, which, in turn, causes the pain that seems to shoot down the leg.
Hearing someone say “my sciatica is acting up” has been fairly common for a long time. That the condition has been a familiar one does not make it any less significant. Those struggling with sciatica are often in ongoing and severe discomfort. The most extreme cases can even lead to bladder and bowel issues and may even require surgery. That said, the good news is that most cases are not that serious and can be remedied with far more conservative treatment options.
Treatment Options for Sciatica
Sciatic nerve pain that is acute and doesn’t last for more than a couple months can usually be treated at home with over the counter pain meds, some light exercise and using ice to reduce inflammation and heat to ease pain. If the pain is more severe or if it is still present beyond eight weeks, professional healthcare assistance will be needed. Your doctor will likely recommend some combination of:
- Prescription medication for pain and reducing inflammation
- Chiropractic care
- Physical therapy
- Pain management consultation
- Complementary medicine techniques, such as acupuncture, yoga, PEMF therapy and medical massage
Medical Massage for Sciatica
Many people view massage primarily as a feel-good treat. Others see its benefit when it comes to releasing stress and working out aches and pains. More and more, however, massage is being used as a therapeutic tool and is one of the most often prescribed forms of complementary or alternative medicine.
What changes a regular massage into a “medical” massage? The main difference is that a medical massage has a specific target; a medically diagnosed condition with a defined outcome as the goal. One indicator that massages are being recognized as acceptable forms of patient care is that insurance companies have begun approving reimbursement for those that were prescribed by doctors.
Massage, especially deep tissue massage, has been found to be effective at reducing the pain of sciatica. One study showed that it can work just as well as anti-inflammatory drugs in reducing the lower back pain associated with sciatica. Massage is believed to accomplish this by relaxing the muscles in the lower back and legs, which reduces some of the pressure on the sciatic nerve, and, also, by promoting the release of endorphins. When these hormones surge through the body, the result is an increased feeling of well-being and less pain.
Today, healthcare professionals are recognizing the benefits of incorporating traditional medical practices with complementary techniques. Not only does this respect the different preferences and belief systems of individual patients, but the result is also better care
At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our physicians are committed to more than just treating your symptoms. We strongly believe that each individual is best served through an integrative treatment plan. We focus on finding the underlying cause and providing non-surgical, evidenced-based solutions tailored to your specific condition and needs. If you are experiencing pain or have questions about any condition or service, we invite you to schedule a consultation by using our convenient online form by clicking here.