The sciatic nerve branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Sciatica is a condition that occurs when this nerve, which happens to be the largest nerve in the body, is irritated or inflamed, causing pain, tingling, and/or numbness. These sensations are felt along part or all of the nerve path and most often starts in the low back or the buttock and travels down the outer leg, sometimes all the way down to the foot.
Sciatica is quite common, though many may not know it’s what they’re dealing with. There are two primary causes of sciatica; Piriformis Syndrome and spinal abnormalities in the low back. Piriformis syndrome is when your piriformis muscle, a small muscle located deep in the buttock that starts at the lower spine and connects to the upper surface of the thighbone, presses onto and irritates the sciatic nerve. Due to the location of the nerve as it runs directly under this piriformis muscle (and in some people, it actually runs right through the muscle itself) sciatica is quite common to develop. The upper portion of the nerve, as it comes out of the spinal cord, is also prone to irritation from components of the spine. This could be due to stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal) or a disc issue such as a herniated or bulging disc. Any of these spinal conditions could result in pressure on the Sciatic nerve root, creating that pain and irritation felt in the hip and leg.
No matter the cause of your sciatica, massage therapy and bodywork can help relieve the pain. One of the ways massage therapy does that is by going in and soothing tense muscles that are causing irritation to the sciatic nerve. That may mean direct massage through the hips and low back as well as stretching and movement therapies. Massage therapy can also decrease inflammation in the area, easing the swelling of the nerve and thereby decreasing symptoms.
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