Sciatica nerve pain is best described as chronic ache coming from the lower back down to one's buttocks and legs. It can occur in the back, front, or the side of the legs. Typically, only one side of the body is affected. Luckily, there are simple yet effective exercises and techniques of self-massage for sciatica pain relief.
The condition can manifest itself not only with chronic pain in one's lower limbs. It can also come up with tingling sensation, sharp pangs, weakness, and numbness in the legs.
What are the causes?
Spinal disc herniation (aka slipped disc)
This injury occurs when the connective and cushioning tissue between vertebrae is moved out of place by a ripped layer of cartilage. The substance then puts pressure on the sciatic nerve causing pain and numbness in the lower limbs.
This condition is responsible for up to 90 % of sciatic nerve pain cases. It usually happens after a severe strain on your back (e.g. while lifting) or other spinal trauma.
(Lumbar) Spinal Stenosis
It's usually a result of osteoarthritis. It leads to narrowing the lower spinal canal, pinching the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots.
It's a forward or anterior displacement of one vertebra over its inferior vertebra. This results in the extended spinal bone pinching the sciatic nerve.
Piriformis is the muscle connecting the lower part of the spine with the thighbones. The syndrome is a neuromuscular disorder, characterized by involuntary piriformis muscle contraction and tightening. This, in turn, can pinch the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica.
Other risk factors:
- 30-50 years of age
- Occupations that require putting a strain on your back, sitting for long periods of time, and/or twisting your back
- Later stages of pregnancy
3 Ways to self-massage for sciatica nerve pain
Massaging is a great way to sooth your tense muscles, relieving pressure from your back nerves, including the sciatic nerve. These are easy to do at home by yourself.
1. Palm and thumb massage
Rub your lower back with your palms towards your spine and down towards your buttocks.
- Then, wrap your fingers around your sides with your thumbs pressing the outer edges of the muscles surrounding your lower spine. Slowly and firmly massage them towards your spine.
2. Tennis ball massage
- Wrap two tennis balls tightly together in a towel or a sock and place it on the floor.
- Sit on the floor, knees bent, and slowly lay your upper body down catching the balls with the aching area in your back.
- Stay there for around one minute or until the tension is gone.
- Do the same with other hurting areas in your back.
- Afterward, assume the fetal position and rest for a few minutes before standing up.
3. Knuckle massage
- Rest on your back, knees bent.
- Place your fists under your lower back, knuckles up against each side, between your lower back muscles and your spine.
- Keep this position for one minute or as long as you can.
- Assume the fetal position and rest for a while before standing up.
Exercises to relieve sciatica
In addition to sciatica self-massage, it is recommended to do these simple exercises and stretches regularly.
1. Reclining pigeon pose
This exercise stretches the piriformis muscle as well as your thighs.
- Lie on your back.
- Lift the right leg up, bend it, and wrap your fingers around your thigh.
- Lift the left leg up, bend it, and put the right ankle against the left knee.
- Now, wrap your fingers around the left thigh and hold for a moment.
- Repeat with the other side.
2. Sitting pigeon pose
This exercise stretches your whole lower back and glutes.
- Sit on the floor, keep your back straight and your legs stretched long.
- Bend your right leg and put its ankle on top of the left knee.
- Descend your torso forward and reach for your toes with your arms stretched.
- Keep your back straight and your neck long.
- Stay in the position for up to 30 seconds.
- Repeat with the left leg.
3. Knee to the opposite shoulder
This exercise stretches your glutes and your piriformis muscle.
- Lie straight on your back, legs outstretched, toes looking up.
- Lift your right leg, bend it, and catch the knee with your hands.
- Slowly pull it towards your left shoulder, keep the back fixed flat on the floor. Pull back a bit if you start feeling discomfort or pain.
- Hold for up to 30 seconds.
- Repeat with your left leg.
4. Sitting spinal stretch
This exercise creates space in the spine which, in turn, relieves the pressure from the sciatic nerve.
- Sit on the ground, back straight, legs outstretched forward, toes looking up.
- Bend the right leg and put it on the floor over your left knee.
- Slowly turn your torso, stretch your right arm straight and place the palm on the floor behind your back.
- Turn so that your left elbow touches the right knee, let it rest there.
- Hold for up to 30 seconds.
- Repeat with the left side.
Be safe and do these massages and exercises carefully. Stop and withdraw whenever you feel pain. Watch how you feel after the training. If you get better within a month, keep with the exercises. If you don't, see your doctor.