According to a Harvard health report, back pain afflicts four out of five Americans at some point in their lives. Many of these people experience sciatica, a term often used synonymously with “back pain,” but which is actually not a condition on its own. Rather, sciatica pain is a collection of symptoms which result from an irritation in the muscles and/or nerves in the back or leg.
Sciatic pain typically originates in the lower back and travels through the large sciatic nerve, sending a burning, tingling, or numb sensation down the leg. The type, location, and severity of the pain varies based on the condition causing the sciatic pain, but it normally occurs on only one side of the leg or rear.
Some conditions which cause sciatica can make it difficult to stand or walk, but most often sciatic pain becomes worse while seated. It often starts slowly, getting worse after activities such as:
- Sitting or standing for prolonged periods
- Sleeping at night
- Sneezing, coughing, or laughing
- Bending over backwards
Sciatica can be painful, but most patients recover within a few weeks or months with non-surgical treatment. It is rare that the condition causes long-term or permanent damage to the nerve or tissue.
If you are experiencing severe sciatic pain, contact a trusted medical professional before pursuing any alternative course of treatment.
What causes sciatica?
Sciatic nerve pain can be caused by a range of different conditions of the lower back and pelvis. Often, the issue is an irritation of the spinal nerves in or near the lumbar spine, which can be caused by:
- Slipped disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Pelvic injury or fracture
However, other neuromuscular conditions such as piriformis syndrome and SI joint dysfunction also sometimes cause the onset of sciatic nerve pain.
The piriformis muscle surrounds the sciatic nerve within your pelvis, as it travels from your lower back to your leg. The nerve runs both under and through the muscle, so swelling or irritation of the muscle may compress the nerve. As with many other types of sciatica, the pain of piriformis syndrome may become worse due to long periods of sitting, climbing stairs, walking, or running.
Surgery is normally not required for piriformis syndrome. Massage techniques such as trigger point therapy are regularly used to restore the normal pathway of the nerve through or around the muscle. Doctors also typically recommend a series of stretching exercises designed to reduce tension and improve the health of the muscle.
SI Joint Dysfunction
The sacroiliac joint (or SI joint) can be deceptive when it comes to causing lower back pain. It typically mimics pain that you would more commonly experience as a result of lumbar disc, nerve root, facet joint, and hip issues. Located in the lower back, it connects the bottom of your spine to your pelvis.
Like other forms of sciatic pain, it is typically experienced on one side of the lower back or rear, radiating down the leg above the knee. The pain is normally caused by either too much movement or too little movement, and can be eased by techniques which focus on restoring normal motion to the joint.
Resolving Sciatica in Central Florida
If you have been experiencing back pain, book a consultation with any of the experienced massage therapists at Balance’s College Park treatment center.
All of our therapists are qualified to address your sciatic pain needs, and will be happy to provide you with stretching recommendations to maintain and strengthen your back health.
Mayo Clinic – Preventing Sciatica
Medline Plus – Sciatica. National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health.
Piriformis Syndrome – National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Spine-Health.com – What You Need to Know About Sciatica.
Spine-Health.com – Treatment Options for Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction.
Vancouver Spine Doctor – Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction.
Paul Ingraham. “Massage Therapy for Back Pain, Hip Pain, and Sciatica.” SaveYourself.ca.
Whitney Lowe, MT. “Treating Piriformis Syndrome.” Massage Today.