So you feel something funky in your lower-back, hip or down your leg, but cannot quite identify what it is...
Maybe it started as a pinching feeling around the back of your hips or lower spine and then started spreading down to your buttocks or legs.
And perhaps you are also noticing some reduced function and weakness of the leg.
What you are experiencing might be sciatica or sciatic nerve pain.
For the sake of keeping this post short and sweet (like me), I’ll give you a simplified description of what sciatica is, what could be causing it and how you might alleviate its symptoms and hopefully prevent it from coming back.
Grab a friend and watch the video together so you can practice a few simple techniques that offer relief for symptoms of sciatica and tight hips.
Causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain
There are several things that can cause the sciatic nerve to become pinched or irritated and it is important to consult a physician or medical professional about your symptoms — especially if they persist — to get an accurate diagnosis.
The sciatic nerve branches out from the lower vertebrae of the spine and then travels through the hips and down the back of each leg. Click here to see a Univ. of Pennsylvania Medicine diagram showing the sciatic nerve and its position in the body.
Nerves don’t like to be obstructed. If they do get pinched or irritated, they can cause a radiating pain, tingling or a numb feeling – either in one spot or up and down the length of the nerve.
In a nutshell, the sciatic nerve could become pinched by a herniated disk, a bone spur or by muscles around the hip and lumbar. In some cases the nerve can become irritated by a dysfunction with the sacroiliac joint.
Generally, symptoms resolve with time and do not require surgery, but still, go see your doctor.
Can massage help sciatica?
There are some wonderful bodywork techniques you can try that might offer you some short term relief, may even alleviate the problem and can prevent reoccurrence.
The basic idea of this video post is to offer you some Thai Massage and bodywork techniques that you can learn with a partner to create space around the path of the sciatic nerve and soften tight muscles that could be the culprits.
With the help of a friend, partner or massage therapist, you can gently traction the affected leg and create space and movement around the pelvis, lower back and sacroiliac joint. It can also be helpful to gently palm or massage the gluteal and hip muscles to relax tissue that has become tight or inflamed and could either be creating pressure on the sciatic nerve or is trapping up the joints and lower spine vertebrae.
Gentle and slow movements are your friends.
In the massage video above, I show just a few of the basic Thai Massage techniques you can practice with a friend to figure out which one offers the most relief and then repeat that technique whenever needed.
Sciatica Massage Techniques
In the video above, I demonstrate a sequence of techniques that aim to create space in the hip joints, mobilize the pelvis and relax the receiver.
Follow along to see each one in detail and pause the video as much as you need to find the right body positioning for yourself and create the right feeling for your receiver.
Thai Massage is about care and intuition.
As a giver: be compassionate, curious and move slowly so you can feel the fine messages the receiver's body is sending you. Remember that you can only go deep with your pressure by moving slow.
As a receiver: help guide your giver by letting them know what feels good, when you start to feel discomfort and indicating the pressure you want to receive at any given time.
Prepare your space by placing some mats and blankets onto the floor. The area should be soft, but firm. Have several pillows and blankets around to use for extra padding, support and comfort when needed.
Take turns being both giver and receiver. There is a lot of knowledge you can gain from both roles.
The primary Sciatica Massage techniques you'll see in the Video include:
- Single-leg traction and harmonic movements. This helps creates space in the hip joints.
- Gentle stretches of the legs and hips.
- Hip circles and easy spinal twists. This releases muscles around the lumbar and pelvis. (The hip circles may require a few moments to find your rhythm, but just be patient until this feels natural)
- Double-leg technique: "Bus Driver": Think about moving the receiver's hips in a figure 8-pattern. Rock it real slow — yeah baby!
- Double-leg technique: "Knee Press". For some receivers, this technique feel intense so press and release extra slow and ask your receiver for feedback.
Sciatica Prevention & Care
Mmmmm... now that you've found some relief, let's talk maintenance.
Movement is key.
In general, try to avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time and when sitting, try to be mindful of correct posture.
Obesity can also exacerbate conditions like sciatica so be sure to eat a healthy diet — minimizing sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Exercise regularly and stretch!
Practicing good body mechanics is key to avoiding injuries and other problems. If you have a job that requires you to stand a lot, try wearing comfortable flat shoes and avoid leaning into one hip. Change up your posture by placing one foot on a box or stool and alternate from time to time.
If you do a lot of repetitive movements, try giving your body some the opposite movements to keep your body balanced.
Now It's Your Turn
Thai Massage is a beautiful art that offers wellness to both giver and receiver.
Getting comfortable with the techniques can take a bit of practice. Just relax, have fun with it and communicate with your partner to stay rooted in metta (loving kindness).
If you'd like to see more bodywork techniques or want to ask me about the ones I covered in this video post, please leave me a comment below!
P.S. If you'd also like to learn 10 yoga stretches for Sciatica relief you can do on your own, check out this blog post I made for ya!