Sciatica is a relatively common condition, affecting an estimated 4-5% of the population. It is more common in people over the age of 40, and occurs more common in men than in women. Factors that can increase the risk of developing sciatica include obesity, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and occupations that involve prolonged sitting or heavy lifting.
Sciatica can be a chronic condition, and it can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life. It can cause pain, discomfort, and difficulty with daily activities, and it can also lead to depression and anxiety.
Symptoms of sciatica can include lower back pain, pain that radiates down the back of one or both legs, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the legs or feet. The pain can range from mild to severe, and it can be accompanied by other symptoms such as muscle spasms and stiffness.
Sciatica can occur when the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down the back of each leg, becomes compressed by the surrounding vertebrae. When the vertebrae are in their proper position, nerves extend from the spinal column with plenty of room. However, a number of situations can cause these vertebrae to move out of their correct position, and compress or 'pinch' the sciatic nerve, causing intense pain. For example, sitting, standing, or driving for long hours each day at work can put pressure on the vertebrae while they are in an incorrect position, causing them to slowly shift out of place and/or compress too close together.
More serious causes of sciatica include herniated disk in the lower back, degenerative disk disease, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), and spinal tumors. Your clients should consult with their physician before including massage therapy in their treatment plan.
Massage therapy can be beneficial for people with sciatica, as it can help to alleviate symptoms by reducing muscle tension, promoting blood flow and oxygenation to the affected area, and releasing endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body.
Massage therapists should consider the following things when working with clients who have sciatica:
1. Medical history: It is important to understand the client's medical history, including any recent injuries or surgeries, as well as any other conditions that may be contributing to their sciatica symptoms.
2. Current symptoms: The massage therapist should ask the client about their current symptoms, including the location, duration, and intensity of the pain, as well as any numbness or weakness in the legs.
3. Pressure and technique: The therapist should avoid applying direct pressure to the nerve, as this can aggravate the sciatic nerve and worsen symptoms. Instead, they should use techniques that release tension in the surrounding muscles that may be contributing to the client's symptoms. Assisted stretching can also be beneficial, as the nerve spasms cause muscles to tighten.
4. Communication: The therapist should communicate with the client throughout the massage to ensure that the pressure and techniques used are comfortable and not causing pain or discomfort.
5. Ease into apply pressure: Any pressure should begin lightly and slowly increase while keeping in communication with the patient. It is not advised to 'work through the pain', but rather, to avoid causing any pain.
6. Post-massage care: The therapist should advise the client on post-massage care, such as rest, hydration, and stretching.
7. Referral: If the therapist suspects that the client's sciatica is caused by a more serious underlying condition, they should refer the client to a healthcare professional for further evaluation and treatment.
It is important to keep in mind that massage therapy should be used in conjunction with other forms of treatment, such as physical therapy, rests, stretching, and lifestyle changes, as recommended by the client's healthcare provider.