A friend cornered me today to ask questions about her sciatica. After suffering from shooting pains in her hip, buttocks, and legs for several years, she was finally diagnosed with sciatic pain a year ago. She was given general advice to go to some yoga classes to help stretch the deep muscles of the hips and buttocks, but found herself still struggling to get some relief. When sciatica is caused by tightness in the piriformis muscle, massage is a fantastic tool for easing the pain. With Pirirformis Muscle Syndrome, the piriformis muscle is overly contracted, which traps the sciatic nerve, resulting in a pinching sensation with shooting pains that refer to your hamstrings, calves, or ankles. Massage in your hips and glutes can help release the muscle tension, easing the compression of the sciatic nerve.
Because the piriformis is such a deep muscle of the hip, you may find that your massage therapist needs to perform fairly deep massage strokes to properly address the area. As Rachel always says, you want to feel delicious pain only! It can help to try and relax and breathe deeply through intense work. However, if you are overwhelmed by the intensity of the work, speak up! Your massage therapist will be able to adjust their pressure and work so that you are more comfortable.
You can also perform a variety of stretches, such as the ones found here, to consistently work to stretch overly tight piriformis and other deep hip muscles. Your massage therapist can show you additional stretches that will target the tense muscle group, and help you adjust them to your individual range of motion.
It should be noted that there are other causes for sciatica, such as spinal spondylolisthesis (vertebral slippage), and that massage may not be effective in addressing all causes of sciatic pain. We encourage you to speak to your primary care provider about any sciatica-like symptoms you may be having for help determining what may be causing your pain. However, if your sciatica symptoms are determined to be caused by tightness in the piriformis muscle, massage could be very effective in helping to ease your pain!