The sciatic nerve is the largest body nerve, stretching from the lower back, through the buttock, down to the lower limb.
Sciatic pain (sciatica) is a not a disease, but a symptom of some other issue with the nerve, like compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or a narrowing of the spinal canal.
The pain is felt down the sciatic nerve, in the lower back, buttock, back of the thigh and/or calf, on the side of the foot, and in the heel, and it can be accompanied by numbness or weakness in the area, as well as tingling or pins and needles.
However, a therapy that involves massage with a tennis ball has been proven to relieve sciatica pain. It is based on the principles of massage, acupressure, and reflexology to alleviate muscle pain and relieve tension. Scientific research found that this therapy boosts the range of motion, treats pain and heals low back pain and sciatica symptoms.
The tennis ball treats the piriformis muscle located near the sciatic nerve, as it can push the sciatic nerve against the tendons beneath it, which leads to the familiar buttock and leg pain.
The tennis ball presses the trigger points in this muscle, relieves the tension in the muscle, and boosts mobility and blood circulation in the area. Therefore, this massage is good not only for sciatica but for back pain and latissimus dorsi pain.
However, note that targeting the piriformis muscle is just one of the steps to relieve sciatica, so you will need to address other areas of the spinal cord as well. For instance, if it is caused by a pinched nerve, you should not place the tennis ball near the pinched nerve.
Now, here is how to perform this massage:
Sit or lie on the floor, and place a tennis ball under the muscles where you feel the pain, and shift the weight onto the ball and note any areas of increased tenderness, as they are the trigger points.
Press the painful spots for about 15 seconds each and then move to the next one. Roll the ball back and forth in gentle movements. If the pain is intense, add more balls to release direct pressure. If you feel sharp pain, stop the massage in order to prevent muscle or nerve damage.
Additionally, the following tips will help you relieve sciatic pain:
- Try heat and cold therapy as the first line of defense, by applying heating pads and ice packs on the painful area, to fight inflammation, and ease the sharp pain
- There are some effective pain-management techniques you should try to lower the perception of sciatica pain, like deep breathing exercises, meditation, guided imagery, and cognitive behavioral therapy
- Perform low-impact aerobic exercises and stretching exercises to stretch the hamstrings
- If the pain is simply too intense, you can consult your doctor to prescribe some pain medications to soothe the symptoms
Yet, you should always have in mind that your sciatica pain may be triggered by one of many underlying conditions, so if these tips do not work for you, and the pain aggravates and severely disrupts your daily life, visit a doctor to speak about some other treatment options, like chiropractic manipulation, epidural steroid injections, and more.