Sciatica: A Pain in the...

Sciatica: A Pain in the... 

By Daniel Rocha LMT CPT CNS 


Sciatica is pain or discomfort associated with the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower part of the spinal cord, down the back of the leg, to the foot. Sciatic nerve injury causes a sharp or burning pain that radiates from the lower back or hip, possibly following the path of the sciatic nerve to the foot.

The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in the body, spanning from the lower back to the foot. The nerve originates in the lower part of the spinal cord and branches off from the spinal cord; passing between the bony vertebrae and runs through the pelvic girdle or hip bones, continuing down the back of the leg to the foot.

Sciatic pain has several causes, and treatment hinges upon the underlying problem, such as lumbosacral radiculopathy and back strain. Lumbosacral refers to the lower part of the spine, and radiculopathy refers to the spinal nerve roots that pass between the vertebrae, giving rise to the sciatic nerve. A shock-absorbing tissue cushions the area between the vertebrae called a disk. The spinal nerve root may be compressed by a shifted or damaged disk. Compression of the nerve roots sends a pain signal to the brain, but the actual injury is to the nerve roots. 

A back strain may cause muscle spasms in the lower back, placing pressure on the sciatic nerve. Infection, cancer, bone inflammation, or other diseases can cause stress. Piriformis syndrome occurs as the sciatic nerve passes through the hip joint; it shares the space with several muscles. If the piriformis muscle is injured or spasms, pressure is placed on the sciatic nerve, compressing it.


A massage therapist or naprapath can perform a variety of techniques to relieve sciatic nerve pressure. Massage cannot remove the pressure of a disk against the sciatic nerve, but it can relax tense muscles in the lower back and buttocks and stimulate blood flow. This is particularly helpful for patients who suffer from piriformis syndrome. Massage also can help release endorphins, the body's natural pain relievers.

Naprapathic spinal and hip manipulations can help align the spine, and balance hips, relieving some disk problems. Naprapathy can improve a patient's posture, stressing the lower back. Naprapathy does include physical therapy, which is essential to a successful recovery from sciatica. Consistent movement strengthens critical muscles that support the lower back and legs. Walking and swimming are imperative long-term exercises necessary to prevent sciatica recurrence.

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Franz, J. F. (2021). Sciatica. In B. Narins (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Senior Health: A Guide for Seniors and Their Caregivers (3rd ed., Vol. 5, pp. 2033-2038). Gale.


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