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Back Pain? You May Need a Massage

The pain can be almost unbearable. Sciatica can come on suddenly, or occur after sitting for long periods of time. The pain radiates from the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back and through your hips and your buttocks. It's usually only felt on one side of the body, but as any sciatica sufferer can tell you, that's enough. The pain of sciatica can range from mild and annoying to excruciating and disruptive when it comes to sleep and normal movements.

There are many conditions that can cause an irritation of the sciatic nerve, including a herniated disc, pregnancy, or a number of spinal problems. The treatment of sciatica is largely based on the cause. Treatment can include rest, medication, or even surgery to repair disks. Massage therapy can also be extremely helpful in relieving the pain.

If you are seeing a massage therapist to help with pain from sciatica, it is very important to make sure they know what they are doing. "Not all therapists are familiar with how to treat pain from sciatica," says Tegan Cross, a massage therapist with University of Utah Health. "Someone who is inexperienced or not trained in treating sciatica could actually exacerbate the pain from the condition."

Before getting a massage it's a good idea to meet with an expert and discuss what treatments are right for you. You also should communicate with your massage therapist about where your pain is, and what is causing the sciatica so they know which techniques to use. "There are several muscles that can be affected by sciatica," says Cross, "your therapist may want to use a compression method or a trigger point release technique among others depending on which ones are affected." Also, it is key that you communicate with your therapist during the session. "If a technique isn't working for you, or you are uncomfortable you have to say something," says Cross. "The therapist can then try another approach."

Your massage therapist won't be doing all of the work. You'll need to take on certain self-care techniques between sessions to prolong the effects and manage your pain. These techniques may include stretching, making sure you drink enough water, applying heat or ice to the area, and some self-massage. "For some patients, lying on a tennis ball between sessions for muscle release can be key," says Cross.