What is the Sciatic Nerve?
Being the longest and widest nerve in the human body, the sciatic nerve is your best friend and sometimes worst enemy. It runs all the way from the lower back (very bottom of the spine) to the foot, providing for the skin and muscles of the leg. The nerve collects information from this large area and sends messages to the brain. The brain also sends messages to the sciatic nerve in regards to movement and danger.
The sciatic nerve obviously has an important job, so how can it be your worst enemy?
All right, enemy’s a little strong, but basically, if something’s out of alignment in the body the sciatic nerve can radiate the pain to other areas. If you’ve been suffering from lower back pain, it could be because your lower back is out of alignment. But it could also mean the shoes you’ve worn for way too long are creating tight muscles in your feet, which then throws off the rest of your body, all the way up to your back. The pain radiates up or down the sciatic nerve, much like the funny bone. So even if the source of your lower back pain is from herniated lumbar discs, the pain will still shoot to other areas. It almost adds insult to injury.
The sciatic nerve is attached to the bottom of the spine between lumbar 4 and sacral 3 (L4, S3). These numbers describe specific vertebrae along the spine. The sacral vertebrae are commonly associated with the word tailbone—the lumbar vertebrae being just above. This is a huge connection site, and also very important because when these spinal nerve roots compress, it can lead to Sciatica—chronic lower pain. This can happen when spinal discs bulge or when they’ve degenerated.
Many pregnant women experience the joys of Sciatica because of the pressure the weight and position of the baby place on her body and the sciatic nerve.
While there are common prescriptions for Sciatica, the evidence to prove such remedies help to alleviate the condition are lacking. Some turn to surgery in severe cases of disc herniation, but some find seeking regular chiropractic work to be a more natural way of reducing the symptoms.
Massage and Sciatica
Tight muscles with a limited range of movement can pull bones out of alignment. As a compliment to chiropractic work, massage is recommended to keep the soft tissue pliable and lower the severity and frequency in which the body is thrown out of balance.
Ways to Keep the Sciatic Nerve Happy: Massage, Stretch, Water, and Foam Roller—Even if it Kills You!!
So it’s clear that the sciatic nerve needs some extra TLC or it will definitely pay you back for neglect. If you don’t already own a foam roller, BUY ONE! It’s a long tube of foam that you use to “iron” out some of the kinks. (p.s. This also helps with cellulite. Just saying…) The sciatic nerve is most easily reached on the posterior, or outer, side of the thighs. So lay on your side on the ground with the roller beneath your leg and literally roll up and down. Despite how much it may hurt, you’re doing some major work. This is something a massage therapist loves to dig around on as well—knowing how badly this area usually needs help.
Don’t forget to stretch your legs and drink tons of water! Water keeps the muscles hydrated and less likely to remain stiff, bound with toxins. Add a regular massage to this regimen, and your body will thank you. If your muscles are happy, the sciatic nerve will be happy too.