Sciatica is one of the most common pathologies among the elderly and those who lead an intense and restless lifestyle, causing muscle contractures and compressions that put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
The pain is often not easily localised because the sciatic nerve runs from the lower back to the foot, through the entire leg, and the pain varies according to the nerve ending compressed.
What is sciatica and what are its causes and symptoms?
Sciatica is different from low back pain, the former is an intense pain in the sciatic nerve that starts with faint signals and then localised pain is activated.
- Postural overload: prolonged sitting or standing are likely causes of pain in the sciatic nerve, which suffers from muscle compressions that often take days with irregularities in its functioning before being detected. It is advisable to be aware of maintaining a correct body position.
- Muscle contractures: this cause is more likely to occur in people who play sports that overtax the back muscles, such as golf, and high-contact sports such as football. In the midst of muscle exhaustion, the fibres contract involuntarily until the nerve is affected.
- Disc protrusions and herniated discs: injuries such as displacement and deformation of the vertebral discs will cause compression on the nerves in the lumbar region, which triggers sciatica. At the first signs, rest is sufficient.
- Spondylolisthesis: this is the displacement of an entire vertebra forward, which also puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. The vertebrae most often displaced are L4 and L5, often affecting the functioning of the entire spinal cord.
- Tingling: every ailment has a beginning, sciatica is a pathology that begins with a mild tingling in the lumbar area that is often omitted by patients, they prefer to rest and avoid searching for the origin of this symptom.
- Muscle weakness: the nerves send direct signals to the muscle groups and it is common for people to feel weakness in the legs because these electrical signals do not reach the muscle fibres correctly.
- General numbness: depending on the nerve compression, people feel their body numb between the lower back, buttocks and hamstrings. Pain is not usually associated with this initial symptom.
- Pain in one leg only: it is very rare to have pain in both legs at the same time, what few people know is that sciatica has this negative effect and that it is very often associated with muscle fatigue.
- Buttock pain: this symptom is constant, more so than leg discomfort and is usually on the same side as the pain in the thigh. At first, the pain is intermittent and then it becomes permanent.
Types of massage balls: Which is the most effective for sciatica pain relief?
For the management of sciatica, these massage balls relieve muscle tension and contractures that put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Start with the softer balls to adapt the body and then use the harder ones. Massage balls release trigger points in the dense musculature of the lower back, where sciatica originates. By massaging during the initial signs, you can certainly prevent the pain from affecting your life.
Massage balls with spikes
This model of balls allows a greater depth of stimulation to be performed on the back, when the muscle knots are very deep and intense. It is advisable to start with gentle routines at the beginning. The spikes penetrate the skin without doing any harm, but they do dissipate tensions as you apply gentle body pressure on these balls.
Double Peanut Ball
With this model of balls, the muscles closest to the lumbar vertebrae, where sciatica is located, are stimulated. The peanut-shaped ball should be on the floor and your body on it, just where you want to apply pressure. Although the movements with it are more limited, the bilateral massage means that a larger area is covered without the risk of putting pressure on the spinal cord.
Vibration massage ball
When using this ball, there is a double benefit in particular: you can use it with one hand to reach hard-to-reach places and its vibration evenly stimulates myofascial tissue and contracted muscle fibres. You don’t need to put a lot of pressure on your body, just let the vibration do the work for you, while you relax and enjoy the feeling of pain relief.
Although this is not a massage ball, it actually also has benefits for relieving contractures and nerve compressions in the back. There are models that offer vibration, just like massage balls, so if you have this product at home it can also be used to provide relief in the lumbar area.
How to relieve sciatica pain with myofascial massage balls?
Here are the most important points to keep in mind when using the massage balls on the back:
- This type of massage should be done calmly, take your time.
- Place the softer ball on each buttock.
- Place your body on the soft ball and bend your leg sideways (as if you were forming the number 4).
- Hold this position for one minute, then repeat the position on the other buttock.
- Place a harder ball (can be spiked) on the first buttock.
- Bend both legs.
- Perform gentle forward and backward hip movements.
- Repeat the movement for three minutes, then switch the ball to the other buttock.
- Both exercises can be done two and three times a day.
- Repeat the sessions for two and three days if you feel relief.
- Remember to always start with soft balls.
What are the benefits of using massage balls to relieve back pain?
- Improves muscle function: constant massaging maintains the flexibility and elasticity of the lower back muscles.
- Relieves muscle fatigue: massages allow the muscles to be better prepared to withstand sporting demands and avoid injuries such as contractures.
- Prevents damage to nerve endings: the spinal cord is located in the back and muscle injuries cause dangerous compressions on it, with massages this probability is reduced.
- Activates trigger points: with the smaller, harder balls you can reduce the tension in the trigger points, but first you must prepare the body with the soft balls.
- Improves circulation: a good massage will stimulate blood flow and will bring more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles weakened by overloading.