Ask Doctor K.

Laying on a tennis ball may be one of the best ways to alleviate sciatic pain. Sciatica is a potentially painful condition caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve. The pain can be located between the lower back and the back of the leg. Professional massage, chiropractic adjustments, stretches and self-massage with tennis balls can help alleviate the pain.

Becoming A Sciatica Self-Massage Master

Tape two tennis balls together with duct tape. The balls are easier to position when they work in pairs. If the pain is located in your lower back, lay with knees bent in a supine (belly-up) position. Place the balls underneath the problem area. If the pain is along the back of your thigh, keep the leg that you’re targeting straight while leaving the other leg bent.

Roll back and forth gently until the painful area is on top of the balls. Relax and let about 70 to 80 percent of your weight sink into them. Your pain threshold should naturally moderate this. Once you feel like you’ve acclimated to the pain, shift your weight over slightly. Find a new area where the pain is more intense and repeat.

The Pain That Comes Out Of Nowhere

Sciatica is the result of pressure of the lumbar nerves. The culprit is most commonly a herniated disc. It can also be caused by spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, and pregnancy.

Physicians diagnose sciatica by having the patient lay on their back and lift both legs in the air. If radiating pain occurs up the back of the thigh and into the lower back, the cause is sciatica 70 to 90 percent of the time.

Long-term Management Of Sciatica

When a herniated disc is the cause, symptoms typically resolve within a few months. Physical therapy has not been found to increase the speed of recovery.

Pain medications are not known to be effective in treating sciatica. The evidence for muscle relaxants, NSAIDs, opioids, and gabapentin is weak. However, self-massage with tennis balls can often help relieve muscle tension around the affected area.