Rachel Richards

licensed massage therapist

east village, nyc

News: February 2013

The truth about sciatica

There are many myths surrounding neck and back pain. I've taken five of the most common myths and am debunking them one newsletter at a time. (If you've missed the first 2 myths, check them out here). My hope is that this information will offer you new insight into the actual causes of and best treatment approaches for your own pain.

Common myth #3: Sciatica is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve.

While that sounds like it makes sense, sciatica is NOT as precise a diagnosis as many believe. In fact, it's quite ambiguous. If a patient comes to me saying they've been diagnosed with sciatica, there is a lot more information I need before knowing how to best treat the problem.

All sciatica really means is pain going down the leg. This pain originates in the low back, and is referred into the buttock and thigh, down the thigh and lower leg, and sometimes all the way to the foot. There are numerous possible causes for this pain. Sciatica may be the result of muscle tightness, injured ligaments, fascial injuries, spinal stenosis (narrowing of openings in the spinal cord through which spinal nerves travel), or disc compression.

If you've been following my myth-busters, it will not surprise you that only a very small number of sciatica cases are caused by nerve or disc compression. So what is the main cause of this annoying and sometimes debilitating "pain in the butt"? You guessed it: fascia and ligament injuries. This is why massage therapy is often so beneficial for alleviating sciatic pain. Massage therapists wouldn't be able to correct a disc herniation, but ligaments and fascia respond superbly to skilled hands-on treatment!

So if you suffer from sciatic pain, get to a skilled massage therapist who can assess the injury and, in the majority of cases, offer wonderful relief.

Tune in next month for common myth #4!

Source: Dr. Ben Benjamin, World Massage Conference

Sad or SAD?

It's cold, dreary, and sunlight is scarce. It's the time of year many people experience the winter blues. But 1 in 5 Americans suffer from a more serious condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of depression that occurs during winter months, and is characterized by social withdrawal, sleepiness, moodiness, difficulty concentrating, and profound sadness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please see your physician for a proper diagnosis. SAD shouldn't be ignored and, for most, can be helped with a proper treatment plan.

Research has found that massage therapy eases depression, promotes relaxation, boosts immune function, and improves mood. In addition, Mayo Clinic experts offer the following advice:

  • Take a walk outside. Sunlight reaches the brain through the eyes, stimulating the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood. Less light results in lower serotonin levels. Darkness also triggers the production of melatonin, which promotes sleep. So, exposure to natural light can help ease symptoms of SAD.
  • Light therapy boxes can be used as a substitute for natural light for those who can't get outside.
  • Exercise 30 minutes a day, three times a week.
  • Socialize regularly with friends and family members.

If you think you may be suffering from SAD, talk to your doctor about your options so you can develop a treatment plan to ease your sadness through the winter.

Source: National Institutes of Health

What's new with me ...

Wow, this baby is growing like crazy! I guess you could say I'm in the home stretch of pregnancy, with only a little over a month more to go. Jesse's parents and sister threw us a beautiful baby shower in New Jersey. Jesse and I have been attending birthing classes, cleaning out our apartment to try to make a little more space, and enjoying our baby's performances as she moves around in the womb.

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American Massage Therapy Association

Swedish InstituteCertified Myoskeletal TherapistNational Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

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