Sciatica pain which is commonly referred as low back pain is a very common condition that has affected people with their day-to-day activities. The annual incidence of sciatica ranges from 1% to 5% across the world. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body that gets affected by the disease.
Sciatica in Ayurveda
Ayurveda mentions sciatica as Gridhrasi which is a vata vyadhi caused due to aggravation of vata dosha. The diseases show symptoms like Ruk (pain), Toda (numbing pain) and Stambha (stiffness) in the Kati pradesha (lumbosacral region) and radiates distal to Pristha, Janu, Jangha till Paada (feet).
An Ayurvedic commentator Arundutta in his commentary defined clearly that due to vata dosha in the kandara i.e., tendon, severe pain is experienced at the time of raising the legs which restrict its free movement. A straight leg raising test is a common test which confirms the sciatica diagnosis.
Sciatic pain Ayurveda treatments include a set of systematic treatments. They are Ama pachana that helps to reduce the joint inflammations followed by Shodhana i.e. elimination of deep-seated toxins from the body and Brahmana i.e. rejuvenation to the damaged part or cartilages. Ayurvedic treatments for sciatica include Dhanymaladhara, Abhyanga sweda, Patra pinda potali sweda, Sarvangadhara, Kati vasti, Erandamoola niruha basti – Kshara vasti and Ksheera vasti. These external treatments along with internal medications help to reduce sciatic pain.
Ayurvedic home remedies for sciatica
- Rest – The foremost important remedy for sciatica cure is to take adequate rest. Lying down on the hard bed or thick wooden coat helps to align the spine to its normal position and reduces back pain.
- Hot or Cold Compress – Applying a hot or cold compress helps to reduce sciatica symptoms. Using a clean cloth, dip in the hot water or cover the ice cubes and apply over the area of inflammation. Repeat this 3-4 times a day.
- Lepa with Ayurvedic herbal mixture – A thick paste prepared with aloe vera, turmeric powder, Triphala powder and castor oil. Apply this lepa and tie a bandage to the lower back. This helps to reduce the local inflammation and sciatica pain.
- Hot oil Massage – When the acute pain subsides, massage with castor oil followed by mild steam helps to resolve the pain.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica refers to the pain that is caused to the sciatic nerve when it gets compressed. This is associated with lower back pain which radiates through hip and buttocks down to the leg. Sciatica can affect one leg or in the worst case both the legs.
Although there is severe pain during the disease, sciatica can be cured with adequate rest and a proper regimen. The severity of the condition can even lead to leg weakness and bowel or bladder changes which require surgical intervention.
What are the common causes of sciatica?
Sciatic pain occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched, due to herniated disk in the spine or due to bone spurs (extra growth of bone) on vertebrae. Spinal stenosis i.e. narrowing spine can also compress the spinal and sciatic nerves. In few cases, the nerve gets compressed due to presence of tumour. The most common clinical features are pain, inflammation and numbness in affected legs.
- Herniated disks: The vertebras which contribute to the spine are separated each other by a piece of cartilage. This cartilage is filled with thick, clear material to ensure the flexible movements and cushioning which helps to move around. Herniated disks occurs when the first layer of the cartilage rips. The substance inside will compress the sciatic nerve which leads to low back pain and numbness in the lower limbs.
- Spinal stenosis: Spinal stenosis is characterized with abnormal narrowing of spinal canal. Due to this narrowing, the sciatic nerve puts pressure to the roots and causes pain. It is also called as lumbar spinal stenosis.
- Spondylolisthesis: Spondylolisthesis is an associated condition of degenerative disk complaint. When one spinal bone or vertebra extends, these can pinch the nerves and cause sciatic pain.
- Piriformis syndrome: When the piriformis involuntary muscle contracts or tightens it pinches the sciatic nerve and causes sciatica pain. The muscles when tightened can put pressure on sciatic nerve. This is a rare neuromuscular condition. Piriformis syndrome is commonly seen in conditions of fall, accident or on long period of sitting.
The Risk factors for sciatica disease include:
- Age – As the age progresses, there will be changes the spine. This adds to the risk factors like herniated disks, bone spurs etc.
- Obesity – Due to increase in body weight, there will be stress on the spine which leads to changes in the spine and triggers sciatic nerve damage.
- Occupation – Occupation play a great role in the development of sciatica. A job which involves lifting of heavy object, long drives with heavy loads or continuous twists or bends to the back leads to sciatica.
- Prolonged sitting – Long hours of sitting without changing the position can pave a cause for sciatica.
- Diabetes – Diabetes which affects the blood sugar level increases the risk of nerve damage in the body. This is a very rare cause for sciatica.
- Pregnancy – Often pregnancy can also be a cause for back pain
Although, with proper rest people recover from the disease without treatment, in severe cases treatment measures should be adopted otherwise it can lead to permanent nerve damage.
What are the symptoms of sciatica pain?
Common sciatica symptoms include:
- Lower back pain
- Radiating pain in the legs which worsens after sitting for a long while
- Pain in the hips
- Burning or tingling in the legs
- Weakness in the limbs
- Experiencing numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
- Constant and shooting pain in the legs
Sciatica usually affects only one side of the limb but in severe cases both the legs may show the symptoms. Sciatic pain extends from lower back through back of the thighs and down the leg. Depending upon where the sciatic is affected, the pain may extend to legs also.