How to Treat Sciatica Naturally

Four Methods:Assessing Your SciaticaUsing Natural TreatmentsExercising to Help SciaticaTreating Sciatica Medically

Sciatica is nerve pain associated with a major nerve in the leg — the sciatic nerve. Sciatica travels down the lower back, through the buttocks, and down the leg, and it can also be associated with tingling, numbness, or weakness along the affected leg. Sciatica is a symptom of a number of different conditions, including a herniated (bulging) lumbar disc, degenerative disc disease, and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal). In all these, the common finding is that the sciatic nerve is compressed, with the symptoms of sciatica as a result. A holistic approach targeted in treating the cause can not only relieve the distress caused due to pain but can also help in preventing the ailment from becoming chronic.

Method 1
Assessing Your Sciatica

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    Assess your symptoms. Technically, sciatica is a symptom and not a medical diagnosis, per se. People with sciatica experience one or more of the following:[1]
    • Lower back pain. If a person has lower back pain, it is usually not as severe as the leg pain.
    • Constant pain on one side of the buttock or leg. Rarely, the pain occurs on both sides.
    • Pain originating at the low back or at the buttock. The pain follows the path of the sciatic nerve. The nerve has several different paths. One path goes through the buttocks, down the back of the thigh and into the lower leg and the foot on the outside part. The other path goes down the side of the thigh, to the front of the lower leg and into the big toe area.
    • Pain that is typically described as sharp or searing, rather than dull.
    • The pain usually retreats when lying down or walking. Pain is worse when standing or sitting
    • There may be a "pins-and-needles" sensation. Numbness, weakness, or a prickling sensation down the leg is also commonly reported.
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    Figure out what type of sciatica you have. There are three different types of sciatic pain, depending on the specific nerve roots affected and if the pain is from the lumbar or the sacral spine. The sciatic nerve is formed from five different nerve roots, two from the lumbar spine (L4 and L5) and three from the sacral spine (S1, S2 and S3).
    • L4 nerve root sciatica: The pain usually affects the thigh with weakness in straightening the leg. There may be a diminished knee-jerk reflex (when the doctor uses a reflex hammer and taps right below the knee)
    • L5 nerve root sciatica: The pain and other symptoms extend to the big toe and ankle and may result in a “foot drop." "Foot drop" is the weakening of the muscles that allow you to flex your ankles and toes while walking, resulting in the dropping of the front of the foot which results in the need to lift the knee higher while walking. There may also be pain pain or numbness on the top of the foot, particularly between the big and second toe.[2]
    • S1 nerve root sciatica: The pain and other symptoms affect only the outer part of the foot. The toes other than the big toe may be involved. Some people may experience weakness when they try to lift the heel or try to stand on on their tiptoes. The ankle-jerk reflex is often reduced.
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    Get a correct diagnosis. The correct diagnosis is critical in getting the correct treatment. Using any of the natural approaches can be combined with medical treatment for general sciatic pain, but the exercise therapy must be specifically designed for your specific needs. Make sure you make an appointment with your physician for any back pain right away. The most common causes of sciatica are:[3]
    • Herniated lumbar disc: A herniated, slipped or bulging disc can irritate the nerve because the inner core of the disc (the nucleus pulposus) bulges through the outer core and directly presses on the nerve root.
    • Degenerative Disc Disease: This is a disorder associated with aging and is the result of a weakening of the disc bones and surrounding tissues. This has inflammatory components — the inflammation irritates the nerve root.
    • Isthmic spondylolisthesis: This is often commonly called a “slipped disc” — one disc essentially is sliding over the lower disc.
    • Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: Stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal through which the spinal nerves travel. Lumbar spinal stenosis may also be considered to be associated with aging and may be due to a combination of herniated discs and degenerative disc disease.
    • Piriformis Syndrome: The piriformis muscle runs through the buttock and can pinch or irritate the sciatic nerve as the nerve runs under the muscle.
    • Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction: The SI joint is located at the bottom of the spine and lies under the L5 nerve.

Method 2
Using Natural Treatments

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    Drink more water. Water is the great cleanser and helps minimize inflammation. While sciatica is not always directly associated with inflammation, pain is always associated with inflammation.
    • In addition, the tissues of the spine contain water and staying hydrated can help strengthen those structures.
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    See a chiropractor to treat your sciatica. Chiropractors are specially trained, especially in spinal disorders. They are trained to manipulate and move the bones of the spine back into alignment and reduce the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Overall, chiropractic care has been shown to significantly improve symptoms of sciatica.[4]
    • Chiropractors are also trained to treat all the major causes of sciatic pain and, if necessary, can refer patients to other specialists such as surgeons.
    • Chiropractors also educate their patients regarding specific exercises designed to improve the spine and the bones, joints and muscles that may be impacted in sciatic pain.
    • Traction, or spinal decompression therapy involves stretching out the spine using a traction table or other device is often used to re-position a bulging disc and can be very helpful in treating sciatica.
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    Find an acupuncturist to treat your sciatica. Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and is based on the concept that meridians — energy channels — run throughout the body. The placement of needles at specific points along these meridians can relieve pain and treat a wide variety of conditions.[5]
    • The placement of the needles will depend on your specific needs and may be combined with Chinese medical massage (Tui na).
    • Acupuncture may also be combined with the use of Chinese herbs combinations to promote muscle relaxation and release of tension. This can provide direct pain relief.
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    Employ massage therapy to treat your sciatica. Therapeutic massage can improve circulation, relax the muscles, and lead to the increase in endorphin levels. Endorphins are the body’s natural opiates or pain relievers.[6]
    • The type of therapeutic massage usually used to treat sciatica is called trigger point myotherapy or just myotherapy. This therapy utilizes the concept of trigger points or specific areas on the muscles that can be “defused” by applying pressure for five to seven seconds to those points using the fingers, knuckles or elbows. When the pressure is removed, the trigger points become “deactivated."[7]
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    Use hot and cold therapy.[8] Both hot and cold therapy are very useful approaches in treating sciatica. Most natural practitioners will recommend first applying ice followed by heat for three cycles. This should be repeated at least four times a day.
    • Apply ice for about 10 minutes followed by heat for five minutes. This is one cycle.
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    Consult an expert in herbal therapy. Herbal therapy can utilize muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory agents. For best effects, these herbal remedies may need to be combined. For this, consult a naturopath or a medical herbalist. Some of the herbs that may be used are:
    • Equisetum or Horsetail, an ancient plant that is commonly used to flush out the kidneys. It contains high levels of minerals and can help strengthen the skeletal structure including the spine.
    • Jamaican dogwood, a muscle relaxant and a potent sedative. It should only be used on the advice of a knowledgeable healthcare professional. It is also an effective anti-inflammatory agent and pain reliever.
    • Curcuma longa or turmeric, which has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine and is an effective anti-inflammatory agent.
    • Willow bark, the basis of modern aspirin. The bark has been used for centuries to treat pain due to inflammation.
    • Holy Basil, which is similar to regular kitchen basil but has more effective anti-inflammatory properties.
    • Ginger root, which is another effective anti-inflammatory agent.
    • Nutmeg, which has been used as a muscle relaxant and pain reliever for centuries — and along with its value as a culinary spice, there has also been a lively trade in nutmeg for centuries!

Method 3
Exercising to Help Sciatica

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    Do yoga. Pain is an outward manifestation of the internally diseased body. A yogic approach focuses in correcting this root cause. The attitude of the mind will reflect in the attitude of the body as well. Hence, practicing yoga will correct the imbalance between mind and body and achieve greater pain relief thanks to a better mind-body sync.[9] It is akin to cognitive behavioural therapy that aims at retraining the mind to curb its side effects that are ailing the physical form. If you're not already a yogi, give it a shot for your back!
    • "Shavasana" or the "corpse pose" is helpful technique where a person lies down on his back on the floor and consciously relaxes each and every muscle of the body from head to foot. This helps in decreasing the muscle tension. It works wonders as a natural muscle relaxant and at the same time rejuvenates the mind.
    • If the pain is due to a herniated disc, the "downward facing dog" pose will benefit where the person assumes an inverted "V" pose with the hips facing the ceiling while the heels and hands are grounded. This gives a good hamstring stretch. Tightness in the hamstring muscles exerts pressure on the muscles of the lower back; exercises that stretch and toning the hamstring muscles will release the tension on the underlying sciatic nerve.
    • The "half spinal twist pose" and its variations of a sitting twist and a standing twist work on the tight piriformis muscle by giving it a stretch and release. This helps in reducing the inflammation around the piriformis and its underlying tendons which help to release the trapped sciatic nerve between the muscle and its tendons.
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    Do breathing exercises. Along with yoga, breath work through "pranayam" can also be practised. It involves breathing in and out in equal counts; an offshoot of this technique involves inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other. The focus of "asanas" should be aimed towards healthy breathwork, too.
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    Do the "flossing" exercise.[10] Here the aim is to release the trapped sciatic nerve for optimum functioning of the muscles of the lower back. The flossing exercise helps to break away the scar tissue that has built around the affected part of the nerve, thereby allowing the nerve to glide freely over the muscles. It's called "flossing" because of the release of the junk around your nerve, kind of like your teeth!
    • Begin in a seated position. The flossing is then done by gradually straightening the affected leg from the knee and allowing the tension to build up in the muscle to the extent that it can be tolerated. You want to flex your foot back towards you, so that the calf it tightened as well. This will work best for the peripheral nerve entrapments.
    • Studies have shown a good amount of evidence for the efficacy of exercises in relieving chronic/sub acute lower back pain.[11]
    • Another single-blind, randomized, clinical, controlled study showed that exercises may help patients with chronic and severe sciatica pain and may stave off the normally prescribed surgery.[12]
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    Do the McKenzie's extension. If the cause of your pain is a herniated disc, then doing the McKenzie’s extension exercises will provide great relief. The focus of these exercises is to centralize pain from the peripheral muscles and buttocks to the lower back.[13]
    • This exercise is begins by lying on your stomach with arms lying along your side and your head turned to the side. Then move your arms up towards your head while your raise your chest. You will plant your elbows alongside your chest, and continue to raise your chest, like doing a push-up on the floor.
    • A variation of this would be to put a pillow under your chest and gradually increase the number of pillows to two or three, whichever is comfortable, and stay in this position until it can be tolerated comfortably.
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    Do flexion exercises.[14] In lumbar canal stenosis, there is a narrowing of the spinal canal which causes compression on the exiting nerve. In this case, relief is best obtained by doing flexion exercises. The diameter of the spinal canal increases by bending forwards or flexing. Thus, this exercise releases the pressure of the impinged nerve and gives relief.
    • This exercise can be done by lying on your back on the floor or mat and bringing the arms and knees close to the chest.
    • The other method to flex the spine would be to go down on the hands and knees and then come back on the heels and rest the buttocks on the heels.
    • All these exercises should be done under the supervision of a trained physical therapist to begin with, and once learnt can be practised at home. Doing these exercises regularly will prevent recurrence of symptoms.
    • If you find that your leg pain or numbness increases while doing this, stop and see your physician immediately.

Method 4
Treating Sciatica Medically

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    Take pain medications. Pain medications, such as OTC non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, naproxen, or COX-2 inhibitors, can help with sciatica pain. Your doctor may write a prescription for stronger NSAIDs if the pain is more severe.
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    Consider steroid injections. Steroid injections are placed directly into the epidural space of the spinal cord. The steroids reduce inflammation.
    • Oral steroids are also used to reduce inflammation.
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    Get spinal surgery if your sciatica is severe and has not responded to other treatments. Spinal surgery is generally reserved for severe pain that lasts for more than four to six weeks or persistent pain despite medication or other treatments. This is pain that is severely limiting the patient’s life.[15][16]
    • Obviously, you will need to consult with a doctor to move toward this treatment of your sciatica.


  • Ensure an hour’s worth of exercises/yoga/physiotherapy to keep sciatica at bay and be able to enjoy life to its fullest, without any restrictions or limitations.

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Categories: Neurological Disorders