Sciatica is a painful condition characterized by the inflammation of the sciatic nerves of the leg. It involves pain radiating from the lower back to the back of the legs. Either one or both of the legs can get affected by sciatica and the condition is considered to aggravate with age. The root cause of the condition is often narrowed to the compression of the sciatic nerve due to a protruding vertebral disc in the spine. Spasm of the piriformis muscle in the buttock region, a faulty sitting posture, sleeping in curved position and injury to the lower back are also considered triggering factors for sciatica.
Ayurvedic understanding of Sciatica
Ayurveda correlates the condition to Gridhrasi which is one among the neuro-muscular diseases caused by the imbalance of Vata dosha. The word Gridhrasi is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Gridhra’ which means vulture, so as to define the condition characterized by a vulture-like gait due to the slightly curved legs from the severe pain and stiffness.
Primarily considered as a Vatavyadhi, the condition presents with the aggravation of Vata dosha due to intake of Vata rich foods, excess consumption of cold, dry, pungent, bitter and astringent food, etc. Ayurveda also considers Vata-Kaphaja Sciatica in which Vata is the main dosha and Kapha is sub dosha and is characterized by indigestion, anorexia, freezing sensation in lower limbs, and heaviness of the leg.
Ayurvedic line of treatment for Sciatica includes Vata-pacifying measures along with addressing the toxic build up in the body and followed by measures to restore digestive health.
- Snehana – Oleation by application or pouring of oil all over the affected area is advised.
- Swedana – Fogmentation or sudation therapy through Pizhichil, Patra Pinda Sweda, Upanaha Sweda, etc. are beneficial.
- Virechana – Mild purgation to eliminate toxins.
- Basti – Medicated enema therapy to treat the seat of Vata dosha.
- Raktamokshana – Blood-letting therapy to remove impure blood from the bloodstream above or below knee joint.
Diet recommendations and lifestyle advices for managing sciatica
- Include carbohydrates in diet for regular bowel movements for digestive health.
- Add green leafy vegetables in the diet for fiber intake that is beneficial for proper digestion.
- Avoid heavy meals that takes long time to digest which exerts pressure on the lower back.
- When sleeping, lie straight on the back or have the bent knees supported by a pillow.
- Hot and cold compresses on an alternate basis is recommended for pain relief.