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. Annual incidence of sciatica ranges from 1% to 5% across the world. Sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body which gets affected in the disease.
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 worst case both the legs.
Although there is severe pain during the disease, sciatica cure is possible with adequate rest and proper regimen. Severity of the condition can even lead to leg weakness and bowel or bladder changes which requires surgical intervention.
Sciatica 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.
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 happen 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 is characterised 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 is an associated condition of degenerative disk complaint. When one spinal bone or vertebra extends, these can pinch the nerves and cause sciatic nerve.
When the piriformis muscle involuntary 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 can worsen 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 increases 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 with 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 cause for generating 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.
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. The Sciatica 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.
Ayurveda mentions sciatica as Gridhrasi which is a vata vyadhi caused due to aggravation of vata dosha. The diseases shows 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 restricts its free movement. Straight leg raising test is a common test which confirms the sciatica diagnosis.
Sciatica treatment in Ayurveda includes 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 medicine for sciatica includes dhanymaladhara, abhyanga sweda, patra pinda potali sweds, sarvangadhara, kati vasti, erandamoola niruha basti – kshara vasti and ksheera vasti. These external treatments along with internal medications help to reduce the sciatica pain.
|Nutrient||Food Sources||Actions in body|
|Calcium||Almonds, sesame seeds, kale, turnip greens, white beans, black-eyed peas and oranges.||Maintain the optimum level of bone mass and prevents from development of osteoporosis.|
|Vitamin C||Citrus fruits, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, green peppers, melons, kiwis, goose berries strawberries, alfalfa sprouts and the skins of potatoes.||Reduces the inflammatory rate in the body. Helps in fast recovery of injured tendons, ligaments and vertebral discs. Helps to keep the bones and other tissues strong.|
|Vitamin D||Absorbed by the body spending time in the early morning sunlight. Naturally present in egg yolks and fish oils; also found in many brands of fortified milk.||Helps improve calcium absorption.|
|Iron||Abundantly available in fishes, poultry, lentils, beans, eggs, grains, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, moringa leaves and broccoli.||Aids in the production of myoglobin, which is an important element which is needed by muscle for proper functioning. These muscles helps to support the spine.|
|Magnesium||Magnesium is found in whole grains, breads, seeds, nuts, potatoes, beans, bananas, kiwi fruit, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli.||Helps in relaxing and contracting of muscles.|