Therapies for Sciatic Nerve Pain Relief
refers to an inflammation of the sciatic nerve. Irritation can run down
the entire leg to the foot and may be excruciatingly painful. It
is often caused by compression or inflammation of the sciatic nerve root.
may be triggered by something as simple and easily correctable as sitting
on a thick wallet or a more serious condition such as a tumor or bulging
disc from the spinal column pressing on the sciatic nerve. As such, it
is a condition that should always be first evaluated and diagnosed by
a licensed medical professional, and any home treatments should only be
attempted under doctor supervision.
Can Cause Sciatica?
that puts pressure or tension on the sciatic nerve may cause sciatica.
causes from my family's experience and those listed in my collection of
alternative health books include:
lifting, strenuous yoga poses or any other type of exercise that
may tighten the muscles of the buttocks, back and hip may be a trigger.
I actually developed sciatica from physical therapy for repetitive
stress injuries in my upper body. The problem was that therapy only
focused on my upper body, which instead of balancing my muscles just
transferred the tension points from my upper body to my lower body.
So my RSI went away, and I developed sciatica instead. Yoga to lengthen,
balance and tone the muscles in both my upper and lower body was my
long term solution.
I've noticed that people
with scoliosis and a low shoulder may develop sciatica on the
same side of the body as the low shoulder. I think tight muscles in
the hip area may pull the shoulder down as well as put pressure on
the sciatic nerve.
Many women, me included,
develop sciatica from pregnancy. This may happen because the
weight of the fetus in the front of the body causes the muscles in
the back to contract and tighten, which in turn irritates the sciatic
Sitting on something
hard that pinches the nerve, such as hard, metal bleacher seats,
a Styrofoam back roller, or sitting on a thick wallet can cause sciatic
pain. Laying lengthwise on a Styrofoam roller can be great for back
pain and rounded shoulders, but unless you do leg stretches afterwards,
in our experience sometimes it can just transfer tension points from
the upper body to the lower body. One of my relatives has learned
to follow his back roller sessions with a yoga "legs up wall
pose" so that both his upper body and lower body get stretched
- I have a bit of a hard
mattress, and sometimes wake up with an attack of sciatica in the
middle of the night. When this happens I do the tennis
ball trigger point therapy as described below and the pain always
refers to the condition where pressure is placed on the sciatic nerve,
causing intense pain that may start at the lower back or buttocks and
run down the leg to the foot. This pain may be caused by something as
simple like sleeping on a hard mattress, sitting on a hard bench. One
common problem is tight muscles pressing on the sciatic nerve.
following stretches are a couple of the ones that I personally found that
worked to relieve my sciatic pain.
to Chest Stretch
- Supine knees to chest
- lay on the floor with your legs slightly bent. Grasp the knee
of the leg with the sciatic pain with both hands. Slowly and gently
pull it towards your chest. Stop if you feel any pain. It should feel
like a gentle, good stretch. Be careful not to pull too hard or your
muscles may go into spasm, which would then make the pain worse instead
of better. You can do also do this this pose with one or both legs being
pulled towards your chest, but I would put the emphasis on pulling the
leg with the sciatic pain the most. If this pose produces any discomfort,
then you may want to try trigger point massage therapy instead of stretching,
and try the stretch again at a later time when you are out of acute
Knee Stretch - Lay on the floor with your arms at your sides and
your legs bent. First cross your left leg over your right leg and then
push both legs gently back to the left. Then repeat on the opposite
side. I do both side but hold the stretch a little longer when the leg
with the sciatic pain is the bottom leg of the crisscross. Don't pull
too hard or your muscles may go into spasm, making the pain worse. You
should just feel a nice, gentle stretch. As noted above, don't do any
poses that cause greater discomfort. If any type of stretches hurt,
then it may be better to hold off andtry the trigger point therapy until
the pain subsides.
my family members and me acupressure is the main treatment that helps
acute episodes of sciatic nerve pain. Yoga, stretching and diet changes
may all help to prevent further episodes from happening, but for acute
pain the main treatment that helps us has always been trigger point therapy,
we have found most helpful is to apply pressure to the trigger point right
in the middle of the buttocks, either using a massage tool or simply rolling
on a tennis ball. One of my web site readers found immediate relief from
years of sciatic pain by applying pressure to trigger points by rolling
on the floor using hard, rubber dog toys!
you have someone else to help you with trigger point therapy, you can
lay on your stomach and have them use a massage tool with a rounded end,
to press the trigger points around your hips and gluteus maximus.
you don't have a helper for trigger point massage, and want to try something
other than rolling on the tennis ball, you can try a product called a
theracane. It has a long curved end which helps to reach places like your
backside, which otherwise might be hard to massage on your own.
have a large collection of therapeutic yoga books and many have sections
with poses to do for sciatica. One interesting point to note is that the
poses in general are all different from book to book. Many appear to me
to be selected at random, and some actually are poses that would tighten
the muscles in the legs and buttocks and most likely would make sciatic
nerve pain worse.
when I last had sciatica, I found the book Back
by Mary Pullig Schatz, M.D.
It has an entire chapter on sacroiliac Pain and sciatica. Besides the
to Chest pose, which is covered above under stratches, other
postures that helped include:
- Passive Back Arch
- Supine Cobbler's Pose
- Piriformis Stretch
- Crocodile Twist (lying twist)
- Supine Knee to Chest (variation
- One Leg Up, One Leg out
- lay near a doorway and have one leg stretched up the wall and one
leg straight out on the floor in front of you. I had to work up to this
posture. I started out with my leg up the wall at a 45 degree angle
and then as my leg loosened up over time worked up to ninety degrees.
In general, for me the best
poses were ones where I was laying flat on my back and stretching my legs
in various positions. Many other yoga books recommend standing postures,
but in my case the standing postures tended to tighten my leg muscles
and made my pain worse.
Vasant Lad, writing in Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing 2,
recommends the following poses for sciatica:
- Knee to
- Yoga Mudra
- Half Wheel
I have did
not have any more problems with sciatica prior to purchasing Dr. Lad's
book, so I could not personally test out the above poses. However, much
of the other advice in his Ayurvedic book has been very helpful for my
family and me, so I thought I'd include his recommended poses in this
article as others may find them of use.
I do think
that sciatica may require very individualized treatment depending on the
individual and the cause of the pain, so it may pay to try just one pose
from the above lists at a time and record the results, keeping the poses
that seem to help in your
daily practice and holding off on ones that cause further pain. If
a pose causes pain, it is often because it pulls where you are the tightest
and least flexible, so ironically it may be the pose you need to do the
most over the long term.
either holding off altogether or practicing a modified, more gentle variation
of any pose that causes you problems may be in order at first. In my opinion,
yoga or any other treatment for sciatica should never hurt, and any poses
you cannot do comfortably you should refrain from practicing for the time
being. For times when any poses were painful to do, then trigger
point therapy treatments listed below usually worked best.
Dr. Vasant Lad, sciatica is a common complaint for people with a vata
dosha. In Ayurveda, the Science of Healing, Dr. Lad states that,
"Vata people are very susceptible to gas, lower back pain, arthritis,
sciatica, paralysis and neuralgia." 3
Vata people tend to have thin frames, low body weight and cold, dry skin.
For more information
on Dr. Lad's Ayurvedic treatment of sciatic nerve pain, you can more about
the book Acupuncture without Needles by J. V. Cerney
the author recommends treating sciatica by applying pressure to the following
"A" priority points in the following order: B 47, B 48, B 51
B 54 and B 60. The author's next priority, his "B" list, consist
of GV 2 followed by GV 3.
sciatic pain on the side of the leg, Chris Janey and John Tindale, writing
for Commons Ailments 5,
recommend treating points GB 30 and GB 31. The authors feel that dispersing
points GB 34 and GB 39 may also help.
pain on the back of the leg, Janey and Tindale recommend treating points
B 57 and B 60. Recommended secondary points for side leg pain are B54,
B 26, and B23. Note: The author's have a caution that B 60 should not
be used during pregnancy.
Reed Gach, author of The Bum Back Book 6,
recommends treating points GB 30, GB 34, GB 40, and
GB 41, in the order listed, for sciatic
can find an online chart
with acupuncture points at www.acupuncture.com.
is often caused by tight muscles, and tight muscles may be caused by a
lack of magnesium. Calcium is the main mineral involved in muscle contraction,
while magnesium is the main mineral that releases muscle contractions.
Without magnesium muscles may stay permanently in a tight, contracted
state. Studies show that many people on Western diets with high amounts
of processed food may not be getting the RDA of magnesium, so it may be
a good idea to watch your diet to make sure you are getting enough of
this important mineral to keep your muscles relaxed.
one of my relatives starts to feel a twinge of sciatica coming on, he
eats a lot of peanuts, a magnesium rich food, and usually this will stop
his pain almost immediately. (Obviously this is not a viable solution
for people with peanut allergies.) Other foods high in magnesium include
nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, etc.), beans, bananas, and
leafy green vegetables. Factors that deplete magnesium levels include
a diet high in phytates (found in whole grains and unleavened bread),
coffee and other caffeinated substances, and excess calcium intake. For
more information see my page on how to get more increase
your magnesium levels with whole foods.
what to eat to relieve chronically tight muscles, see my section on the
best diet for fibromyalgia.
can be a debilitating condition that should always be diagnosed by a licensed
health care provider, as it may have serious causes, such as a herniated
disc. Alternative treatments for sciatic pain that may be helpful include
practicing appropriate yoga postures, acupressure, trigger point therapy,
Ayuvedic medicine and diet improvement.