Anyone who has dealt with sciatic pain knows how debilitating it can be. An aching back combined with intense pain shooting down your leg can stop you from living a normal, comfortable life. But there's good news! You don't have to suffer through that pain – and we're not talking about a strong dose of painkillers. There are natural, gentle alternative treatments like osteopathy and chiropractic care that can help ease your sciatica.
Sciatic pain can turn simple, everyday tasks into a frustrating struggle. The sciatic nerve, which runs from the pelvis down to the feet, is the longest nerve in the body. Pain can be caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, usually due to a slipped disk. This condition can result in pain that radiates from the lower back to the buttocks and right down to the foot. Typically, this pain will dissolve on its own, but in some cases it can persist. When this happens, doctors may treat the pain with a prescription of strong painkillers or the injection of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication right into the spine.1 Since strong painkillers may not be suitable (or preferred), there are a few ways to relieve sciatic pain safely and naturally.
Handling Pain The Natural Way
Chiropractic is a complementary health system based on the principle that problems within the body’s structure (mainly the spine) can affect the nervous system and, therefore, various aspects of health. Spinal adjustments are used to deliver pain relief. Studies have found that chiropractic manipulation can relieve local and radiating lower back pain in people with sciatica.2 A survey by the National Institutes of Health on complementary approaches for back pain also found that chiropractic is commonly used as an alternative for treating back pain – of the 74% who had used it, 66% found it to be of “great benefit”.3
Research has found that acupuncture can significantly reduce sciatic pain, both alone and as a supplement to conventional treatment.4 Acupuncture stimulates specific points in the body through the insertion of fine needles to restore balance to the flow of energy. This form of treatment is believed to increase the level of neurotransmitters noradrenaline and serotonin, which can reduce pain and accelerate nerve repair5, as well as stimulate the release of pain-relieving endorphins.6
Certain stretching exercises can increase flexibility in the lower back and mobilize the sciatic nerve, helping reduce the pain. One quick and easy way to stretch the lower back is to lie flat on your back, bend your knees, and bring them up to your chest.7 A physiotherapist can help you design a more comprehensive exercise routine that works best for you.
Osteopathy is a medical system that seeks to restore health by working on the muscles and joints by using a variety of treatments, including massage, exercise routines, spinal manipulation, and body awareness sessions.8 Research has found that osteopathy’s effectiveness at reducing leg and back pain and disability in people with sciatica is comparable to that of chemonucleolysis (in which an enzyme is injected into the spine to treat a herniated disc).9 In the US, osteopathy is practiced only by licensed medical doctors, but in other parts of the world it can be practiced by professionals trained specifically in osteopathic techniques.10
Ayurveda uses a variety of herbs like guggul (Commiphora mukul), garlic (Allium sativum), vistinduk (Strychnos nuxvomica), nirgundi (Vitex negundo Linn.), and erand (Ricinus communis) for pain relief. Medicinal formulations containing these herbs are taken orally. Massage and steam fomentation (applying steam to the area) may also supplement this therapy.11
Ayurveda also recommends enema therapy for treating sciatica. In fact, herbal formulations for pain management are said to work better after waste material has been removed from the body. A study that looked at the effectiveness of nirgundi (Vitex negundo Linn.) for sciatic pain found that it was more effective when taken in combination with enema therapy.12
Homeopathy has a variety of natural remedies for addressing sciatic pain. Chamomile is used to treat left-sided sciatica, in which the pain is accompanied by numbness, while colchicum is effective for right-sided sciatica, which includes a shooting pain down the leg. Other medicinal plants used in homeopathy for sciatic pain include bitter apple, St John’s wort, and iris. Be sure to consult a homeopathic doctor to figure out what’s most suitable for you.13
References [ + ]
|2.||↑||Santilli, Valter, Ettore Beghi, and Stefano Finucci. “Chiropractic manipulation in the treatment of acute back pain and sciatica with disc protrusion: a randomized double-blind clinical trial of active and simulated spinal manipulations.” The Spine Journal 6, no. 2 (2006): 131-137.|
|3.||↑||Hiropractic: In Depth, National Institutes of Health.|
|4.||↑||Qasim, Seyed Javad Mojtabavi Ali Ismail. “Acupuncture And Sciatica.” Kufa Journal for Nursing Sciences| مجلة الكوفة للعلوم التمريضية 3, no. 3 (2014).|
|5.||↑||Wang, S., Z. R. Sun, S. Tong, L. L. Shan, and X. L. Zhang. “Effects of acupuncture on monoamine neurotransmitters in brain tissue of experimental rat models of sciatic nerve compression.” (2005).|
|6.||↑||Zhao, Zhi-Qi. “Neural mechanism underlying acupuncture analgesia.” Progress in neurobiology 85, no. 4 (2008): 355-375.|
|7.||↑||Exercises for sciatica, National Health Service.|
|8.||↑||Osteopathy, Department of Health & Human Services. 2014.|
|9.||↑||Burton, A. Kim, K. Malcolm Tillotson, and John Cleary. “Single-blind randomised controlled trial of chemonucleolysis and manipulation in the treatment of symptomatic lumbar disc herniation.” European Spine Journal 9, no. 3 (2000): 202-207.|
|10.||↑||The Difference Between U.S.-Trained Osteopathic Physicians and Osteopaths Trained Abroad, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.|
|11.||↑||Mishra, Lakshmi C., ed. Scientific basis for Ayurvedic therapies. CRC press, 2003.|
|12.||↑||Ali, Mumtaz, V. D. Shukla, A. R. Dave, and N. N. Bhatt. “A clinical study of Nirgundi Ghana Vati and Matra Basti in the management of Gridhrasi with special reference to sciatica.” Ayu 31, no. 4 (2010): 456.|
|13.||↑||Chernin, Dennis. The Complete Homeopathic Resource for Common Illnesses. North Atlantic Books, 2006.|