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NaturaI Therapies for Sciatic Nerve Pain

ReIief
Contents:
Overview
What Can Cause Sciatica?
The Stretches That HeIped Me
Trigger Point Therapy
BeneficiaI Yoga Poses
Ayurvedic Treatment
Acupressure
Diet Therapy
Summary
References
Overview
Sciatica refers to an inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
rritation can run down the entire leg to the foot and
may be excruciatingly painful. t is often caused by
compression or inflammation of the sciatic nerve root.
Sciatica 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.
What Can Cause Sciatica?
Anything that puts pressure or tension on the sciatic
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nerve may cause sciatica. Possible causes from my
family's experience and those listed in my collection of
alternative health books include:
Weight Iifting, strenuous yoga poses or any
other type of exercise that may tighten the
muscles of the buttocks, back and hip may be a
trigger. actually developed sciatica from
physicaI 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 RS went away, and developed sciatica
instead. Yoga to lengthen, balance and tone the
muscles in both my upper and lower body was my
long term solution.
've noticed that people with scoIiosis and a Iow
shouIder may develop sciatica on the same side
of the body as the low shoulder. 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 nerve.
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
out equally.
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 do the tennis ball
trigger point therapy as described below and the
pain always goes away.
Stretches for Sciatica
Sciatica 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
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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.
The following stretches are a couple of the ones that
personally found that worked to relieve my sciatic pain.
Knees 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. t 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 would put the emphasis
on pulling the leg with the sciatic pain the most. f
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 sciatic pain.
Crisscross Knees
Crisscross 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. 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. f any type of
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stretches hurt, then it may be better to hold off
andtry the trigger point therapy until the pain
subsides.
Trigger point Therapy
For 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,
What 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!
f 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.
f 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. t
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.
However, when last had sciatica, found the book
Back Care Basics by Mary Pullig Schatz, M.D.
1
helpful. t has an entire chapter on sacroiliac Pain and
sciatica. Besides the Knee to Chest pose, which is
covered above under stratches, other postures that
helped include:
Yoga Postures
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Passive Back Arch
Supine Cobbler's Pose
Piriformis Stretch
Crocodile Twist (lying twist)
Supine Knee to Chest (variation 1)
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. had to
work up to this posture. 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.
n general, for me the best poses were ones where
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.
Dr. Vasant Lad, writing in Ayurveda: The Science of
Self Healing
2
, recommends the following poses for
sciatica:
Knee to chest
Backward Bend
Plough
Yoga Mudra
Half Wheel
have did not have any more problems with sciatica
prior to purchasing Dr. Lad's book, so 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 thought 'd include
his recommended poses in this article as others may
find them of use.
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. f 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.
However, initially either holding off altogether or
practicing a modified, more gentle variation of any
pose that causes you problems may be in order at first.
n 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
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time being. For times when any poses were painful to
do, then trigger point therapy treatments listed below
usually worked best.
According to Dr. Vasant Lad, sciatica is a common
complaint for people with a vata dosha. n 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 it here.
Acupressure
n the book Acupuncture without Needles by J. V.
Cerney
4
, 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.
For sciatic pain on the side of the leg, Chris Janey and
John Tindale, writing in Acupressure 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.
For 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.
Michael 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 pain relief.
You can find an online chart with acupuncture points at
www.acupuncture.com.
Ayurvedic Treatment
Diet Therapy
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Sciatica 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.
When 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.
For what to eat to relieve chronically tight muscles, see
my section on the best diet for fibromyalgia.

Sciatica 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.
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Related Pages -
Natural therapies for:
Swollen Ankles
Knee Pain
Scoliosis
References:
1. Schatz, Mary Pullig. Back Care Basics. Berkeley,
California: Rodmell Press, 1992.
2. Lad, Vasant. Ayurveda: The Science of Self
Healing. Twin Lakes, Wisconsin: Lotus Press, 1984.
115.
3. bid., at 38.
4. Cerney, J. V. Acupuncture Without Needles. West
Nyack, New York: Parker Company, 1983. 198-201.
5. Janey, Chris, and John Tindale. Acupressure for
Common Ailments. New York: Fireside, 1991. 83.
6. Gach, Michael Reed. The Bum Back Book.
Berkeley: Celestialarts, 1983. 58-60.
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