Sciatica – Ayurvedic Understanding And Successful Treatment Options

Article by – Dr. MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu), PhD (Ayu).
Sciatica is a severe painful condition where sciatic nerve of one or both the legs are involved. Thanks to long hours sitting jobs, it is a common disease which affects the movement of the legs. Often it is associated with low back pain. The condition where back pain and radiating pain of the legs are found together it is called Sciatica syndrome. In older times, as per Ayurveda system of medicine, it was named as Gridhrasi. 

As per Ayurveda, gridhrasi (sciatica) is explained as one among 80 types of Vata imbalance disorders(neurological  / neuro-muscular disorder). The word ‘Gridhrasi’ is derived from the root word – ‘Gridhra’. which means the bird ‘vulture’.

It is observed that in this disease, the patient’s gait is altered as his legs become tense, and slightly curved due to pain. Ultimately, the patients walk similar to the walk of the vulture (gridhra). Hence the name Gridhrasi.
According to another saying, sciatica is characterised by severe pain experienced by the patient and it is similar to the pain one experienced by the prey of vulture, while being eaten up.

Cardinal features

Radiating pain in the affected leg/legs is the typical characteristic feature of this illness. Due to this, the patient walks with the gait of the bird, vulture.

Etiological factors

All etiological factors of Vata imbalance disorders are the exclusive reasons of sciatica too.

Common causes for sciatica

Intake of Vata aggravating eatables like- adhaki (pigeon pea), chanaka (Bengal gram), kalaya (peanut), masura (red lentil), nishpava (flat bean), uddalaka  etc
Excess intake of dry, light and cold food
Excess intake of pungent, bitter and astringent food
Heavy weight lifting, long walk, improper lie or sitting positions
Suppression of urine, feces etc
Improper practice of enema, purgation etc
Fall or injury etc.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Pain starting from hip area and radiating to the thigh, back, sacral region, popliteal area, calf muscles and foot.
Pricking sensation in those parts
Altered gait
Rarely stiffness or pulsation etc. are mainly found.

Types

Based on Dosha imbalance, Sciatica ( gridhrasi) is of two kinds-

  1. Vataja Gridhrasi
  2. Vata-kaphaja Gridhrasi

Vataja Gridhrasi

Curved posture (altered gait) due to pain(pain during lateral bending), severe stiffness, pulsation in back, hip, thigh, knee and foreleg.

Vata-kaphaja Gridhrasi

Along with the above features, indigestion, drowsiness, nausea, anorexia, heaviness of the leg and freezing sensation in the lower limbs are complained.

Line of treatment

As it is one among Vata disorders, all vata pacifying measures should be undertaken.
Snehana (oleation)- application, sprinking or pouring of oil over the affected area may be carried out.
Swedana (sudation)- tub bath, pizichil, sudation by oil added with medicated herbal pastes (patrapinda sweda), application of poultice (upanaha sweda) etc. are beneficial.
Mridu samshodhana– mild purgation  (Mridu Virechana) is preferred.
Basti (medicated enema)
Shiravyadha/ Rakta-mokshana (venesection or blood letting) – It is advised to perform 4 angula (3inch) above or below the knee joint.
Agni karma (cautery)- is carried in the severe painful area or near the little toe of the leg, using a metallic rod.

Herbs useful in Sciatica

Nirgundi – Vitex negundo Linn.
Bala – Sida cordifolia Linn.
Punarnava – Boerhavia diffusa Linn.
Eranda – Castor root – Ricinus communis Linn.
Shigru – Moringa oleifera Lam.
Rasna – Pluchea lanceolata C. B. Clarke.
Jambira – Lemon – Citrus limon (L.) Burm.
Masha – Black gram – Masha

Ayurvedic medicines

Formulations useful in Sciatica:
Yogaraja guggulu
Gokshuradi guggulu
Kaishora guggulu
Khanjanikari rasam
Vishamusti vati
Prasarinyadi kashaya
Sahacharadi kashaya
Rasnaerandadi kashaya
Punarnavashtaka kashaya
Rasnasaptaka kashaya etc

Wholesome diet

Wholesome diet and habits in Sciatica:
Masha(black gram)
Kulatha(horse gram)
Godhuma(wheat)
Raktashali(red rice)
Amlaphala(sour fruits)
Dadima(pome granate)
Draksha(raisins)
Shigru(drum stick)
Patola(snake gourd)
Kshira(milk)
Ghrita(ghee)
Mamsarasa(meat soup)
Dhanyamla(sour gruel)
Eranda taila(castor oil)
Tila taila(sesame oil)
Avagaha (tub bath)
Abhyanga (oil massage)
Ushnodakasweda (warm water bath) etc

Unwholesome diet

Unwholesome diet and habits in Sciatica:
Kalaya – peanut (Lathyrus sativus Linn.)
Chanaka  – Bengal gram (Cicer arietinum Linn)
Rajamasha (Raj maa)
Vegadharana (suppression of urges)
Vyavaya (sexual indulgence)
Vyayama (heavy exercise)
Diva swapna (day sleep)
Prajagarana (sleepless nights)
Yana (riding vehicles etc.)

Last drop:
Dear reader, Sciatica (gridhrasi) is a condition which makes the individual to cripple in longer time period. Careful supervision over the etiological factors will help to avoid the chances of affliction of the disease, especially in the professionals like tailors, two wheeler or four wheeler drivers, teachers, guards, chefs, servants, weight lifters etc. After once affliction, it is always better to have the treatment at the earliest as it decreases the working ability of the individuals.

40 thoughts on “Sciatica – Ayurvedic Understanding And Successful Treatment Options”

    • Hi, please start going through previous articles and hope that over a period of time, herbs and medicines will become familiar.

      Reply
  1. I am not sure what sciatica feels like, but I often get a cramp in my foot, lower leg, upon awakening, and also when sitting sometimes. Very painful cramp that looks like it’s frozen and how to get it to leave. What causes this? Any thoughts? Always appreciating your answers.

    Reply
      • At the time it happens, can ointments that open the channels help to “get it to leave”? Perhaps a paste of Chili pepper (Capsicum annuum), camphor, peppermint, black pepper, ginger, and/or other channel opening herbs…

        Could this be triggered due to some key leg nerves getting pressed when sitting on somehow unsuitable seats, or perhaps too much sitting leading to exhaustion (of nerves)? Or dehydration / insufficient minerals / electrolytes?

        Perhaps the Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)can help too? —
        http://www.gaiamtv.com/pose/legs-wall-pose-viparita-karani
        http://life.gaiam.com/video/most-therapeutic-yoga-pose

        Reply
        • Sciatica is due to pinched effect of the sciatic nerve due to bulged (protruded) lumbar disc. The bulged disc irritates the nerve, leading to pain, stiffness etc felt throughout the length of leg and back.
          Camphor, peppermint etc combination may help to some extent, but it may cause excess heat sensation. Safer alternative is to use liniments containing camphor, eucalyptus oil etc, which are milder and tolerable. They may help to reduce pain and also act as counter-irritant (masking the pain with hotness and different sensation).
          Viparita Karani might help but better to consult a Yoga expert before adopting this Asana.

          Reply
            • Sorry I missed that. In case of leg cramps / muscle catches, optimum levels of electrolytes, minerals, gentle rubbing of the muscles with hard part of the palms (as if rolling between palms), applying pain relief oils, or pepper based pain balms (such as tiger balm) helps to relax the muscles. I am not quite sure if the person with a muscle catch can get to Viparita Karani pose. It may turnout to counter-productive..?

              Reply
  2. Hi Doctor

    I was playing cricket. and i suddenly turned to throw the ball to the stump. There was like a thunder in my hip. I could not walk properly after that. I went to a doctor. He gave me some muscle relaxing medicines.There was swelling on my left buttock. After 2 weeks the swelling was gone. I started having nerve pain on my left leg. Doctor suggested me to go for Physiotherapy. I went for 1 week. Therapist told me there is spasm in my left buttock.He showed me some exercises. I did that. Still i have that pain occasionally. What to do.Please advise.

    Nithin

    Reply
    • Hi, the muscle spasm may take a few more weeks to heal. Apply Maha Narayan taila oil to the painful area 15 minutes before bath everyday.

      Reply
  3. Hi sir i am having sciatica pain in my right leg MRI shows some problem with L4-L5 S1.what cani do?? Doctor suggested me for surgery but i am not in favour of it.Is it curable by ayurveda treatment??Please guide me ..thanks

    Reply
  4. hello sir..
    kindly suggest me some informative books for knowledge of Ayurveda and nadi parikshan.i am pursuing BAMS final year.pls help me

    Reply
  5. Dr. Hebbar, thank you for this good article. Does this mean Gridhrasi is to be found in Mamsa dhatu and Majja dhatu? Or what dhatu do I have to include when speaking of the affected dhatus? Kind regards Marrielle (Netherlands)

    Reply
  6. Jai shree krishna. Will an oil enema help to get rid of sciatica? Or a water enema or both? How often do you think it should be used for? I have had sciatica for years and just put up with it trying to pacifying my vata but it comes and goes still.

    Priya

    Reply
    • Oil enema – for 8 days, once in 2 months, over a period of time, is very useful in sciatica.

      Reply
  7. Dear Doctor, my mother has this problem. Can you perform venesection also on her as mentioned in Charak Samhita. Where can we meet you for consultation and treatment?

    Reply
  8. hello sir,

    sciatica caused due to degenerative changes,lumbar spinal stenosis,spondylolisthesis, muscle spasm etc. we know all these are abnormalities of vata, how can we choose particular medicine for these causes.

    Reply
    • Choose Vatahara medicines
      Ksheerabala taila oral
      mahanarayana taila – kati basti
      yogaraja guggulu etc.

      Reply
  9. I have a chronic back pain (for about 2 years) issue emanating primarily from right side due to muscle stiffness and knots. L4-5 and L5-s1 bulges are there but doctor saus there is no nerve compression or nerve pinching diagnosing it as mechanical low back pain. I am doing exercises under physio’s guidance. Will lubatone plus help or any other ayurvedic medicine will be helpful?

    Reply
  10. Hi, please coninue with lumbaton and spynovin. They are good. The nerve pain will go away but may take 2 – 3 more weeks time.

    Reply
  11. I’m a woman of 50 plus years of age having sciatica pain for quite some time which triggers with strain and irregular life style due to my busy work schedule.Also we have sedentary life style and long working hours.
    Could you please suggest some regular tonic to strengthen my nerves.
    Thanks for all your good guidance and useful tips.
    regards
    monica

    Reply
  12. L5-S1 IVD SPACE VERTEBRAE OF L. S.SPINE SHOW NORMAL HEIGHT AND CONFIGURAT NO EVIDENCE OF ANY COMPRESSION OR SCLEROSIS SEEN. REST OF THE INTERVERTEBRAL DISC SPACES ARE NORMAL. CURVATURE OF L.S.SPINE IS STRAIGHTENED MUSCLE SPASM NO ABNORMAL PARAVERTEBRAL SHADOWING SEEN IMP:- REDUCED L5-S1 IVD SPACE CURVATURE OF L. S. SPINE STRAIGHTENEDMUSCLE SPASM plz help me sir

    Reply

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