The term sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of this nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from your pelvis through your hip area and buttocks and down each leg where it divides into the tibial and peroneal nerves at your knees. The sciatic nerve controls many of the muscles in your lower legs and provides feeling to your thighs, legs and feet.
Pain radiates along the path of the nerve especially at the following locations:
- Starting at lower back and radiating to your knee
- Starting at your mid-buttock and down to the outside of your calf, the top of your foot and into the gap between your last two toes
- Starting inside of your calf following down to your inner ankle and sole of your foot
The intensity of the symptoms can vary, such as a mild ache, sharp pain, burning sensation, numbness, tingling cramping or muscle weakness. Simple actions such as coughing or bending can aggravate the symptoms further by putting pressure on the nerve.
In very rare cases it can affect bladder and bowel control. You will need to seek medical attention.
Why it happens?
Sciatica is generally a symptom of another problem, including:
- A herniated disk
- Narrowing of the lower spine
- Spondylolisthesis – degenerative disk disease
- Piriformis syndrome – a deep muscle in the buttocks becomes tight or spasms
- Spinal tumours
- An accident that injuries the sciatic nerve
What natural therapies can help?
Arnica is used topically for any physical trauma. It is a very handy cream to have in your first aid kit. Arnica speeds up healing time by reducing inflammation and bruising. Arnica can also be taken orally as tablets, pillules, oral spray or drops.
Devils claw has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Celery and boswellia – reduce joint swelling and inflammation.
St John’s wort – has a strong effect on the nervous system and has traditionally been used to relieve sciatica.
Glucosamine and chondroitin – improve joint mobility and decrease pain symptoms.
Fish oil, evening primrose oil and flaxseed oil – reduce inflammation
Did you know?
- Sciatic pain usually goes away on its own in around six weeks. During this time if the pain keeps getting worse or you are experiencing new symptoms see your healthcare professional.
- Hot or cold packs can help to provide relief.
- Gentle exercise and stretching can help recovery. Take it slow and forget the saying ‘no pain no gain’. If it hurts stop, otherwise it may make it worse and take longer to heal. Movements such as jerking or jogging may further aggravate it.
- Book in to see a physiotherapist to aid recovery. Remedial massage and acupuncture can also provide relief. They can also send you away with safe a safe exercise / stretching programme. Yoga and Pilates help stretch and strengthen muscles.
- Be aware of your posture when you are sitting or standing. Invest in comfortable shoes (no high heels) and an ergonomic chair.
- When lifting heavy objects ask for help and calculate the best way how to lift it without hurting yourself.