Sciatica or Gridhrasi is a severe painful condition affecting the posterior aspect of one or both the lower limbs. The pain radiates along the path of sciatic nerve which has its origin at the back of the pelvis from the lumbosacral vertebrae. This excruciating pain originates in lower back, hip, thigh, calf muscles and ends up in the toe.
The pain is the result of either compression of the nerve due to any reason like stenosis of spinal canal, accidental injury, fall, degenerative changes in the intervertebral disc, slipped disc – in which the disc buldge – exerts pressure on the nerve root involving sciatic nerve OR inflammation of muscles of the supporting tissues of the sciatic nerves of the leg. At times the pregnancy bump also exerts the pressure on the spine resulting in compression of the sciatic nerve and exaggerated pain in the lower limb.
The pain may express in various ways like a simple tingling in the leg , burning or numbness in the leg to throbbing and excruciating pain during few movements, at times it may also cause restriction of movements. The sciatic pain may even interrupt daily chores and activities like standing, bending, driving, and other day to day activities. Sitting jobs can also worsen the pain.
The radiating pain often leads to limp in the affected leg – the gait that resembles to one, of the Vulture (Gridhra) – Ayurveda explains this condition as ‘Gridhrasi’ – “Gridhravat chalati asmin”. Ayurveda lists Gridhrasi among 80 vata diseases. The vitiated vata alone or along with deranged kapha dosha causes different symptoms in gridhrasi.
- All vata prakopak (vitiating) diet like beans, uncooked sprouts, canned foods and lifestyle are the root cause of vata disorders.
- Excessive intake of dry and cold foods, over eating of bitter, pungent astringent taste. Fasting for longer duration.
- Working in cold environment, continuous standing or sitting job.
- Improper panchakarma procedures or not following dos and dont’s of panchakarma procedures vitiates vata
- Over exertion, heavy exercises, stress, excessive walking, driving or accidents like fall
- Improper sitting or standing position, Suppression of urges, all these above activities leads to increase and imbalance in properties of vata dosha at the affected site and results in pain, deformity and/or restricted movements.
In Gridhrasi with only predominance of vata dosha, stiffness, radiating, pulsating pain is felt from lower back , back of thigh, knee, calf muscles upto toe. When Kapha dosha is associated with vata other symptoms like anorexia, nausea, numbness, drowsiness and heaviness are present along with pain.
- Adequate rest is recommended to relieve the initial pain.
- Correct and adjust yourself to comfortable sitting and lying position.
- Avoid exposure to cold and damp surroundings. Use comfortable footwears in and out of the house.
- Mild to moderate exercise like walking, swimming is advised.
- Avoid vata vitiating foods, and include fresh warm, & easily digestible food.
- Snehan Swedan – Apply medicated oil like Sahachar oil, dashmool oil, or vishagarbha oil depending upon the severity , followed by medicated steam or hot fomentation. This will relieve pain and stiffness.
- In excessive stiffness or immobility patra pottali with nirgundi and castor leaves along with Basti therapy proves beneficial.
- In degenerative conditions like osteoporosis, muscle weakness or history of fall/injury, shashtishali Pinda sweda is preferred over patra pottali, and snehan (massage) with balya oils is recommended, followed by Basti.
- In cases of extreme pain, blood letting (Rakta mokshan) and Agnikarma should be done by well experienced vaidya.
- In conditions like pregnancy where proper snehan swedan is not advisable, gentle application of balya and vataghna oil like narayan tel, or bala oil is advisable. comfortable sitting and sleeping arrangements should be taken care of.
- Place a warm and soft cotton or woolen cloth under the painful area and also between the gap of bedding and spine; this will not only provide support to the stretched spine but also the much needed warmth and comfort.
- Medicines like Shephali vati, yograj guggul, vishtinduk vati, rasnadi kwath, Trayodashanga guggul, sinhanad guggul are useful but should be taken only under guidance of Ayurvedic physician.