There is a widespread misconception that any lower back or leg pain is sciatica. But actually, sciatica refers specifically to pain caused by aggravation to the sciatic nerve – the largest nerve in the human body.
The sciatic nerve branches at the lower back and runs down each leg. Typically, symptoms of sciatica are felt on one side only, and it can be debilitating.
Symptoms usually clear up within a couple of weeks without serious intervention. But this means that often people simply mask their symptoms and don’t try to get to the root cause of the issue. Pharmacy painkillers are often recommended and will provide short-term relief, but won’t prevent recurrence later on.
Here we’ll look at natural ways you can prevent and ease symptoms of sciatica, and consider:
- Who is most at risk?
- Can a herbal nerve oil ease sciatica symptoms?
What natural treatments can provide comfort and relief, without simply masking the pain?
- Can herbal medicine treat the root cause of sciatica?
Who is most at risk of Sciatica?
According to a 2016 article by Harvard Health, up to 40% of people will suffer from sciatica in their lifetime, and it’s most commonly caused by a slipped disc – when the soft tissue between vertebrae in your spine pokes out.
If you’re experiencing sciatica, you might feel some of the following symptoms:
Pain along the nerve pathway (lower back, buttock and the back of the leg).
A numbness or weakness in this area which can spread all the way to your feet.
- Paraesthesia – abnormal sensations like pins and needles or prickling of the skin.
There are several factors that might make you more susceptible to sciatica. Considering which of these might apply to you will give you a clearer picture of the cause of the problem, and help determine which natural treatments might benefit you.
Age – as we get older, the soft tissue connecting the bones in our spine weakens, making it more likely to become herniated (ruptured) and put pressure on nerves.
Occupation – heavy lifting and repeatedly bending down can, over time, strain the back and legs; causing damage to the muscles and irritating the nerves.
- Sedentary lifestyle – prolonged periods of sitting down can compress the spinal discs and cause aggravation.
- Obesity – excess body weight can put additional stress on the spine, leading to spinal changes that can cause sciatica.
- Diabetes – this disease affects the body's ability to regulate blood sugar and can lead to something called diabetic neuropathy, which causes damage to the nerves in the hands, feet and legs.
Natural and herbal treatments for Sciatica
There are a number of ways to ease irritation to the sciatic nerve, without the need for invasive procedures. Many of these are simple lifestyle changes – but remember that all changes can be hard work, and go easy on yourself if it takes time to shift your habits and improve your symptoms.
Herbal and plant-based medicines can be highly effective at reducing sciatica pain and driving long-term improvements, particularly when used in conjunction with changes in physical activity.
Our new Nerve Oil is a case in point. It's made with a soothing blend of herbal extracts and essential oils to ease nerve pain, numbness, swelling and tingling sensations. You can find out more about our Nerve Oil here (or continue reading below).
St John’s Wort reduces neuropathic pain and soothes inflammation
This leafy herb has a history in herbal medicine dating back to the ancient Greeks. More recently, it has progressed to mainstream practices – because it effectively treats a variety of ailments including anxiety, depression, cuts and burns.
St John’s Wort contains anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and neuroprotective properties that make it adept at easing the pain caused by nerve injury, and enabling the body to begin the healing process.
It’s a key ingredient in our Nerve Oil, designed specifically to ease symptoms of sciatica. This soothing blend of herbal extracts and essential oils (including calendula oil, comfrey oil, sandalwood and wintergreen) will provide relief from nerve pain and swelling, and support the body’s natural repair mechanisms.
Be aware that this herb can interact adversely when taken in combination with certain conventional medicines. If in any doubt, you can book a consultation with one of our medical herbalists here.
Comfrey root is deeply healing and will help the body recover
Torn ligaments, strains, bruises and inflammation to the joints, muscles and bones can all be contributing factors to sciatica; and comfrey root can facilitate healing and assist in recovery.
Traditionally named ‘knitbone’ due to its ability to aid tissue healing, Comfrey root contains allantoin, which helps new skin cell growth. Combined with anti-inflammatory compounds, this makes the plant brilliant at helping the body heal from a variety of injuries and afflictions.
Commonly used in ointments, we’ve added this healing root to our Joint and Muscle Balm. It’s blended with extra virgin olive oil, marshmallow root, Saint John’s wort, candelilla wax, pine essential oil, and cajeput essential oil.
Carefully balanced, each ingredient is added at the ideal moment to ensure the beneficial properties are at their most potent. And we’ve taken care to use candelilla wax as an alternative to beeswax, so the product is completely plant-based and suitable for vegans.
Regular movement will reduce tension on nerves
Regular exercise helps improve the overall health of your muscles and joints, including those in your spine. And if your vertebrae are happy, the soft tissue in between them can be too. A consistent exercise routine can prevent the recurrence of sciatica pain – as well as improving symptoms in the short-term.
That being said, it’s important to be mindful of the type of exercise you do if you have sciatica, so as not to cause more damage. Gentle stretching and yoga can help keep the spine healthy and mobile while strengthening muscles at the same time.
A 2013 study published by the National Library of Medicine recommended yoga as an additional therapy to those suffering from chronic back pain. Other low impact sports like swimming, cycling and walking are also recommended to keep the body strong and flexible, without causing stress to the joints and muscles.
Created by qualified medical herbalists, our Joint and Muscle Tea is formulated to assist your body by promoting fluidity and ease of movement. This comforting blend includes anti-inflammatory and pain killing herbs like turmeric, ginger and cinnamon that will soothe active inflammation, and promote general joint and muscle health.
Looking for more advice to ease your sciatica?
Mild symptoms of sciatica usually clear up quickly and can be soothed using natural treatments. Our new Nerve Oil is a perfect example. If your symptoms are severe or become progressively worse, then we recommend reaching out for support.
Our medical herbalists are here to help. If you’re not sure how to implement a plant-based, natural treatment regime for sciatica or other nerve pain, you can book a consultation and benefit from a tailored herbal prescription.