Sciatica or sciatic nerve pain occurs when the sciatic nerve (the largest nerve in the body) is in some way pinched, inflamed or damaged. The pain follows the path of the nerve and occurs on one side of the body radiating to the lower back, hip, buttock, back of the knee, and down to the foot. The pain is felt as either a pins and needles sensation, a burning pain, a nagging ache, a sharp shooting pain, and less commonly as numbness. Activities like walking, gently stretching the leg or simply lying down often decreases or alleviates the pain, whilst sitting or standing often increases the pain. There are many causes for sciatic pain, and these include a pinched nerve, injury, a herniated disc, a tumour, osteoarthritis, infection or muscle sprain. If any of these are the cause of your sciatica, a visit to your healthcare professional is necessary to begin treatment of the underlying cause. In many cases however, there is seemingly no cause for sciatica. It just suddenly presents itself and the discomfort experienced interferes with normal day to day functioning. The severity of pain varies from person to person, but it’s not unusual to experience so much pain that sleeping becomes difficult. For some people sciatica will resolve spontaneously, and with no treatment. For others, some form of treatment and self help are necessary.
Self-help for Sciatica
- Correct sitting posture and getting up frequently if sitting at a desk for an extended period of time, helps to relieve pressure build-up on the spine.
- Sleeping with a pillow between the knees may bring relief.
- Ensure you sleep on a good quality mattress.
- Gentle hamstring stretches may help to relieve pain.
- Correct regular exercise helps to keep the spine supple and strong therefore helping to protect against muscle strain injury.
- In severe and chronic cases, the advice of a healthcare professional such as a cupping therapist, chiropractor, physiotherapist or osteopath may be in order.
- Dr Vogel suggests a remedy of garlic milk for sciatic pain: crush a garlic clove and add it to a cup of heated or unheated milk. Drink daily for a few days, and notice if you feel any relief.
Cupping Therapy for Sciatica
Cupping is best employed when the sciatica is due to a muscle sprain, a pinched nerve, incorrect posture, or when there is no discernible reason for the pain. The cupping helps to alleviate pain and discomfort by decreasing inflammation. This in turn assists to relieve pressure on the trapped or inflamed nerve. The cups are also placed on local areas of pain (on the leg, hip or lower back) to bring relief. The frequency and severity of your pain will determine how often and how many cupping sessions are required. The best results are achieved when cupping is combined with the self help techniques mentioned above.
Dr Maroula Lambis