Sciatica is characterised by pain caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in our body, running from the back of the pelvis, through the buttocks, and down both legs to the feet, and when it is irritated or compressed it causes pain, numbness and a tingling sensation that travels from the lower back down through one or both legs to the feet and toes.
The pain can range from being mild to very painful. It can be made worse by sitting for long periods, or by sneezing and coughing. There can be muscle weakness to in the affected leg. Often, sciatica can be accompanied by general back pain.
Conventional Medical Treatment for Sciatica
NHS Choices describes the conventional treatment for sciatica, although it says that treatment is not always necessary, as the condition often improves naturally within around six weeks. For mild cases it recommends remain active, using hot or cold compresses, and gentle exercise. Or taking “simple painkillers” such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Even when the sciatica becomes persistent or troublesome, NHS Choices says that doctors can only prescribe painkilling drugs, including NSAID painkillers, and opioid drugs (codeine and morphine), or antidepressant drugs, such as amitriptyline, or anticonvulsant drugs, such a gabapentin. These drugs only relieve the pain for short periods. It warns that “these medications are not suitable for everyone, particularly when used in the long term” and that “some of these medications can also cause significant side effects in some people”.
If these drugs do not work, NHS Choices says that the doctor may refer you to a specialist pain clinic for further treatment. Here, you might be given spinal injection with corticosteroid drugs, or a local anaesthetic injection “which may help release the pressure on your sciatic nerve and temporarily reduce your pain”.
Physiotherapy can also recommended, this comprising of exercise designed to “strengthen the muscles that support your back and improve the flexibility of your spine” and “teach you how to improve your posture and reduce any future strain on your back”.
Surgery, as usual, is the last resort for conventional medicine, although NHS Choices says it is rarely used, but can include discectomy (where the part of the herniated disc pressing on your nerve is removed), fusion surgery (to fuse a vertebra that has slipped out of place), laminectomy (where a section of vertebrae called the lamina is removed). The risks of these surgical techniques are then outlined.
Homeopathic Treatment of Sciatica
Homeopathy does not treat illness or diseases. It treats the individual who has been diagnosed with a particular illness or disease. The distinction is important, and if you wish to read more about this, click on the chapter “Illness Diagnosis” above.
The following remedies provide a guide to the kind of symptoms they will treat, and they have been taken from the Hpathy.com website.
The most important remedy in sciatica, corresponding to the worst cases. There are pains in the sciatic nerve extending to the knee or to the heel, worse from any motion, and especially aggravated by cold. The pain is paroxysmal, followed by numbness and partial paralysis. There is a sensation which has been described as if the thigh were bound with iron bands, or as though screwed in a vise; the muscles are fearfully tense and fixed. This is particularly a right sided remedy. There are stitches during walking. It is especially useful in recent cases. There is a sense of constriction around the hip. The pains, too may come suddenly and leave suddenly, they may be sticking and burning, and all are worse from cold or damp and at night,when the patient can find no easy position for the limb. Colocynth typifies the sciatica due to nerve changes with no special inflammatory conditions attending it.
This remedy is quite similar to Colocynthis. It has intense neuralgic pains along the nerve, and numbness. The whole trunk and the main branches seem affected, worse when lying down, worse from motion, stepping and better whiles sitting in a chair. The pains extend to the toes.
With this remedy the pain is marked by complete intermissions; it exacerbates every night at a particular hour, and becomes unbearable; it is increased by vigorous and relieved by gentle motion. It is aggravated by cold, but relieved momentarily by warmth. It is a pure neuralgia, neither inflammatory, toxaemic nor reflex. Arsenicum is one of our most reliable remedies in sciatic.
This remedy typifies sciatic with muscular and ligamentous involvement. It is seldom adapted to recent cases, but comes in later. The pains are tearing and burning, worse during rest, alleviated a short time only during motion. There is lameness and a disposition to muscular twitching, bowels are constipated. It is a rheumatic sciatica, the fibrous sheath of the nerve being involved. It is the best remedy for a combination of lumbago and sciatica. Sciatica arising from over-exposure to wet or from lifting, wrenching and over-exertion. Great relief from warmth.
Arnica is a remedy for sciatica due to over-exertion. The acute pains are followed by a sensation as if bruised.
This remedy also has shooting pains down the back, down the sciatic nerve on first moving or on rising after sitting; the patient is obliged to walk about constantly during the paroxysms o;f pain. The pains are felt most in the region of the knee. It is worse during damp or cold weather and from cold applications.
Bryonia has shooting pains worse from motion and relieved by hard pressure. It is a valuable drug in the treatment of sciatica of rheumatic origin.
The pains calling for this remedy are worse at night, and from lying on the affected side, better from motion. When of mercurial or syphilitic origin, it is well indicated and may help, but it is not a very reliable remedy.
Darting pains in the left thigh relieved by motion.
The pains are darting and tearing, aggravated by motion. It is perhaps better adapted to syphilitic cases.
Right-sided sharp-shooting pains extending to knee, worse by motion; the patient must keep quite. The pain is sudden, constant and intolerable.
Sciatica, with aggravation of pain while sitting, somewhat relieved by walking and entirely relieved by lying down. Pains in the left hip as if the tendons were too short. Legs feel contracted. Painful jerks, feet feel as if asleep.
This remedy typifies a sciatica due to venous stasis and is useful in the milder forms where there is a sense of fatigue and heaviness, flying attacks, aching in loins and hips. Uterine sciatica.
Lycopodium is sometimes most useful in chronic cases where there are fine burning or stinging pains, or tearing, drawing or jerking pains worse from rest. The lithic acid constitution will decide the remedy.
The congestive variety of sciatica from exposure to colds, dampness and from suppressed perspiration indicates Aconite. There is much numbness, perverted sensation, pricking and a sense of coldness in the parts, especially toes. The pains are very severe and worse at night; the patient is restless, there is tingling along the affected nerve.
Here the inflammation is high and the pains come on suddenly. There is a neuritis, and the course of the nerve is sensitive; the pain is especially severe at night, the parts are sensitive to the touch, the least concussion or a draft of air aggravates. Severe lancinating pains coming on in the afternoon or evening; has to change position often; worse from motion, noise, shock or contact; cannot bear the clothing to touch him. Relieved by letting the limb hang down, warmth and the erect posture.
From its action on the spinal cord, Nux is frequently the remedy in sciatica. It has lightning-like pains, with which twitching of the parts. Violent pains, has to change position; pains shoot down into the foot, the limb is stiff and contracted and the parts feel paralyzed and cold. Better when lying on the affected side and from the application of hot water. Constipated bowels and sedentary habit.
Plumber also has lightning-like pains and in paroxysms. Pains and cramps along sciatic nerve, and especially where atrophy is present.