The Sciatic nerve begins in the lower back, runs through the gluteal muscles, and down the leg.
This nerve supplies almost all feeling in the skin of the leg, the muscles of the back and thigh, the lower leg and into the foot.
Sciatica occurs when the Sciatic nerve becomes inflamed, swollen, and is compressed.
Chronic back pain affects up to 25 million people yearly; Sciatica accounts for millions of those who suffer from it.
It is often the first sign of a slipped or prolapsed vertebral disc. It is highly painful – often sufferers will complain of burning or cramping in the thigh (the back or side of the thigh, specifically), severe pain on one side of the back, a pins and needles or tingling sensation in the thigh or legs, or possibly shooting pains starting in the buttock and radiating down the leg.
Sciatica can be caused by a number of things. First, degenerative disc disease can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve. Pregnant women often suffer from sciatica as the nerve can become compressed in late pregnancy. Chronic back conditions also contribute to sciatica: piriformis syndrome, spinal disc hernia, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis.
Symptoms can be worsened by movements that place extra pressure on the sciatic nerve: sneezing, coughing, laughing, squatting, bending awkwardly. Sciatica is also aggravated by prolonged sitting or standing. Poor posture also plays a significant role in the development of sciatica. Experts recommend daily, low-impact exercise such as walking and stretching to decrease pressure on the sciatic nerve. Strengthening core muscles is key in order to take the burden off the back.
Even though one may be using all the preventative measures mentioned above, symptoms may still flare from time to time. When flares do occur, experts recommend one to two days of bed rest, natural analgesics, and pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory essential oils. Essential oils penetrate deeply into the muscles, causing the contracted muscles to relax and blood flow to increase to the area. This will promote self-healing in the body.
Several oils can have a salutary effect on sciatica are: birch, cajeput, ginger, nutmeg, peppermint, rosemary, and spike lavendar. Several sciatica blend recipes utilize these oils to deliver relief to one suffering from the debilitating pain of sciatica. Other oils that help alleviate sciatic pain are: basil, black pepper, camphor, cardamom, cinnamon bark, clary sage, clove bud, cypress, eucalyptus, German chamomile, helichrysum, juniper berry, lavender, Roman chamomile, sweet marjoram, thyme linalool, and vetiver.
It should be noted here that anytime one is using oils they should be properly diluted. Tisserand and Young’s Essential Oil Safety provides dilution directions for over 400 oils. While essential oils can provide great health benefits, truly pure and therapeutic grade oils can be very strong, and have been known to cause topical rashes in those with sensitive skin.
Best Essential Oil Blends for Sciatica
Several blend recipes exist to help relieve sciatic pain:
- 10 drops of peppermint
- 10 drops of rosemary
- 10 drops of spike lavender
To properly dilute, add four or five drops of the blend to one teaspoon of carrier oil for severe pain. For little pain, add the same amount to one tablespoon of carrier oil.
- 2 drops of marjoram
- 3 drops of lavender or spike lavender
- 3 drops of ginger
- 5 drops of peppermint
Dilution directions: add four or five drops of the blend to one teaspoon of carrier oil for severe pain or the same amount to one tablespoon of carrier oil for less painful flares.
- 1 drop of birch
- 1 drop of cajeput
- 1 drop of camphor
- 3 drops of German chamomile
- 5 drops of peppermint
This dilution recipe is the same as for blend #1 and blend#2.
- 3 drops of black pepper
- 3 drops of juniper berry
- 5 drops of eucalyptus
- 10 drops of ginger
The dilution recipe is the same as the one for the previous blends.
- 3 drops of marjoram
- 3 drops of basil
- 4 drops of lavender or spike lavender
- 4 drops of peppermint
- 6 drops of helichrysum
- 8 drops of ginger
- 8 drops of rosemary
The dilution recipe is the same as for the blends previously shared.
These blends can be used two or three times daily. Some like to massage the oils in; others, too uncomfortable for a massage, use the oils in a cold compress to help relieve suffering.
Another way you can apply essential oils is with a roller ball bottle.
Sciatica support recipe:
- 7 drops of helichrysum
- 4 drops of lavender or spike lavender
- 7 drops of marjoram
- 7 drops of Roman chamomi
Put the ingredients in a 10 milliliter roller ball bottle and fill to top with the carrier oil of your choice. Roller balls work really well when the nerve is sensitive and can’t take a lot of pressure.
No information regarding the use of essential oils for pain relief would be complete without some mention of copaiba oil. Copaiba is a companion oil. It enhances the pain relieving effects of other oils. Copaiba has traditionally been used to aid in digestion and aid the body in natural response to injury or irritation. Once you have applied any of the oil blends mentioned above, you can also massage in copaiba to enhance the relief you’re feeling. NOTE: Copaiba and clove oil can be combined to relieve sciatic pain. Mix one ounce carrier oil of your choice, twelve drops of copaiba and two drops of clove. Then massage from the lower back to the knees to combat sciatica.
There are a variety of other ways to combat sciatica pain naturally. One of those if chiropractic spinal adjustments.
“A 2010 study found that nearly sixty percent of patients who experienced painful sciatica flares were able to receive relief from visits to the chiropractor.”
In fact, patients who had not responded to other treatments and were on their way to the operating table found relief with spinal adjustments. If the sciatic nerve is being compressed, a visit to the chiropractor will help to alleviate that pressure.
Acupuncture and yoga are also great for natural muscle relaxation. Some sufferers find relief from massage therapy. Doctors agree that yoga helps to strengthen the spine and core muscles and is safe for those with sciatica. Some sufferers have had success in using a mixture of three tablespoons of nutmeg powder and a cup of sesame oil. Users heat the mixture and then massage the mixture into the troublesome area. After doing this at least three times a day for three weeks, proponents say that the sciatic pain diminished greatly. Still others use trigger-point massage therapy to target pain in the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles.
Rolfing, an exercise also known as structural integration, and massage therapy are also high on the list of natural approaches for reducing sciatica. Rolfing is an exercise that anyone of any age can do. It is used to improve posture, reduce stress, and relieve chronic pain. Dr. Oz even claims that “rolfing literally releases the joints.” Rolfing involves manipulating the body’s myofascial system.
Heating pads can also help to relieve sciatic pain. Using a low or medium setting, place the heating pad on the small of the back for no more than twenty minutes at a time. You may also want to alternate cold and hot compresses for a few hours until you feel relief.
Many patients with sciatica have issues with inflammation. Smoking, being overweight, sitting for long periods, and prolonged exposure to vibration from vehicles (driving construction equipment or being a truck driver, for example) can all cause inflammation sparking a sciatic flare.
Stress can surprisingly cause sciatica as well. Stress can cause muscles to tighten all over the body, including the muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve. Experts recommend meditation, prayer, or tai chi in order to alleviate stress and get those muscles to relax.
Eating anti-inflammatory foods can also help to rid the body of inflammation. Turmeric, ginger, garlic, kelp, and sweet potatoes are all inflammation fighters. Be sure to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. This will help prevent muscle cramping due to dehydration. Turmeric can be added to milk along with a cinnamon stick and a teaspoon of honey. (Turmeric is a great natural anti-inflammatory spice. You can add it as a seasoning to a variety of foods to receive the anti-inflammatory effect.) Some sufferers take a turmeric supplement. The most common dosage is 250 – 500 mg supplements three times a day. However, one should get the go-ahead from the doctor. Turmeric can have an adverse interaction with blood thinner medication and diabetes medications.
Several natural ways exist to alleviate sciatic nerve pain. From essential oils to dietary changes, a victim of sciatica can find relief in a number of ways.