Natural Treatments for Sciatica

By Dr. Mao Shing Ni


THE LARGEST NERVE BUNDLE IN YOUR BODY can become the largest pain in the rear. The sciatic nerve originates from the lowest part of your spine and serves the lower body. When the nerve gets irritated, inflamed, or compressed, unbearable pain shoots down your buttocks, to the back of your legs, and down to your feet. You may also experience numbness in the leg or feet, difficulty walking or standing, or even bladder problems and fever.


Causes of sciatica: Anything from prolonged sitting on hard surfaces to carrying a large wallet can cause sciatica. Herniated disks, muscular pressure, and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the space in the spinal column through which the nerve extends) are possible causes as well.[5] Sciatica mostly affects people ages twenty-five to forty-five, most often the result of sudden twisting movements or the improper lifting of heavy objects. The easiest preventives for sciatica are proper posture, good physical fitness, taking special care when lifting or moving heavy objects, and a healthy lifestyle in general.


In Chinese medicine there is a condition known as painful obstruction syndrome, which describes a situation in which the energy meridians and blood vessels become compressed, blocking the flow of energy and blood and causing severe pain. Sciatica is one such painful obstruction syndrome, often caused by dampness in addition to energy and blood constriction. In Chinese medicine, there are further differentiations of dampness-related painful obstruction, such as dampness and cold, dampness and wind, and dampness and heat classifications. See the section on arthritis for recommendations for each of these.


I’ve treated many acute and chronic sciatica conditions using acupuncture and herbal therapy with good results. Acupuncture is effective for all kinds of pain, but particularly for sciatica. My approach is to unblock the stagnation, promoting the flow of energy and blood. I also advise my patients on exercises to strengthen the core muscles.


Related conditions: lower back pain, arthritis, insomnia


For natural treatment of sciatica pain and the underlying causes here are some of my recommendations:






  1. chamomile tea for sciaticaChamomile tea is a muscle relaxant, and can help alleviate the pain of sciatica. Steep chamomile tea bags in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drink 3 cups daily.[4]
  2. Epsom Salts: prepare a shallow bath with lukewarm water (about body temperature), add 1 cup Epsom salts, 2 tablespoons eucalyptus oil, and a few drops of lavender and chamomile oils. Sit in the bath for 20 minutes to relax your body, then take a lukewarm shower.[3] Take a bath twice daily until the pain is substantially relieved.





  1. A healthy, well-balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates, whole grains, fresh vegetables, and organic animal protein is important for a healthy body.
  2. diet for sciatica: bananasI recommend foods high in potassium, including bananas, potatoes, oranges, spirulina, and chlorella.
  3. Also dark green leafy vegetables.
  4. Saltwater fish such as flounder, salmon, and sardines.
  5. Black beans, soybeans, kidney beans.
  6. Garlic, onions, kale, grapes, mulberries, anise seeds, almonds, walnuts, and prunes are also beneficial.[1]
  7. Avoid alcohol and smoking, as they can irritate the sciatic nerve.
  8. Avoid sugar, especially processed bleached sugar, should be eliminated.
  9. Avoid spicy, greasy, or fried foods, as well as dairy and other foods that create dampness, should also be avoided.





  1. vitamins for sciatica: calcium, magnesium, bromelainTaking vitamin B complex can speed up healing in sciatica conditions.
  2. Taking calcium (2,000 milligrams) and magnesium (1,000 milligrams) helps relieve muscle spasms and reduce pressure on the nerves.
  3. The enzyme bromelain (800 milligrams) is an natural anti-inflammatory and helps alleviate back pain.
  4. MSM (2,000 milligrams) is also useful for general pain relief.





Herbs can be found in health food or vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medicine practitioners. Herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation.

  1. Evening primrose oil, horsetail, and chamomile are good Western herbs used to treat sciatica.[7]
  2. White willow bark, valerian, and passionflower work as relaxants and are natural pain relievers.
  3. chinese herbal formula for arthritisChinese herbal formulations for Arthritis and Joint Health include the herbs Loranthus Stems & Leaves, Notopterygium Rhizome & Root, Large-leaf Gentian Root, Siler Root, Astragalus Root, Peach Seed Kernel, Safflower Flower, Corydalis Yanhusuo Tuber, Myrrh, Eucommia Bark, Achyranthes Root, Cassia Bark, Dong Quai Root, Ligusticum Wallichii Rhizome, Rehmannia Root, Chinese Peony Root, Chinese Lovage Root & Rhizome, Poria Root, Licorice Root & Rhizome.





In addition to cardiovascular exercise such as swimming or walking for 30 minutes a day, yoga, tai chi, and qi gong can help strengthen the body without causing too much stress. During sciatica flare-ups, pain may preclude you from exercising and bed rest can help reduce the irritation of the nerve.


I recommend Dao In Qi Gong, which is gentle on the body and provides great benefits.[10] The sequence Stretching the Well helps the sciatic nerve. Practice this regularly to attain relief and prevent flare-ups.

Qi gong for sciatica
Begin with your right leg:

  1. Sit with your right leg as when cross-legged and your left leg turned out to the left so your left heel is touching your left buttock.
  2. Hold your left ankle with your left hand and hold your right heel with your right hand
  3. Inhale, and turn your head to the right, twist your torso to the right, and lean to the right, still holding on to your heel.
  4. Exhale, and twist your head and upper body to the left, lowering your body and bringing your right shoulder to your right knee, still holding your ankle.
  5. Inhale, lift yourself up, and twist to the left, looking behind you.
  6. Exhale, and return to the beginning posture.

Repeat the steps above for a total of 3 times on this side.

Then switch to the left leg:

  1. Sit with your left leg as when cross-legged and your right leg turned out to the right so your right heel is touching your right buttock. Hold your right ankle with your right hand and hold your left heel with your left hand.
  2. Inhale, and turn your head to the left, twist your torso to the left, and lean to the left, still holding your heel.
  3. Exhale, and twist your head and upper body to the right, and lowering your body and bringing your left shoulder to your left knee, still holding your ankle.
  4. Inhale, lift yourself up, and twist to the right, looking behind you.
  5. Exhale, and return to the beginning posture.

Repeat the steps above for a total of 3 times on this side.





1. First use the Acupressure point near the hip for sciatica:

self-acupressure point 1 for sciatica: GB-30, Jumping CircleFind the acupoint Jumping Circle (GB-30), on the center of the buttocks about midway between the tip of the coccyx and the right hipbone. Apply heavy pressure with your right thumb or index finger until you feel soreness. Hold for 30 seconds and release. Repeat several times, alternating the right and left sides.


2. Second use the acupressure point behind the knee for sciatica:

self-acupressure point 2 for sciatica: GB-34, Yang SpringFind the acupoint Yang Spring (GB-34), on the outer part of the lower right leg, just below the bony structure located near the end of the knee crease about four finger-widths below the kneecap. Apply steady pressure with your right thumb until you feel soreness. Hold for 3 minutes. Repeat on the left leg.


Engaging the combination of these points is excellent for relaxing and strengthening the tendons and treating sciatica.





  1. Avoid smoking and excessive use of alcohol, as they can deplete the body of vital nutrients needed for bone health. Nicotine especially irritates the sciatic nerve.
  2. Avoid the insomnia drug Ambien, which has been linked to sciatica in some people. Consult your physician for alternatives.
  3. Avoid stress, worry, and tension, as these emotions irritate the nervous system and predispose you to sciatica.
  4. Avoid poor posture- always sit with your back erect with support in the lumbar area. Do not sit for prolonged periods on hard surfaces. If you carry a wallet, take it out of your rear pocket when sitting. Take frequent breaks at work and stretch your lower back and buttocks.




  1. Balch, P.A. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 4th ed. New York: Avery, 2006.
  2. Beers, M.H., and R. Berkow, eds. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. 17th ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research, 1999.
  3. Benskey, D., and R. Barolet. Chinese Herbal Medicine Formulas and Strategies. Seattle: Eastland, 2000.
  4. Cameron, M. Lifetime Encyclopedia of Natural Remedies. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993.
  5. Duvall, R. Sciatica, what causes and how to treat it effectively.
  6. Gibney, M. J., H. H. Vorster, and J. K. Frans. Introduction to Human Nutrition. London: Blackwell Science, 2002.
  7. Gruenwald, J ., T. Brendler, C. Jaenicke, et al., eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics, 1998.
  8. Koopman, W. J ., ed. Arthritis and Allied Conditions. 13th ed. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1997.
  9. Mowrey, D. The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine. New Canaan, CT: Keats, 1986.
  10. Ni, H. Attune Your Body with Dao In. Los Angeles: Seven Star, 1989. Prevention magazine, eds.
  11. Ni, M. Chinese Herbology Made Easy. Los Angeles: Seven Star, 1986.
  12. --. The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine. Boston: Shambhala, 1995.
  13. Ni, M., and C. McNease. The Tao of Nutrition. Los Angeles: Seven Star, 1987.
  14. Time-Life Books, eds. The Medical Advisor. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life, 1996.
  15. Trattler, R. Better Health Through Natural Healing. Victoria, Australia: Hinkler, 2001.
  16. Werbach, M.R. Nutritional Influences on Illness. New Canaan, CT: Keats, 1987.



©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni

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