Sciatica – Ayurvedic Understanding And Successful Treatment Options

Article by – Dr. MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu), PhD (Ayu).
Sciatica is a severe painful condition where sciatic nerve of one or both the legs are involved. Thanks to long hours sitting jobs, it is a common disease which affects the movement of the legs. Often it is associated with low back pain. The condition where back pain and radiating pain of the legs are found together it is called Sciatica syndrome. In older times, as per Ayurveda system of medicine, it was named as Gridhrasi. 

As per Ayurveda, gridhrasi (sciatica) is explained as one among 80 types of Vata imbalance disorders(neurological  / neuro-muscular disorder). The word ‘Gridhrasi’ is derived from the root word – ‘Gridhra’. which means the bird ‘vulture’.

It is observed that in this disease, the patient’s gait is altered as his legs become tense, and slightly curved due to pain. Ultimately, the patients walk similar to the walk of the vulture (gridhra). Hence the name Gridhrasi.
According to another saying, sciatica is characterized by severe pain experienced by the patient and it is similar to the pain one experienced by the prey of vulture, while being eaten up.


Cardinal features:
Radiating pain in the affected leg/legs is the typical characteristic feature of this illness. Due to this, the patient walks with the gait of the bird, vulture.

Etiological factors:
All etiological factors of Vata imbalance disorders are the exclusive reasons of sciatica too.
Common causes for sciatica-
Intake of Vata aggravating eatables like- adhaki (pigeon pea), chanaka (Bengal gram), kalaya (peanut), masura (red lentil), nishpava (flat bean), uddalaka  etc
Excess intake of dry, light and cold food
Excess intake of pungent, bitter and astringent food
Heavy weight lifting, long walk, improper lie or sitting positions
Suppression of urine, feces etc
Improper practice of enema, purgation etc
Fall or injury etc.

Symptoms of Sciatica:
Pain starting from hip area and radiating to the thigh, back, sacral region, popliteal area, calf muscles and foot.
Pricking sensation in those parts
Altered gait
Rarely stiffness or pulsation etc. are mainly found.

Based on Dosha imbalance, Sciatica ( gridhrasi) is of two kinds-

  1. Vataja Gridhrasi
  2. Vata-kaphaja Gridhrasi

Vata sciatica-
Curved posture (altered gait) due to pain(pain during lateral bending), severe stiffness, pulsation in back, hip, thigh, knee and foreleg.

Vata-kaphaja sciatica-
Along with the above features, indigestion, drowsiness, nausea, anorexia, heaviness of the leg and freezing sensation in the lower limbs are complained.

Line of treatment:
As it is one among Vata disorders, all vata pacifying measures should be undertaken.
Snehana (oleation)- application, sprinking or pouring of oil over the affected area may be carried out.
Swedana (sudation)- tub bath, pizichil, sudation with oil added medicated herbal pastes (patrapinda sweda), application of poultice (upanaha sweda) etc. are beneficial.
Mridu samshodhana– mild purgation  (Mridu Virechana) is preferred.
Basti (medicated enema)
Shiravyadha/ Rakta-mokshana (venesection or blood letting) – It is advised to perform 4 angula (3inch) above or below the knee joint.
Agni karma (cautery)- is carried in the severe painful area or near the little toe of the leg, using a metallic rod.

Herbs useful in Sciatica:
Nirgundi – Vitex negundo Linn.
Bala – Sida cordifolia Linn.
Punarnava – Boerhavia diffusa Linn.
Eranda – Castor root – Ricinus communis Linn.
Shigru – Moringa oleifera Lam.
Rasna – Pluchea lanceolata C. B. Clarke.
Jambira – Lemon – Citrus limon (L.) Burm.
Masha – Black gram – Masha

Formulations useful in Sciatica:
Yogaraja guggulu
Gokshuradi guggulu
Kaishora guggulu
Khanjanikari rasam
Vishamusti vati
Prasarinyadi kashaya
Sahacharadi kashaya
Rasnaerandadi kashaya
Punarnavashtaka kashaya
Rasnasaptaka kashaya etc

Wholesome diet and habits in Sciatica:
Masha(black gram)
Kulatha(horse gram)
Raktashali(red rice)
Amlaphala(sour fruits)
Dadima(pome granate)
Shigru(drum stick)
Patola(snake gourd)
Mamsarasa(meat soup)
Dhanyamla(sour gruel)
Eranda taila(castor oil)
Tila taila(sesame oil)
Avagaha (tub bath)
Abhyanga (oil massage)
Ushnodakasweda (warm water bath) etc

Unwholesome diet and habits in Sciatica:
Kalaya – peanut (Lathyrus sativus Linn.)
Chanaka  – Bengal gram (Cicer arietinum Linn)
Rajamasha (Raj maa)
Vegadharana (suppression of urges)
Vyavaya (sexual indulgence)
Vyayama (heavy exercise)
Diva swapna (day sleep)
Prajagarana (sleepless nights)
Yana (riding vehicles etc.)

Last drop:
Dear reader, Sciatica (gridhrasi) is a condition which makes the individual to cripple in longer time period. Careful supervision over the etiological factors will help to avoid the chances of affliction of the disease, especially in the professionals like tailors, two wheeler or four wheeler drivers, teachers, guards, chefs, servants, weight lifters etc. After once affliction, it is always better to have the treatment at the earliest as it decreases the working ability of the individuals.

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  1. I would add one thing out of my own experience and that is -cutting rich protein in our diet also help in this problem.Cutting protein does not mean eliminate totally but to adjust its qty.

  2. it is very infomatical and useful
    thank you doctor

  3. Puspa Govind says:

    I like your treatment but the ingredient are very unfamiliar

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Hi, please start going through previous articles and hope that over a period of time, herbs and medicines will become familiar.

  4. Monique says:

    I am not sure what sciatica feels like, but I often get a cramp in my foot, lower leg, upon awakening, and also when sitting sometimes. Very painful cramp that looks like it’s frozen and how to get it to leave. What causes this? Any thoughts? Always appreciating your answers.

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Try applying Mahanarayana oil to the cramping regions, jhust before going to bed.

      • Gaurav says:

        At the time it happens, can ointments that open the channels help to “get it to leave”? Perhaps a paste of Chili pepper (Capsicum annuum), camphor, peppermint, black pepper, ginger, and/or other channel opening herbs…

        Could this be triggered due to some key leg nerves getting pressed when sitting on somehow unsuitable seats, or perhaps too much sitting leading to exhaustion (of nerves)? Or dehydration / insufficient minerals / electrolytes?

        Perhaps the Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)can help too? —

        • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

          Sciatica is due to pinched effect of the sciatic nerve due to bulged (protruded) lumbar disc. The bulged disc irritates the nerve, leading to pain, stiffness etc felt throughout the length of leg and back.
          Camphor, peppermint etc combination may help to some extent, but it may cause excess heat sensation. Safer alternative is to use liniments containing camphor, eucalyptus oil etc, which are milder and tolerable. They may help to reduce pain and also act as counter-irritant (masking the pain with hotness and different sensation).
          Viparita Karani might help but better to consult a Yoga expert before adopting this Asana.

          • All that I said above was in reference to the cramping that Monique alluded to, not sciatica.

            • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

              Sorry I missed that. In case of leg cramps / muscle catches, optimum levels of electrolytes, minerals, gentle rubbing of the muscles with hard part of the palms (as if rolling between palms), applying pain relief oils, or pepper based pain balms (such as tiger balm) helps to relax the muscles. I am not quite sure if the person with a muscle catch can get to Viparita Karani pose. It may turnout to counter-productive..?

  5. very very useful information Thank u very much doctor.

  6. Could Balarishta and Punarnava be helpful in addressing leg cramps? Please provide your expert advice and oblige.

  7. Nithin says:

    Hi Doctor

    I was playing cricket. and i suddenly turned to throw the ball to the stump. There was like a thunder in my hip. I could not walk properly after that. I went to a doctor. He gave me some muscle relaxing medicines.There was swelling on my left buttock. After 2 weeks the swelling was gone. I started having nerve pain on my left leg. Doctor suggested me to go for Physiotherapy. I went for 1 week. Therapist told me there is spasm in my left buttock.He showed me some exercises. I did that. Still i have that pain occasionally. What to do.Please advise.


    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Hi, the muscle spasm may take a few more weeks to heal. Apply Maha Narayan taila oil to the painful area 15 minutes before bath everyday.

  8. Hi sir i am having sciatica pain in my right leg MRI shows some problem with L4-L5 S1.what cani do?? Doctor suggested me for surgery but i am not in favour of it.Is it curable by ayurveda treatment??Please guide me ..thanks

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      It is curable with Ayurveda. Please consult an Ayurveda center with Panchakarma facility.

  9. hello sir..
    kindly suggest me some informative books for knowledge of Ayurveda and nadi parikshan.i am pursuing BAMS final year.pls help me

  10. Sheela Rani Chunkath says:

    For vata problems, meat soup better than dhals.

  11. Marrielle says:

    Dr. Hebbar, thank you for this good article. Does this mean Gridhrasi is to be found in Mamsa dhatu and Majja dhatu? Or what dhatu do I have to include when speaking of the affected dhatus? Kind regards Marrielle (Netherlands)

  12. I’m just 18 year old guy, 8 months before I was working out in gym and due to some wring workout I got a herniated disc problem in L4 and l5, and now it has been a month I’m suffering from sciatica pain like hell. Will I ever get rid of this sciatica and herniated disc problem and can continue my gym ? Can ayurveda heal me . Please let me know.

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Hi, it depends on the extent of slip disc. Better to consult a doctor directly.

  13. Jai shree krishna. Will an oil enema help to get rid of sciatica? Or a water enema or both? How often do you think it should be used for? I have had sciatica for years and just put up with it trying to pacifying my vata but it comes and goes still.


    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Oil enema – for 8 days, once in 2 months, over a period of time, is very useful in sciatica.

  14. Sir does lumbatone capsule cure slip disc or improve symptom only

  15. Okmkar says:

    Dear Doctor, my mother has this problem. Can you perform venesection also on her as mentioned in Charak Samhita. Where can we meet you for consultation and treatment?

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Hi, please let me know your place. I will try to suggest a good doctor for you.

  16. Dr.SoumyaSiddesh says:

    hello sir,

    sciatica caused due to degenerative changes,lumbar spinal stenosis,spondylolisthesis, muscle spasm etc. we know all these are abnormalities of vata, how can we choose particular medicine for these causes.

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Choose Vatahara medicines
      Ksheerabala taila oral
      mahanarayana taila – kati basti
      yogaraja guggulu etc.

  17. Offerup says:

    Hi Dr Hebbar,

    Which oil is best for doing Basti (enema) for sciatica?

  18. hemali shah says:

    I m rheumatoid arthritis patient since last 10 yrs. Pain is not bearable. Pls suggest home remedies.

  19. Anurag Taraiya says:

    very well written & answered. i am suffering Grahni Rog & scitica both. what are the panchkarma i should get done. right now i taking only katti basti with mahanaryan oil.

  20. I have a chronic back pain (for about 2 years) issue emanating primarily from right side due to muscle stiffness and knots. L4-5 and L5-s1 bulges are there but doctor saus there is no nerve compression or nerve pinching diagnosing it as mechanical low back pain. I am doing exercises under physio’s guidance. Will lubatone plus help or any other ayurvedic medicine will be helpful?

    • Dr J V Hebbar MD(Ayu) says:

      Hi, Lumbatone plus will be useful. Dose is 1 capsule 2 times a day after food for 2 months time.

      For personal health advice, please consult an Ayurveda doctor directly.
      If you want my help in finding a good Ayurveda doctor for you, then let me know your place.

      For email advice (not a reliable option, we do not promise any cure), please write to our health experts here (paid service) –

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