CAN AYURVEDA HELP CURE A SLIPPED DISC?
Q I have pain in my lower back and leg. An MRI scan revealed that I could have a slipped disc and related issues. Can Ayurveda help?
AOne of the main reasons we suffer from back problems is that we are increasingly becoming sedentary creatures. In simple terms, our spinal disc is like a jelly doughnut with a soft centre encased in a hard coating. A slipped, ruptured or herniated disc occurs when the softer jelly pushes out through a crack in the tough case. It can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness or weakness in arms or legs.
As we age, our spinal discs lose some of their moisture content, making them less flexible and more prone to rupturing with even a minor twist. Sometimes, a traumatic event or lifting heavy objects can lead to a herniated disc. The condition is most common in middle age. Excess body weight too causes extra stress on the discs in your lower back. Repetitive lifting, pulling, pushing, bending sideways and twisting may also increase your risk of ending up with this condition. But even so, many people who have this problem experience no pain.
If a bulging or herniated disc presses on the sciatic nerve that travels down your leg, it can cause sciatica – sharp, shooting pain in the bottom, thighs, knees and calves to the ankles and toes.
Ayurveda offers an extensive list of therapies for the condition, including lepanam – application of herbal pastes over the affected area to relieve pain and swelling; bandages with herbal oils; and elakkizhi and podikkizhi – warm herbal bags to relieve pain and strengthen spinal muscles. Several therapies may be prescribed for severe or chronic cases. Self-care measures can help a lot in the prevention and treatment of lower back pain. Once the acute pain subsides, muscle strengthening will help to prevent recurrences.
Avoid bending, twisting or lifting heavy objects. When sitting, rest your knees a little higher than your hips and keep your feet flat on the floor. Do not sit in the same position for long periods of time. If you are a nursing mother, don’t strain your back by bending over your infant. Yoga postures such as bhujangasana, salabhasana and pavana muktasana are helpful.
DR VL SHYAM is a Dubai-based Ayurveda practitioner