How do I Relieve Sciatic Pain?

Malcolm Tatum

People suffering with sciatica know just how painful the condition can be. The back pain caused from the inflamed sciatic nerve can be excruciating at times. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to ease sciatic pain and make it possible to continue enjoying many daily activities.

Lower back pain is often caused by sciatica.
Lower back pain is often caused by sciatica.

Before attempting to use any type of home remedy for sciatic pain, it is important to consult with a physician. Your doctor can determine if there are any properties associated with the home remedy that could interfere with any medication you are taking. Along with decreasing the efficacy of your medications, some of the products used in home remedies may actually trigger an adverse reaction when combined with prescription medication. Never take anything before speaking with your doctor about possible side effects or negative interactions.

Ice packs can help calm flare-ups of nerve pain.
Ice packs can help calm flare-ups of nerve pain.

One method of easing sciatic pain that works for many people is the application of cold packs to help calm flare-ups of nerve pain. To make a simple home ice pack, place crushed ice in a sealable plastic bag, then wrap in a hand towel. You can also use bags of frozen vegetables if necessary. Apply the cold for at least twenty minutes. Repeat throughout the day as needed.

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A bag of frozen vegetables may help relieve sciatic pain.
A bag of frozen vegetables may help relieve sciatic pain.

If the sciatic pain persists for more than a couple of days, heat may help to relax tense muscles and ease nerve pain. Heating pads work very well if you can manage to remain in the same position for twenty minutes or so at a time. If this is not practical, try some of the newer heat releasing bandages available at local pharmacies. These bandages will help to maintain heat at the site of the discomfort for several hours, allowing you to continue with your day.

Water therapy may be helpful in alleviating sciatic pain. This can come in the form of a hot shower, time spent in a hot tub, or settling into a pool. However, if the amount of pain you experience makes it hard to stand or get in and out of a tub or pool, do not attempt this type of therapy without someone nearby to assist you.

Depending on the level of sciatic pain you are experiencing, your doctor may discourage the use of prescription medication and recommend that you use over the counter pain relievers. Products containing acetaminophen or some type of NSAID compound are likely to help with sciatic pain. If your doctor approves, you may alternate use of different over the counter medications to address both the inflammation and the general discomfort that are part of sciatic pain.

Should your pain continue for longer than a few days, do not hesitate to see your doctor. Your condition may call for more aggressive treatment than is possible with over the counter products and home remedies. With your doctor’s help, you can explore different ways to deal with sciatic pain and develop a regimen that will provide the greatest amount of relief.

Over the counter medication can be used to treat sciatic pain.
Over the counter medication can be used to treat sciatic pain.

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Discussion Comments


@ysmina-- My doctor told me not to do any back exercises when I am in a lot of pain. That could make things worse. It could worsen the injury or even trigger a spasm. So it's best to rest and take medications and wait for the pain to go away.

What my doctor did say was that when I do back exercises as directed by him, I may experience some mild temporary discomfort for about half an hour after. This does happen sometimes and I know that it's okay. I recommend doing any exercises after a hot a shower or after applying a hot compress to your back to relax the muscles. It will make it easier and reduce the risk of any injury. And you should never push yourself too far or do exercises that your doctor has not approved.


What about back exercises? I have a list of back exercises from my doctor as a long-term treatment for my sciatica. But is it a good idea to do these exercises when I have pain? Or should I wait for the pain to go away?


I don't think that cold therapy is the best idea for sciatic pain. I've never used it myself. I always prefer heat therapy which works great. We want to relax the muscles around the nerves in the back, not constrict them further. Heat relaxes whereas cold constricts. I can see the logic behind using cold to relieve inflammation. Inflammation does occur with sciatica but I feel that cold will increase the pain by cause muscles to contract.

My doctor also recommended using hot water bags on my back when I have pain. I also use topical pain relievers. I don't prefer oral pain relievers unless it's very, very bad. On most days, a topical pain reliever followed by a hot water bag relieves my pain almost entirely.

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