The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body. It is made up of individual nerve roots that branch out from the spine in the lower back and combine to form the nerve. When the large sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed at or near its point of origin, the area becomes inflamed, which can cause pain, weakness and numbness in the legs, buttocks and feet. Sciatic pain can vary from infrequent and irritating to constant and incapacitating.
Although regularly seeing a chiropractor for chiropractic care is the best way to treat sciatica, there are a few ways you can relieve the pain at home in the days leading up to your appointment, and/or when the pain flares up unexpectedly.
6 Sciatic Pain Relief Methods
1.Apply Heat or Ice
Heating pads and ice packs are a popular form of sciatic pain relief as they are relatively inexpensive and easy to transport. You may want to alternate between heat and ice treatments to see which brings you the most relief.
How to Apply Cold Therapy:
When you begin to feel the pain, wrap some ice in a towel and place it on your lower back for 15 minutes. The cold reduces local inflammation, and therefore, eases the sharp pain. If your skin begins to feel numb, remove the ice pack immediately.
How to Apply Heat Therapy:
Position an electric heating pad or hot water bottle against your lower back, buttock, or the back of your leg for 10 to 20 minutes. The heat dilates blood vessels, which increases the blood flow to the area and helps relax your muscles. Heat therapy helps relieve the pain and makes it easier to stretch or exercise after the treatment.
2.Stretch your Hamstrings
Simply resting for a day or two once your sciatica starts to flare-up does not make the pain go away. In fact, you should be doing the opposite and exercise to relieve the pain. Similar to applying heat therapy, stretching and exercising can increase blood circulation to the injured areas and help lessen your pain.
One of the best muscles to stretch to relieve sciatic pain is your hamstrings. When you do not stretch your hamstrings, they can become tight and inflexible, aggravating sciatic pain. An easy exercise to loosen up these muscles is called a seated hamstring stretch. Begin by sitting on the edge of a chair with one foot flat on the floor and the other leg straightened out in front of you, with the heel of the foot on the floor. Once in the position, lean forward, keeping your shoulders and head upright, until you feel a gentle stretch behind your leg. For a complete stretch, hold the position for 30 seconds.
3.Do Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises
Low-impact aerobic exercise can release endorphins and reduce the inflammation around your sciatic nerve roots. Simple low-impact aerobic exercise includes walking around your neighborhood or on a treadmill. Take short strides and keep an upright posture for the full benefit of the exercise.
4.Take Over-The-Counter Pain Medications
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications that contain ibuprofen and naproxen can help reduce the inflammation of the nerve and lessen the pain. You should always speak to a healthcare professional about which over-the-counter medications you should take for your pain. It is also always best to follow the instructions on the label.
5.Give Yourself a Massage
Since it is most likely you won’t be able to get an immediate massage or chiropractic appointment, you can use DIY massage techniques to relieve the pain. One easy technique is to use a tennis ball. Simply lie on the floor and place the tennis ball under your buttock or upper thigh. Slowly roll your leg or buttocks over the ball until you find a tender spot to focus on. The gentle pressure from the tennis ball may provide relief similar to what you would get from a typical pressure-point massage. Stop the massage immediately if you feel sudden, sharp pain.
6.Try Mind-Body Techniques
Mind-body techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, guided imagery, and cognitive behavioral therapy, can help relax your muscles and possibly increase your sense of control over the pain.
Depending on what triggers your pain, all of these methods may or may not work for you. However, these methods are only meant to provide temporary relief to control the pain. For greater sciatic nerve pain management, speak to your doctor about chiropractic manipulation or read more about its benefits here.