Sciatica pain runs from the lower back down the legs, and those who have experienced it describe it as excruciating and debilitating. In most cases sciatica is caused by a herniated disc or bone spur that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, but it can also be a result of injury, or even a side effect of pregnancy.
If you are dealing with sciatica, minimally invasive spine surgery is one of the most potent methods of treatment, but most people — and our New Jersey lumbar spine physician — generally turn to more conservative approaches first. If are looking for a way to manage your symptoms without having to undergo surgery, there are several home remedies that you can try that may provide you with relief. The most effective treatments utilize cold, heat and movement.
One of the most immediately accessible methods of treating new sciatica pain is to apply an ice pack to the area in the lower back where you are feeling pain. Ice reduces inflammation and is as close as your freezer. The right way to use it is to fill a large Ziploc bag with ice cubes, wrap it in a cloth or towel and then put it in place for 15 or twenty minutes. When you are done with the pack you can return it to your freezer to reuse. If you set an alarm on your phone that reminds you to use it for 15 minutes, take a 20-minute break from the therapy and then repeat another ice pack on/ice pack off cycle, you will likely feel a significant improvement in your pain level.
You can also enlist the help of a friend or family member to give you an ice massage using ice that you’ve frozen in a paper cup. By tearing away the top half of the paper you will expose a large area of ice that you can use to massage the painful area using a circular motion. Ice massage should be limited to no more than ten minutes and should not be repeated in less than an hour.
If you are still experiencing sciatica pain after a full week, it’s time to call our New Jersey lumbar spine physician for help, but it’s also time to turn from using cold to using heat. Heat therapy draws blood to the injured area, and within the blood are potent agents that aid in healing. The warmth of a hot-pack will also relax muscles that are under stress, and that can help relieve pain and make it more comfortable for you to move.
Heat therapy can use a heating pad or a hot water bottle, or you can submerge your body into a hot bath. The goal is always to provide warmth without causing additional discomfort, so make sure that whatever source of heat you choose is wrapped in a towel so that it does not burn the skin. Unlike ice, heat can be applied for as long as two hours if it provides relief.
Though it is tempting to settle into a couch or your bed to wait out the pain, the truth is that getting up and moving around may be one of the most effective ways to counter the pain of sciatica. If you want to take a few days to allow the initial inflammation of sciatica to decrease, that’s fine, but after about 72 hours it’s important that you get your blood flowing by walking around. That doesn’t mean that you should start lifting weights or go run a 5K … you don’t want to cause yourself more pain, just move enough to get blood flowing to the injured area and keep yourself from getting stiff.
If nothing helps, contact us.