The constant soreness or intermittent discomfort of sciatica can range from a warm, wet feeling in your thigh to shooting and searing pain along your leg. The symptoms may strike anytime, so it is a smart idea to have a treatment plan in place.
Read on to learn about 4 commonly overlooked and easy remedies that may help you find quick relief.
1. Apply continuous, low-level heat
A commercial adhesive heat wrap can provide tolerable, low-level heat for up to 8 hours. Heat therapy can help alleviate pain in your lower back and legs caused by sciatica.
Be sure to follow the package directions to avoid skin and tissue damage. The heat wrap can be worn under your clothing and typically adheres directly to your skin. You can use this treatment conveniently at home or at work during a sciatica flare-up.
2. Stretch and build muscles to relieve physical stresses
Exercises that include stretching and strengthening can help relieve stress in your lower back. Exercise also promotes healing of soft tissues, improves the functioning of the nervous system, and may decrease your sensitivity to pain. 1 Jeong UC, Kim CY, Park YH, Hwang-Bo G, Nam CW. The effects of self-mobilization techniques for the sciatic nerves on physical functions and health of low back pain patients with lower limb radiating pain. J Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(1):46–50. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.46 Sciatica exercises include techniques that help relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve roots and build strength in the lower spine, abdomen, and legs.
Using infrared or heat therapy before an exercise helps warm up and loosen stiffness in the tissues. You can use an ice pack after the exercise to treat any pain or soreness. Simple stretches can be done at home or at your office when you have recurrent or flaring sciatica symptoms. Always exercise within tolerable limits and start with 2 to 3 repetitions, slowly moving up to 5.
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3. Apply a topical pain medication
Topical gels, creams, or patches that contain pain-relieving and/or numbing medication can provide fast and effective pain relief. 2 McAllister R.K., Burnett C.J. (2015) Topical Analgesic Medications. In: Sackheim K. (eds) Pain Management and Palliative Care. Springer, New York, NY These medications penetrate into your tissues and act locally. They have a lower chance of producing side effects, preventing long-term problems.
Topical medication can be purchased over the counter and commonly include preparations of 2 McAllister R.K., Burnett C.J. (2015) Topical Analgesic Medications. In: Sackheim K. (eds) Pain Management and Palliative Care. Springer, New York, NY :
- Methyl salicylate
- Trolamine salicylate
In some preparations, more than one drug may be combined together. While using topical medication, avoid using a heat patch 3 Hao J, Ghosh P, Li SK, Newman B, Kasting GB, Raney SG. Heat effects on drug delivery across human skin. Expert Opin Drug Deliv. 2016;13(5):755–768. doi:10.1517/17425247.2016.1136286 or ice pack over the area at the same time. Combining both therapies may reduce and/or alter the effects of topical pain medications. 3 Hao J, Ghosh P, Li SK, Newman B, Kasting GB, Raney SG. Heat effects on drug delivery across human skin. Expert Opin Drug Deliv. 2016;13(5):755–768. doi:10.1517/17425247.2016.1136286
4. Wear a lumbar or hip brace with groin support
Braces worn over your lower back intermittently and for short durations can help stabilize and support the lumbar tissues. Lumbar braces limit excessive spinal movement and can relieve pain from nerve roots. 4 Schott C, Zirke S, Schmelzle JM, Kaiser C, Fernández LAI. Effectiveness of lumbar orthoses in low back pain: Review of the literature and our results. Orthop Rev (Pavia). 2018;10(4):7791. Published 2018 Dec 6. doi:10.4081/or.2018.7791 Certain types of braces also provide additional support to the groin area and may help relieve radiating pain in this region.
Lumbar braces or belts can be purchased online or at drug stores and worn under your clothing. A belt should be adjustable, fit correctly, be made of breathable material, and have an anti-slip design for proper support.
Try one or more of these overlooked tips to control your sciatica pain. A combination of treatments, such as stretching after the use of infrared radiation or topical medication can help reduce pain and stimulate tissue healing. Paying attention to your daily postures, staying active, and preventing a sedentary lifestyle can also help improve your symptoms and provide long-term relief.