Sciatica symptoms, like pain in your leg or numbness in your foot, can strike without warning.

By now, you likely know that heat therapy may help you find quick relief from these flare-ups. But you may be wondering how to apply heat therapy for your sciatica symptoms. Look no further; we have the answers for you below.

See What You Need to Know About Sciatica

sciatic nerve Your sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your entire body. See Sciatic Nerve and Sciatica

Where to apply heat therapy

It seems logical that you would apply heat to the location of your sciatica symptoms. For example, if you have searing pain in your calf, it would seem to make sense to apply heat therapy to this location.

See Causes of Leg Pain and Foot Pain

But it is important to note that sciatica is not a medical diagnosis. Instead, sciatica refers to symptoms like pain, tingling, and numbness that radiate along your sciatic nerve. These symptoms are caused by an underlying lower back condition, which irritates or compresses one of your sciatic nerve roots.

See Sciatica Causes

So, as a general rule, it is best to apply heat therapy to your lower back, as this is the location of the nerve root that is pinched or irritated.

See What's a Herniated Disc, Pinched Nerve, Bulging Disc...?

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How to apply heat therapy

The first thing to know about heat therapy is that you want the temperature to be warm, not hot. If the temperature is too hot, you may suffer serious burns.

See Sciatica First Aid

In part, the duration of your heat therapy session depends on the severity of your symptoms. If your flare-up is not severe, a 15 to 20 minute session may be enough. If your pain is acute, you may benefit from a 30 minute to 2 hour session. These sessions can be repeated several times throughout the day.

See How to Apply Heat Therapy

There are multiple options for heat therapy, including warm water bottles and electric blankets. Regardless of which option you choose, it is a smart idea to place a cloth barrier between your skin and the heat source.

Watch Video: How to Make a Moist Heat Pack

When to apply heat therapy

As a general rule, cold therapy is typically applied for the first 2 to 7 days after the onset of your sciatica symptoms. After your acute pain has subsided, you can then apply heat therapy. But this is only a general guideline, and it is a good idea to experiment with heat and cold therapy to learn what works best for you.

See Types of Back Pain: Acute Pain, Chronic Pain, and Neuropathic Pain

While heat therapy may help you find quick relief from your symptoms, it is best used as part of a broader treatment plan that typically includes stretching and other targeted exercises.

See Sciatica Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief

Learn more:

Sciatica Causes and Exercises

Myths About Sciatica Treatment Options