It seems like every day a new medical treatment is announced. With this flurry of innovation, simple treatments can sometimes be overlooked. So when your sciatica symptoms flare-up, don’t forget about a simple and effective option—cold therapy.

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Sciatica treatments typically focus on the underlying medical issue that is provoking your symptoms. See Sciatica Causes


Here are a few pointers for how to use ice to cool down your sciatica symptoms.

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When to apply cold therapy

As a general rule, cold therapy is typically applied at the onset of your sciatica symptoms. This is not a hard and fast rule, but cold therapy can be applied for 2 to 7 days after your symptoms strike, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Watch Video: How to Make a Gel Ice Pack

After your acute pain has subsided, you can then begin applying heat therapy. But each person is different, so you may benefit from switching between the two, or by beginning with heat therapy. Your best bet is to experiment until you find what works best for you.

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Where to apply cold therapy

As you likely know by now, sciatica is typically caused by an underlying lower back disorder. Your back disorder pinches or irritates one (or more) of your sciatic nerve roots, which in turn sends symptoms along your sciatic nerve.

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

So then, cold therapy is typically applied to the lower back—as this is the location of your nerve roots.

See Sciatic Nerve Anatomy

How to apply cold therapy

One simple method for applying cold therapy is 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off. This method follows the pattern of on-off-on-off-on. This is considered one session, and you can complete multiple sessions per day. If you are in a hurry, you can always apply cold therapy for one session of 15 to 20 minutes—but be careful not to exceed 20 minutes of cold therapy application at a time.

See Ice Massage for Back Pain Relief

Regardless of which option you choose for cold therapy (such as a gel pack, frozen water bottle, or a bag of frozen peas), it is important you protect your skin from ice burns. In order to do this, place a cloth or other protective barrier between yourself and the source of cold.

See Ice Packs for Back Pain Relief

As a final bonus tip—consider keeping a disposable ice pack in your car and at the office. Through a chemical reaction, these packs produce cold on-demand, and they can help you find quick relief when you need it the most.

Learn more:

The Truth About Sciatica

Myths About Sciatica Treatment Options