Most people know what sciatica means - low back pain radiating down the left or right buttock into the leg and sometimes into the foot. While some may find it hard to believe, sciatica often goes away within three months with conservative treatment. This "conservative treatment" is a non-invasive therapy that can be done in the comfort of your own home.
Since these are not medical treatments but home remedies for back pains, some of them will require you to follow certain steps, e.g., taking some time out during the day so you can refrain from activities that may cause further strain on the lower part of your body. If you've been dealing with sciatica for a few weeks or if the pain has made it difficult for you to focus on anything else other than getting up in the morning and performing simple tasks, seek professional help immediately because ignoring it could result in further complications that would require more extensive treatment.
The four sciatica therapies below are good options for people who recently started experiencing sciatic nerve pain or whose pain is not severe. Still, I urge you to closely follow up with your doctor first, who can then provide you with the information and tools essential for understanding how to treat back pain to get rid of this irritating feeling that seems to be hampering your every movement.
Stretch It Out
Incorporate stretching into your daily routine. Stretching is an excellent way to improve flexibility and range of motion and increase core and spinal strength. Most stretches are simple enough to be done while doing something else, such as watching TV or reading the news, so you don't have to invest a lot of extra time to get the benefits!
Cold Pack and Heating Pad
Alternating heat and cold therapy may help provide immediate relief of sciatic nerve pain. A cold sack can help reduce inflammation, while hot packs can encourage blood flow to the painful area (which speeds healing). Heat and cold may also help ease painful muscle spasms that often accompany sciatica. Apply a cold sack for 15 minutes every hour, and apply a hot pack for 15 minutes every 2 or 3 hours. Always remember to use a barrier (like a towel) whenever using heat or ice, and always remove packs from your skin before sleeping.
It’s OK to Exercise
When treating sciatica, many people consider missing out on their workouts. However, research has shown that exercising in and of itself is proven to reduce symptoms. Instead of resting your back and leg muscles for days at a time, gently incorporate exercise into your daily routine to overcome the symptoms of sciatica!
The key to gentle exercise is to take it slow first. It means that you don't do something so strenuous, but rather start with something easy like taking a walk around the block! I know it sounds funny, but when making a loop around the neighborhood or park, you are essentially staying active without adding extra stress on your spine or joints, which are already weak and vulnerable due to the discomfort in these areas.
By strengthening your core muscles, particularly those around your back (which tend to weaken with age), you can make sure your spine remains strong enough to protect against pain. And not only that, but muscle contractions will also trigger endorphins in our body and thus reduce the perception of pain.
Refresh Your Posture
A misalignment of your spine can cause sciatica symptoms to worsen. Standing in the same position for long periods or at the same desk could mean that your sciatica pain suddenly spikes. Keeping your posture aligned and taking regular breaks will help relieve pressure from your back and spine, thus preventing your sciatica from worsening.
When to Visit Your Doctor
Here's the deal. If your favorite at-home remedy doesn't make that painful sciatic pain disappear, it may be time to see a medical professional. The fact is many of us delay seeing a doctor because we're afraid to have bad news, we don't like spending time in waiting rooms, or we think we can handle it on our own.
Regardless of the underlying causes behind sciatica pain, we recommend that all sufferers get a check-up with their medical professional as soon as they can. Delaying medical treatment such as this could lead to permanent nerve damage in some cases.
If you experience any of the following, please see your doctor as soon as possible:
- pain doesn't improve after two weeks
- severe pain in your low back and legs
- Have loss of bowel and bladder control
- experience nerve-related symptoms, such as weakness, numbness, tingling, or electric shock-like pain
- pain gets worse, even when using at-home therapies
The most extreme but effective thing you can do for the pain of sciatica is to take a radical approach to treatment. The extremely best thing you can do for your back and leg pain is to make sure you are treating it aggressively with gentle exercise, ice and heat therapy, proper posture, and medication. But the most important thing you can do is be aware of it- if there's something seriously wrong, keep your doctor's number handy because you need professional help.