Numbness, burning sensations, weakness, or pain in your lower back – especially if it travels down to your buttocks and legs – are all symptoms of sciatica. A chronic issue that affects millions of people, sciatica pain is caused by injury, inflammation, or irritation of the longest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve. If you suffer from sciatic nerve pain, relief is possible.
“Sciatica” doesn’t describe one exact condition or health diagnosis. It’s the name given to a collection of symptoms that someone experiences when there is compression on their sciatic nerve.
This highly important nerve branches out of the spine in the trunk of the body, then runs through the hips and down into the legs. Because there are so many places where the sciatic nerve can become “pinched” or irritated, sciatic nerve pain can manifest in several different ways and places in the body.
Sciatic pain characteristically emits from the lower back, through the buttocks, and often down the backs of the thighs. Some people experience pain all the way down their lower leg.
Some patients describe a “shooting” pain, while others describe the pain as similar to an electric shock, while still others describe a feeling like pins and needles.
No matter the location or severity of your pain, you can try the methods discussed here, including stretching, exercise, over the counter medications, and physical manipulation by a chiropractor to achieve sciatic nerve pain relief.
Common Misconceptions About Sciatica
Sciatica, including back, hip, and leg pain, is common among U.S. adults. However, many people are still unaware what exactly it means or what to do about it. The first step to achieving a working sciatic pain remedy is to have correct information.
Sciatica Misconception #1:
Specific health conditions cause sciatica.
Sciatica pain can occur when the sciatic nerve is compressed. For instance, herniated spinal discs can cause compression of the sciatic nerve. Other health issues that can contribute to sciatica are:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Lumbar degenerative disc disease
- Piriformis syndrome
- Bone spurs
- Spinal tumors
Aside from injury and the health conditions listed above, the most common cause for sciatica is pregnancy, because of the associated weight gain, weakened core muscles, and re-arrangement of body structures to accommodate the growing child.
Sciatica Misconception #2:
You should not engage in physical activities if you have sciatica.
Rest is integral to overall sciatic pain treatment, however, activity is equally as important. Inactivity leads to weakened back and abdominal muscles, which puts pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Like with any injury or strained body part, avoid exerting too much physical effort when you experience pain or discomfort.
Exercises and stretches relieve sciatic pain when performed regularly and correctly.
Strong back and core muscles support your spine, promoting proper posture and realigning your back, core, and hips, which reduces your sciatic pain.
Sciatica Misconception #3:
Leg pain without back pain is not sciatica.
Back pain and leg pain are both symptoms of sciatica. Both can be affected when you suffer from compression or irritation on your sciatic nerve.
However, some patients report only leg pain without back pain. A sciatica specialist can provide a thorough examination and diagnosis to determine the cause of your leg pain and solutions for leg nerve pain relief.
Sciatica Misconception #4:
Surgery is the ultimate treatment for sciatica pain.
Unless there is loss of physical function or chronic, constant weakness, doctors typically employ non-surgical and non-invasive sciatic nerve remedy options as much as possible.
There are non-invasive ways to relieve sciatic pain. The best treatment option depends on the root cause.
The ideal solution for most people is a combination of physical therapy, medications, injections, chiropractic treatments, hot and cold therapy, and sciatica solutions you can do at home, like stretching and low-resistance exercises.
If you experience pain in the leg or back, a sciatica specialist can provide you with detailed insight into what helps sciatica back pain. To learn more about ways to relieve sciatic nerve pain, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Heart of Texas Chiropractic.
Sciatica Misconception #5:
Sciatica is a permanent condition.
This may be the most common myth about this issue. Sciatica is not a specific disease or condition. When your doctor says you have sciatica, it’s not the final diagnosis. Your situation can change.
Ways to Relieve Sciatica Pain At Home
Sciatic pain disrupts your day-to-day activities. On top of that, chronic pain exacerbates your stress levels and feelings of anxiety and depression. Whether it’s soreness or a shooting pain through your leg or a warm tingling sensation in your lower back, sciatica nerve pain brings discomfort.
The pain might be constant or intermittent, but either way, it hinders your day-to-day activities such as walking and running, or even sitting or sleeping.
Sciatica symptoms can appear suddenly, out of nowhere, and make it difficult for you to complete even the simplest daily tasks.
When you suffer from this kind of back, hip, neck, or leg pain, you may be looking for an instant remedy for sciatic nerve pain.
No matter your lifestyle or the cause of your sciatica, consider how to incorporate any of these ways to treat sciatica pain at home into your daily life:
- Maintain proper posture
- Regular stretching
- Stay active
- Over-the-counter pain relievers (Consult your doctor).
- Apply hot or cold therapy
Sciatica symptoms may fade on their own, and it might take as long as a week or two. However, if your symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, it’s time to consult a doctor.
Proper Posture Provides Relief for Sciatic Pain
Pay careful attention to your posture. When people sit for long periods of time, they tend to slouch, which elongates the back, weakens the deep core body muscles, and can put additional pressure on the structures of the lower back, hips, and leg muscles. Being cognizant and maintaining good posture – with your shoulders stacked above your hips and your chest up – can relieve sciatic pain while you go about your day.
Whether you are sitting down or standing up at work or home, make sure to change your posture every 15 or 20 minutes. Don’t stay in one position for too long.
Sciatica pain will also worsen if you sit in a chair without back support, or if you lift or bend frequently. Use desk equipment that reduces pressure on your hips and lower back. Try an ergonomic chair, keyboard, and mouse, or even consider if a standing desk or yoga ball chair might be best for your symptoms and workstation. If you lift or bend frequently for your job, consider wearing a back brace to help.
Regular Stretching & Physical Exercise is Optimal Sciatica Self-Treatment
Stretches are another approach toward sciatic nerve pain relief. These exercises and stretches include the knee-to-chest stretch, pelvic tilt, and standing hamstring stretch, to name a few. If you plan to undertake a stretching and exercise routine to combat your sciatica symptoms, be sure to discuss your options and the best stretches for sciatic pain treatment at home.
You never want to injure yourself further or complicate your symptoms by over-stressing during stretching or exercise.
Stretching is a great home treatment for sciatica, that you can do without any equipment or assistance, however, don’t expect the result to be instant or for your sciatica to “disappear” after only a session or two of stretching.
While it may not bring immediate relief for sciatica pain as soon as the session is over, consistent stretching of your back, hip, and leg muscles will increase the blood flow to the sciatic nerve and muscles surrounding it.
Combined with this increased blood flow, stretching may move the muscle to a different position so it puts less pressure on the sciatic nerve, which alleviates some of your painful symptoms.
Be prepared to stretch at least once per day, every day, for at least one week, before you begin to experience the benefits of stretching as sciatica self-care.
Some of the most recommended stretches include:
- Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Glute Bridges
- Knee-to-Chest Stretch
- Pelvic Tilt Exercise
The most common stretches for sciatica target the muscles of the lower back and backs of the legs, including the hamstring and glute muscles.
Depending where in your body you feel the effects of your irritated sciatica nerve, you may find stretching the inner and outer hip flexors, quadricep muscles, and even the lower abs to be helpful in alleviating your discomfort.
Over-the-Counter & Topical Pain Relief for Sciatica
When you experience a flare-up of sciatica symptoms, you will be looking for the best way to treat sciatica pain, fast. When you need immediate relief, an oral or topical over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication (a.k.a. an “analgesic”) is likely to be your best choice.
Some oral OTC medicines include aspirin (Bayer Aspirin or Bufferin), Motrin IB, Advil and other ibuprofen, and Tylenol and other acetaminophen.
Always discuss the effectiveness of OTC analgesics with your primary care physician. Depending on your circumstances, one may be more effective for you than another.
Topical pain relief products come in the form of creams, patches, or topical gels.
These painkillers are applied directly to the skin in the affected area – directly onto your hips, back, legs, or whatever hurts!
Topical pain relief products focus on penetrating the muscle and soft tissues and acting locally. They may offer fast and effective sciatic nerve pain relief, but the effects will be temporary.
Hot & Cold Therapy
Temperature therapy is a popular sciatic pain home remedy. Depending on the location and specifics of your sciatica pain, you may find heat better alleviates your pain, or you may find that you prefer cold. It’s worth trying both extremes of temperature therapy to determine which is the most effective for your symptoms.
For heat therapy, try to find products that can provide constant low-level temperature application, such as a commercial adhesive heat patch or heat wrap.
You want to leave the low-level heat on the sore, tender, or painful area for up to eight hours, and in many cases, the longer you engage in the heat therapy, the better. Most commercial adhesive heat wraps can adhere to the skin and be worn under clothing, so you can wear it while you continue about your day-to-day life.
If you cannot secure a low-level heat product but are using an electric heating pad instead, you will want to place the heating pad on the affected area and then remain immobile for approximately 20 minutes.
Allow the heat to penetrate the deep muscle tissues to encourage blood flow to the irritated sciatic nerve. After the time is up, remove the heat for at least 5 minutes before you apply the heating pad or alternate with a cold compress or ice pack.
If you are experimenting with cold therapy, you will similarly only leave an ice pack or cold compress on the affected area for about 20 minutes. This should help to reduce any swelling and potentially numb the nerves in the area, providing some temporary pain relief.
More Tips for Sciatica Pain Treatment at Home
Of course, significant lifestyle changes might help prevent the onset or development of sciatica. While you maintain good posture and develop a stretching and exercise routine to help strengthen your muscles and reduce the pressure on your sciatic nerve, consider if you can make any of the following changes in your life as well:
- Avoid smoking. Nicotine reduces the blood supply to your nerves, soft tissues, and bones. Ultimately, this can weaken your core, back, and hip muscles.
- Eat healthy. Obesity contributes to a host of health problems. Maintaining a healthy weight for your age and height helps lessen strain on your spine.
- Consider supplements. Even if you eat healthy, your diet might lack a particular nutrient that affects your overall bone, joint, or nerve health. Adding supplements can support your overall physical health.
Your body is made up of many physical systems that all must work together, in harmony, for you to enjoy optimal health. When one of these systems has a problem, your entire body can suffer, and improving every part of the system that you can is what’s good for sciatic nerve health, ultimately.
Visit a Chiropractor for Best Sciatic Nerve Pain Relief
When you’ve tried and explored a specific sciatic pain remedy at home, and your symptoms are not improving, it’s time to see your sciatica specialist. A sciatica specialist can provide you with cures for sciatica pain.
Help from a specialist can improve your condition and provide you with fast relief. A specialist can:
- Evaluate your symptoms
- Accurately diagnose your condition
- Recommend a personalized pain remedy and sciatica solutions
Many people choose to avoid medical attention for a variety of reasons, however, if you experience any of the following, you genuinely need medical attention.
- Chronic pain in the lower back and legs.
- Nerve-related ailments such as numbness, tingling, weakness, or shooting pains.
- Lingering pain for two weeks or longer.
- Pain doesn’t decrease, even after trying pain treatment.
- Loss of bladder or bowel control.
A chiropractor can diagnose the specific points along your sciatic nerve where your symptoms originate. Then, carefully, the chiropractor can manually manipulate your spine, hips, shoulders, ribs, and leg joints so that your core muscles and joints are aligned.
Once your joints and muscles are adjusted, the pressure should be relieved from pinching or compressing the sciatic nerve, which will decrease your pain.
Final Thoughts: Long-Term Sciatic Nerve Pain Relief
Sciatic nerve pain relief does not require radical or invasive treatment. Sciatica treatment at home, such as stretches, exercises, heat therapy, ergonomic desk tools, and OTC medication can provide the relief you need and make your daily activities much easier and pain free.
These options could alleviate your sciatica symptoms and speed your recovery.
However, the best way to relieve sciatic nerve pain once and for all is not to ignore the symptoms. If the at-home sciatic pain cures are not offering you relief, see an experienced and qualified sciatica specialist, such as those at Heart of Texas Chiropractic.