How to Relieve Sciatica Pain

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Sciatica pain can feel debilitating at first, but it usually clears up with a little home care. The sciatic is the largest nerve in the body and runs from the lower spine all the way to the sole of the foot. If this nerve becomes impinged or inflamed, the pain might shoot through the buttock and all the way down the back of the leg. 

Fortunately, most people report sciatica pain relief by using several self-care techniques. Learn about effective sciatica pain treatment at home to stop suffering.

Understanding the Cause of Sciatica Pain

Two main causes of sciatica include a herniated lumbar disc and piriformis syndrome. A herniated (bulging) disc can put pressure on the sciatic nerve where it emerges from the spinal cord, causing inflammation and shooting or stinging pain down the affected leg. 

The piriformis muscle, which “wraps around” each buttock from the lower spine to the front of the thigh, also can compress the sciatic nerve. Often times, sciatic pain caused by the piriformis muscle feels like a deep burning sensation or cramp in one buttock. 

No matter the cause of your sciatica, you can use the same home treatments to achieve pain relief for sciatica. While it’s usually safe to try sciatica pain treatment at home, you should call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms in addition to leg pain or tingling:

  • Loss of bladder or bowel function

  • Pain that follows some sort of trauma, like a car accident or falling at home

  • Severe leg weakness that makes walking difficult or causes you to fall

You also should see a doctor if you try sciatica pain treatment at home for more than a few weeks without results. In a small number of cases, severe sciatica caused by a herniated lumbar disc requires surgery to achieve full pain relief.

Sciatica Pain Treatment at Home

For mild to moderate leg pain or tingling, try these sciatica treatments at home:

  • Alternate cold packs and heat packs. When sciatic pain first comes on, apply cold packs to the lower back or affected buttock several times a day for about 15 minutes each time. After two days, switch to a heating pad on the “low” setting at the same intervals. If pain persists, try alternating cold and warm packs throughout the day.

  • Rest. For a brief period, stop doing activities that aggravate the sciatic pain, but stay as active as you possibly can. Bed rest won’t help sciatic pain.

  • Stretch. Several times a day, perform stretches that lengthen the piriformis muscle. Several yoga poses, such as lotus pose and downward-facing dog, can relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve and provide pain relief.

  • Take medication. Try taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce sciatic nerve inflammation.

  • Walk and stretch regularly. Sitting for long periods of time can cause sciatica. Set a timer to remind yourself to rise, walk, and stretch your spine, hips and legs regularly during the day.

While these techniques can help relieve sciatic pain at home, you should view sciatica as a wake-up call that you need to improve your muscle tone and flexibility. To prevent future episodes of sciatic pain, you should work on strengthening your back, core and leg muscles through regular exercise and stretching sessions. Treating sciatic nerve pain at home probably will help you recover in the short-term, but improving your core and back strength can help you prevent sciatica in the future—allowing you to enjoy a pain-free life.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jul 1
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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  2. Sciatica. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
  3. Sciatica. Mayo Clinic.
  4. Piriformis Syndrome. American Academy of Family Physicians.
  5. Yoga for Sciatica. Yoga Journal.