Anyone who has experienced sciatica, pain in the sciatic nerve, knows that it can be not just uncomfortable but debilitating. While true relief may take time and many treatments, living with the pain on a daily basis during that time can be difficult. There are a number of ways to immediately relieve pain from sciatica, even as you undergo back pain treatment, that can be helpful if you are dealing with these symptoms. All remedies should be used with your doctor’s knowledge and support to avoid worsening any underlying issues.
Specific and gentle stretching as a part of your everyday routine can not only relieve pain from sciatica, but also promote overall spinal health and prevent future flare-ups of the condition. The focus of these stretches should be improving spinal flexibility and range of motion, along with building core and spinal strength. Most stretches are simple and can be incorporated into your routine, like while watching the news or a favorite TV show.
2. Gentle Exercise
Like stretching, exercise that is done carefully can be beneficial and actually reduce pain related to sciatica. In fact, too much rest can actually aggravate these symptoms. Incorporating small and simple exercises into daily life without causing pain or stress can offer relief. Something like a walk around the block is a great example of an activity that keeps you moving and strengthens your spine without causing further damage. Along with the benefits to your spine, exercise can also release endorphins which help to reduce your perception of pain.
3. Use Ice Packs and Heating Pads
Alternating therapy that uses temperature can provide immediate and short-term relief from sciatic pain. Ice packs can help to reduce inflammation, while warmth through a heating pad can encourage blood flow to the impacted area to speed healing. This can be particularly helpful if you are experiencing muscle spasms along with other pain.
Apply ice packs to the painful area for 15 minutes once per hour, then apply heat for 15 minutes every 2 or 3 hours. It’s important to always use a barrier like a towel to protect your skin from both heat and ice. Never leave heat or ice on while you sleep.
4. Pay Attention to Posture
Being in pain may sound like the last time you want to focus on your posture, but it’s more important than ever. If you are in one position for too long, you may notice an increase in your pain. Make a point to vary your posture every 20 minutes or so and to focus on good form while doing so. This takes pressure off of your spine and reduces sciatica symptoms.
5. Medicate in Moderation
Medicine is never the answer to curing a condition, including sciatica. However, it can help to use medications carefully to relieve pain, allowing you to do things like stretch and exercise. Over-the-counter medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be a good option as they relieve both inflammation and pain. Like any medication, they do come with health risks and are not recommended for people with certain conditions, so always talk to your doctor before using any pain relief options.
When to Visit Your Doctor
Any back pain is a sign you should visit an Atlanta orthopedic doctor for at least an evaluation to rule out any serious problems. You may try to manage symptoms with the above techniques while you wait for your appointment, but don’t avoid visiting for too long, which can allow the condition to worsen. In rare cases, sciatica that is not treated can cause permanent nerve damage.
If you experience any of the following and have not yet seen a doctor, make an appointment as soon as possible:
- Severe pain in the lower back and legs
- Weakness, numbness, tingling, or electric shock-like pain
- Pain that doesn’t improve after 2 weeks
- Pain that worsens despite in-home treatment
- A loss of bowel or bladder control
At AICA Atlanta, our multi-disciplinary teams are prepared to help identify the cause of your sciatic pain and create a personalized treatment plan. By taking a holistic approach, we may recommend a combination of in-home therapies along with other treatments, such as physical therapy or regular chiropractic adjustments. Our specialists will work with you to create a plan that fits your needs and helps meet your goals for recovery and a pain-free future. Call us today to schedule your first appointment.