Sciatic pain is one of the most excruciating and challenging types of pain to treat. Stemming from a variety of conditions, sciatic pain treatments range from at-home techniques to more invasive procedures. Here are 15 techniques that show you how to get rid of sciatica pain. We cover at-home approaches you can try, advanced therapies, as well as interventional treatments for severe pain.
What causes sciatic nerve pain?
Many people refer to sciatica as an individual diagnosis. This is not quite accurate. Sciatica is simply the name for a type of pain that can stem from a variety of different conditions.
The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body. It originates from the lumbar spine, crosses through the buttocks and over the hip, then runs down the leg. It ends just below the knee. The following video goes over this in some detail.
Conditions that lead to sciatica
Because it covers so much territory, the sciatic nerve can be activated by many different conditions, including:
- Herniated disc: This rupture in the intervertebral sac that separates and cushions the vertebrae can cause impingement or compression of the sciatic nerve
- Spinal stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal column caused by age or injury eventually compresses the sciatic nerve
- Degenerative disc disease: Caused by age or other conditions or medications that weaken discs, degenerative disc disease is a very common cause of sciatic nerve pain
- Spondylolisthesis: When a vertebrae slips forward and rubs on the bone beneath it, it can come in contact with the sciatic nerve, applying painful pressure
- Ankylosing spondylitis: An arthritis-related condition that causes inflammation in the spine and eventual fusion of vertebrae
- Osteoporosis and compression fractures: Fractures in the vertebrae caused by bone loss can result in extreme pain
- Injury anywhere along the length of the nerve: Injuries that affect the sciatic nerve can include broken bones, muscles strains, or any significant injury to the lower back, hips, pelvic area, or legs
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy places tremendous stress on the pelvic region, hips, and lower back, which can eventually cause sciatic nerve pain
- Piriformis syndrome: An injury to the piriformis muscle located in the buttocks can cause inflammation that compresses the sciatic nerve
What are common sciatica symptoms?
Sciatic nerve pain has very distinct symptoms, including:
- Radiating pain on one side of the body, down the hip and leg
- Pins and needles sensation
- Hip pain
- Pain when sitting or standing
Let’s look at these in more detail.
Radiating pain on one side of the body
Rather than being confined to a single area, sciatic nerve pain is radiating.
Pain can travel from the source of the pain across the lower back and buttocks and down the hip and leg. It sometimes makes it all the way into the feet. In some cases, the pain gets sharper as it travels. Typically, sciatic nerve pain is present only on one side of the body.
Pins and needles or burning sensation, followed by numbness
Some patients describe sciatic nerve pain as prickly like pins and needles. Some experience it as a low-grade burning sensation.
In the beginning stages, this may be annoying more than painful. As the pain continues, the burning or pins and needles may change to numbness.
In some cases, hip pain can actually be present on both sides of the body.
The body will naturally adjust to accommodate the original painful side. This adjustment can cause a painful imbalance in both hips.
Intense pain when sitting or standing
Sciatic nerve pain often intensifies during long periods of sitting or standing. By changing positions, many patients can find temporary relief. If left untreated, sciatic pain will be harder to relieve with a simple change of position.
Eventually, patients may experience weakness and numbness in the extremities. In the most severe cases, loss of bladder or bowel control when combined with sciatic nerve pain warrant an immediate trip to the emergency room. This could indicate a serious medical condition.
What are the basics of sciatica treatment at home?
At the core of any sciatic treatment at home is a proper diagnosis of the underlying condition. Many different stretches and exercises can help to manage pain in the short-term. Without long-term treatment of whatever is causing the pain, pain will persist and eventually become unmanageable.
There are many different options to treat sciatic pain at home while you and your doctor work to uncover the root causes of the pain. Before beginning any new exercise or diet regimen, talk with your doctor.
Once they’ve given the go-ahead, you can try any of the following at-home sciatica treatments:
- Sciatica stretches
- Sleep well
- Eat better
The Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation found that yoga for sciatica can be effective for pain relief, noting that:
“Yoga therapy can be safe and beneficial for patients with nsLBP [non-specific low back pain] or sciatica, accompanied by disc extrusions and bulges.”
Other studies have found that yoga for low back pain can be just as beneficial as physical therapy.
Proceed with caution, though. The research on yoga and sciatica specifically is limited. Take care to start gently and move slowly, looking for yoga classes that specifically target sciatic pain.
Pilates for sciatic pain
Pilates exercises help to work muscles and stabilize the core using low-impact, targeted exercises.
For sciatic nerve pain sufferers with low back compression, building muscle along the spine offers more support. Abdominal muscles in the front and sides of the body can also help to lengthen and support natural decompression.
Stretching on-the-go or at-home
Sciatic pain sufferers who travel or spend lots of time at a desk may find it difficult to fit exercise in every day. Sitting in cramped planes and trains does not help either.
Taking time every day to care for your sciatic nerve pain is easier when you have some guidelines. Complete these ten easy stretches for sciatic pain when you wake up, right before bed, or any time you need some relief. Take 30 minutes and do them all, or select the ones that help the most and focus on those.
The research is clear on the connection between fatigue and more intense pain. If you do not get enough rest, even the mildest cases of sciatic nerve pain can feel worse.
Take good care with your sleep. To get a better night’s sleep, follow the ten best practices for sleeping with sciatica, including:
- Practicing good sleep hygiene
- Finding a good sleeping position
- Choosing the best mattress for you
An anti-inflammatory diet that is low in fat and sugar can help combat sciatic pain.
While you may not see immediate pain relief, over time a well-balanced diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and limited processed foods can help you to maintain a healthy weight and low levels of inflammation in the body.
How to get rid of sciatica pain naturally
If your at-home therapies are offering some relief, but you would like to add more professional help, consider these complementary therapies to get rid of sciatic pain naturally:
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic care
- Mindfulness meditation
While most research into massage focuses on releasing muscle tension and relieving low back pain, there is some evidence that sciatic nerve pain can also be relieved.
A study of 400 adults with mild to moderate back pain found that 36% of patients who chose massage on their own and 39% of patients who were assigned massage for lower back pain reported that their pain was gone or nearly gone (as compared to 4% for other treatments).
Study researcher Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD, associate director and senior scientific investigator with the Center for Health Studies at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, notes that at the very least massage is worth a try, noting:
“It’s not really harmful, and it does help a significant chunk of people who have not benefited from other treatments.”
Acupuncture is a part of traditional Chinese medicine that targets blocked energy points in the body.
These points are “opened up” with the insertion of hair-thin needles (depending on the focus of the session). There is more and more research that this practice can offer tremendous pain relief with no side effects.
Physical therapy is a great complementary therapy for sciatic nerve pain. Your physical therapist can help provide targeted exercises for your specific type of pain – and then make sure you do them.
Part drill sergeant, part cheerleader, a physical therapist can help put together a pain management plan for everyday use, too.
Chiropractic care may be the unsung hero of sciatic nerve pain. These adjustments work to find and correct misalignment in the spine with either manual manipulation or special non-invasive instruments.
Chiropractic care can help increase the space between the vertebrae in the lumbar spine. This makes it an excellent potential pain reliever for sciatic pain sufferers with disc herniation and spinal stenosis.
Mindfulness meditation is gaining ground as a way to treat many different types of pain without any cost or side effects.
A study in 2016 found that mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) was more effective than other more traditional medical interventions in relieving chronic back pain.
How to get rid of sciatica pain: interventional approaches
For stubborn sciatica pain that could use a little more help, patients have multiple options to choose. These interventional approaches range from the least to the most invasive. Always attempt more complementary and non-invasive options before attempting interventional approaches.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy is a patient-controlled therapy that blocks pain signals from the affected area from reaching the brain.
A set of wire leads travels from a small device about the size of a cellphone to pads attached to the body where pain is located. Patients send small electrical currents through the pads to disrupt pain signals. Many report a sensation of slight tingling and find that pain relief is significant with this minimally invasive intervention.
Some patients may elect to receive injections in the area of their pain. These injections contain an anti-inflammatory steroid and an anesthetic.
Both help to relieve pain, but injections can also be used as a diagnostic tool. When diagnosing the cause of sciatic pain, an injection can help confirm or deny the precise location of the pain.
Radiofrequency ablation also uses a mild electrical current delivered via an electrode inserted at a strategic point in the body.
Doctors use X-ray or fluoroscopic guidance to make sure the electrode is properly positioned at the site of the nerve pain. Once the electrical current is applied, a steroid may also be injected into the area to minimize inflammation.
The goal is to damage the nerve that is sending pain signals, thereby offering pain relief. Although it may sound scary to send an electrical current through your body, the two types of RFA – continuous radiofrequency and pulsed radiofrequency – are both performed with a variety of checks to ensure patient comfort and safety.
In some cases, the underlying cause of sciatic nerve pain may need to be resolved with surgery. Success rates of surgical interventions are higher when combined with many of the above approaches, including targeted exercise, proper diet, and physical therapy.
If you need advanced help for your sciatica pain, you can find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here: https://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/.