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How to Treat Sciatica Pain

by Patty Weasler, RN April 09, 2020 0 Comments

Ice pack on legs

If you suffer from shooting leg pain and discomfort, learning how to treat sciatica is a top priority. Thankfully, most cases of sciatica are resolved with home remedies and minimal treatment within weeks. Here we will cover sciatica treatment and relief options and how they can help overcome your pain.

Home Remedies

Sciatica treatment often starts with simple home remedies. The goal of treatment is to eliminate pain and avoid long-lasting injury. Most sciatica back pain will get better with home treatment and rest. Before you start home treatment talk to a medical professional to help guide you.

For an extended list of sciatica treatments at home, see our full guide.


Medication is generally considered a safe and effective treatment for sciatica pain. There are multiple medicines available for treatment. We have covered the most common types below.

  • Over-the-Counter

    When your sciatic nerve is irritated and angry one of the best first lines of treatment is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen. This over-the-counter medication brings down swelling and can offer some pain relief. If you take other medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to ensure there are no contraindications.

  • Prescription

    Your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants, anti-seizure drugs, or even anti-depressants for sciatica. Steroid injections are another treatment that can offer pain relief. The steroid medication is a powerful anti-inflammatory that will help calm your irritated nerve. You can expect pain relief to last a few months after your steroid injection.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Hot and cold therapy can provide pain relief without the use of medication. Cold is used first to calm swelling and numb pain. Use ice packs or a cold wrap along your lower back and the back of your thigh for 20 minutes at a time.

The heat from a heating pad or warm bath will soothe sore muscles and can improve healing by bringing more blood to the area. Both hot and cold therapy are easy to do at home and require minimal equipment.

Learn how to properly alternate hot & cold therapy.


If you are suffering from sciatica nerve pain then it’s time to take a break from strenuous activities. Avoid movements that cause pain and put extra pressure on your back. Talk to a chiropractor or physical therapist about specific movements to avoid. Don’t interpret rest as bed rest. Laying around all day without moving can actually make symptoms of sciatica worse. Take it easy to let your sciatica calm down without irritating it any further.

Stretches and Exercises

Stretching and exercise that works the lower back, abdomen, and thighs can help fight sciatic pain. Physical therapy is a helpful resource to determine specific treatment options that involve stretching and exercise.

Learn more about sciatica stretches and exercises here.


Yoga for sciatica involves various movements that stretch and strengthen the body. It’s slow, methodical movements encourage deep breathing and self-awareness. When used for sciatica symptoms, yoga can stretch the lower back relieving nerve root compression. Be sure to avoid any bouncing or jerking movements.  

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist is an excellent resource to help you determine the causes of sciatica pain and to help you get better faster. Your initial visit with a physical therapist will involve an evaluation, then you will be guided through specific movements to help reduce pain. Frequently, physical therapists will send you home with stretches and exercises to continue treatment while you’re away from their office.

Learn more about how physical therapy can help you get better faster.


Massage therapy can help with muscle spasms that can accompany sciatica. You can receive treatment from a massage therapist or perform self-massage. The muscle kneading will stimulate blood flow to the area and can improve healing time. Avoid massage if you have swelling in the area or have blood clots.

  • Foam Rolling

    A foam roller can be used to press deep into muscles to work out knots and stiff muscles. Sciatica pain can be caused by tight muscles, which a foam roller can work into soft tissue and muscle. Be careful when rolling so that you don’t put too much pressure directly onto your sciatica nerve. That can cause additional irritation and pain.

    How to Foam Roll for Sciatica Pain

  • Chiropractic Care

    Spinal adjustments are usually the first treatment option that comes to mind when people hear chiropractic care. While spinal adjustments are good to treat restricted spinal movement it isn’t typically recommended for sciatica lower back pain. But chiropractors are trained in multiple treatment options, including massage, stretching, exercise. They will be able to give you specific exercises you can do at home to treat your back pain.


Surgery for sciatic nerve pain is a rare treatment that is reserved for the most severe cases. Sciatica can cause a rare condition called cauda equine syndrome which causes suffers to lose their ability to control their bladder and bowel. This condition would warrant surgery.

  • Diskectomy

    A diskectomy is a surgical procedure that involves general anesthesia. The surgeon removes what is causing pressure on your sciatic nerve. This may be a bone spur or part of a herniated disc. A diskectomy is considered a safe surgical procedure, but as with all surgeries, your surgeon will go over all the benefits and risks.

  • Laminectomy

    A laminectomy is a surgery that also involves general anesthesia. Sometimes called decompression surgery, this procedure removes the lamina, the back portion of the vertebrae to make room for the spinal canal. This relieves pressure off of the spinal cord and nerves. You can leave the hospital the same day or after a short stay. Your surgeon may recommend physical therapy to help you regain strength and flexibility.

Safe and Effective Sciatica Treatment

Leg and low back pain caused by the sciatica nerve can be safely and effectively treated with multiple different therapies. The first line of treatment in most cases is home remedies like medication and rest. Your doctor may suggest other prescribed treatments like steroid injections and physical therapy. In rare cases, sciatica pain is treated with surgery. If you are unsure about your pain, talk to your doctor.


Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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