Sciatica Pain Treatment Options

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If you are looking for sciatica pain treatment options, I will outline some basic and conservative alternatives in this post.  Whether you are new to dealing with sciatica or are a grizzled veteran like I am, I want to discuss some ways to help the pain.

Sciatica pain comes in many forms and can range from annoying, to debilitating as I know all too well from personal experience.

Pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve is known as sciatica.  Though not a diagnosis itself, sciatica is an indication of a spinal problem, like a herniated disc, that compresses the sciatic nerve.  You can experience shooting pain, numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in your legs.  In my case, I have felt most of these sensations, always down my right leg.

Sciatica can be acute, or chronic.  Acute pain usually lasts a few weeks, whereas chronic sciatica exists pretty frequently.  The pain from acute sciatica is often more intense than chronic, but chronic pain can be with you for a lifetime.

The first thing you need to do is speak with your healthcare provider, like a doctor or chiropractor to make sure you have a proper diagnosis. Once you know that you are dealing with sciatica, then some of these options may provide you with some pain relief.

I have tried a lot of different methods to alleviate sciatica pain over the years, and I will explain some of these to you.

Oral medication

oral medication for sciatica
Photo by Simone van der Koelen on Unsplash

I have tried a lot of different stuff when it comes to pills, and there are many options available.  Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), as well as oral steroids can help to reduce inflammation and give you some much-needed pain relief.  Another option your doctor may use is muscle relaxants, or narcotics, for the short term. [1]

At one point, I was on an ibuprofen regimen for a month, under doctors’ orders, and I felt much better after that.  I have chronic pain, so if you are dealing with acute pain, your scenario will likely be different.

Typically oral medications are intended to be used in conjunction with a treatment program, like physical therapy, exercise, or chiropractic care, so you can hopefully fix the source of the problem, not just cover up the pain symptoms.

The only problem with oral medication is that this does not explicitly target the injured area, like a steroid injection does, but is dispersed throughout the body.

Strengthening your back and core muscles is the ideal way to get better and prevent future problems.

Ice/heat therapy

Ice is pretty easy to come by, and there are different ways to apply ice therapy.  Using ice is a way to reduce inflammation and numb the sore area, hopefully helping to decrease the pain.

Usually, ice is used initially, for the first few days after the injury happened, when the pain is most intense.

Ice or heat for sciatica
Photo by Jose Danilo on Unsplash

You want to get the area pretty darn cold, but not burn your skin, or give yourself frostbite.  A lot of the ice packs you can buy can be applied directly to your skin. These ice packs for back pain usually have an outer fabric shell and are nice lay on, molding to your body.

Or, you can put ice in a Ziploc bag and use a towel as a buffer between the ice and your skin.  Not necessarily a great option to lay on, since it’s uncomfortable, but an excellent choice to put on top of your back if you are face down.

Frozen peas work great as well, they are not uncomfortable like ice cubes, they are reusable and inexpensive.  Just make sure no one eats your peas, or there goes your ice pack!

I prefer to lay flat on my back, with a cold compress under my back.  Fifteen to twenty minutes per session is pretty good, and you can do this throughout the day.  Or if you are like me, before work and then a couple of times in the evening before I go to bed.

As a general rule, ice is applied during the first few days, and then once the pain has subsided, you can move to heat.  This is a guideline, and you can experiment with heat and cold to find what suits you.

The goal is to numb the area, and hopefully, you can do some stretching, or gentle exercise to relieve the compressed nerve and get to the source of the problem.

Heat can also be used, and again, be careful not to burn yourself.  After the initial acute pain has subsided, hopefully in a few days, you can try heat.  Some people prefer to use heating pad first, or they will alternate between heat and cold.

Heat helps to increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the area, which helps to heal.  Heat also stimulates sensory receptors in the skin so your brain will focus less on the sciatica pain. [2]

Heat and ice therapy can be used together, alternating between the two, if that works for you.  As with so many pain relief options, what works for one person might not necessarily work for everyone.


some people have had really good success with Acupuncture.  Acupuncture is the process of using small needles, placed in specific areas of the body.acupuncture for sciatica

The needles trigger a response from the nervous system including:

  • Release endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers
  • Blood flow increases to the area
  • Helps muscles in the surrounding area to relax

The study referenced below compared two methods of acupuncture treatment for dealing with sciatica pain.  The first method used 1-2 needles in the glutes.  The second method used the same 1-2 needles in the glutes as well as needles placed at other points in the body.  The first method provided slightly more pain relief and showed that it doesn’t take many needles to make relieve pain. [3]

Acupuncture does not heal the structural or mechanical issues associated with sciatica it can provide a way to manage pain.  Sometimes that is not a bad option when you are dealing with excruciating pain.


While you would not necessarily think a massage would be a useful treatment option for nerve pain, it appears to be quite useful.

As we know, sciatica flares up when the nerve roots are irritated, tight lower back muscles can put stress on the nerves.  Massage therapy can help to loosen the muscles and relieve the pinching.

Massage for sciatica
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Massage also helps to release endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkiller.  This can help to provide some temporary relief, which again, can feel like a vacation from your pain.

Your doctor may be able to point you in the direction of a massage therapist, so it is worth asking.

Nothing will replace a qualified massage therapist, but a massage chair is a solid alternative.

Wrap up: Sciatica pain treatment options

If you are dealing with sciatic nerve pain, the options above may be worth a try.  Of course, you will want to get a proper diagnosis from your doctor first.

As with any back pain treatment, what works for one person will not necessarily work for someone else.  There is no one size fits all approach, unfortunately.  I have friends who swear by epidural steroid injections, but I have not received any relief from them myself.

Sciatica pain can be very challenging for everyday life.  I have chronic pain and have flare-ups from time to time. I have become very in tune with my body, and I am cautious.

If I lift something wrong or try to overdo it at the gym, I often times will ice my back and take some ibuprofen.  Typically I am better in a day or two, but again, this comes from a lot of experience (unfortunately).

I hope you find some much-needed relief.  Please let me know if you have any questions, I would love to be able to help.




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