How to Relieve Sciatica Pain: Home Treatments, Stretches & When to See a Doctor
Sciatica refers to the pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down through the hips and buttocks and extends into each leg. It happens when the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated, leading to a range of symptoms that range from uncomfortable to painful. The symptoms of sciatica can vary, but they typically include sharp pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation down the back of the leg.
Thankfully, there are several ways to find relief from sciatica pain. Most people find relief from home with gentle exercises and stretches to improve their range of motion, hot and cold therapy to reduce inflammation and alleviate discomfort, and over-the-counter medications or muscle relaxers to manage the pain. Physiotherapy can also be beneficial for people with sciatica, providing tailored exercises and stretches to strengthen the affected area.
Natural pain remedies like CBD are also worth considering for their natural pain-relieving properties. CBD has powerful anti-inflammatory effects, promoting relaxation and reducing muscle tension, and when applied topically, it has little to no long-term side effects. This can be a great help for people suffering from chronic sciatica pain, and a great alternative to pharmaceutical painkillers which can have side effects when used long-term.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about treating sciatica pain, including advice on the best stretches and exercises, and knowing when to see a doctor. Keep reading to find out how you can manage your pain and improve your quality of life!
What Are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
- Sharp pain. Sciatica often presents as a shooting or searing pain that radiates from the lower back down the back of the leg. This pain can be intense and debilitating, making it difficult to perform everyday activities.
- Numbness and tingling. Many people with sciatica experience numbness or a tingling sensation in the leg or foot. This can range from a mild sensation to complete numbness, depending on the severity of the nerve compression.
- Muscle weakness. Sciatica can also cause weakness in the leg or foot muscles. This weakness may make it challenging to walk or perform tasks that require strength and balance.
- Burning or electric shock sensations. Some people with sciatica may feel a burning or electric shock-like sensation in the affected leg. This can be quite uncomfortable and may worsen with certain movements or positions.
- Radiating pain. Sciatica pain typically follows the path of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back through the hips and buttocks, down the back of the leg, and into the foot. The pain may worsen when sitting, standing, or walking for extended periods.
- Worsening symptoms with certain movements. Activities like bending forward, lifting heavy objects, coughing, or sneezing can often make sciatica pain more intense. Pressure on the sciatic nerve can be aggravated by these movements, causing increased discomfort.
If you believe you are experiencing sciatica pain, it's best to seek medical attention to confirm your diagnosis and rule out other potential conditions.
Your doctor will examine your medical history, perform a physical examination, and potentially conduct additional tests such as an MRI, x-ray, CT scan, or EMG (electromyography).
In some cases, your doctor may refer you to specialists like neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, or spine specialists for a more detailed evaluation.
7 Ways to Relieve Sciatica Pain
If you're experiencing sciatica pain, there are plenty of treatment options that can help provide relief and promote healing. These approaches are often the first line of defence before considering more invasive interventions:
1. Hot and Cold Therapy. Applying ice packs for 15-20 minutes at a time can help reduce inflammation and numbness. On the other hand, using a heating pad or warm compress can relax muscles and increase blood flow, alleviating pain.
2. Gentle Stretches and Exercises. Specific stretches and exercises can help relieve sciatic nerve pain and improve flexibility and range of motion (keep reading for tips on the best stretches for sciatica). Remember to start gently and listen to your body to avoid aggravating the condition.
3. Physical Therapy. A physical therapy program designed to target sciatica can provide guidance on proper body mechanics, strengthening exercises, and pain management techniques. A trained therapist can customise a program to your specific needs.
4. Topical Pain Relief Gels. Topical pain relief creams can target the affected area directly. These creams and gels contain ingredients that help to numb the nerves, reduce inflammation, and provide a cooling or warming sensation.
When applied to the skin, these ingredients penetrate deep into the tissues, providing temporary relief from the pain associated with sciatica. Massaging the cream into the affected area can help to increase blood flow, relax muscles, and reduce tension, further alleviating the discomfort caused by sciatica.
5. Over-the-Counter Medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with sciatica. However, always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new medication. Learn more about topical vs. oral medications here.
6. Rest and Modify Activities. It may be necessary to limit certain activities that worsen sciatica pain, such as heavy lifting or prolonged sitting.
Resting and avoiding activities that aggravate the condition can aid in the recovery process.
7. Acupuncture. A practice rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to promote healing and alleviate pain.
This practice has been used for centuries and is believed to help restore the body's natural balance of energy, known as Qi. The placement of the needles stimulates the release of endorphins, which are the body's natural pain relievers.
This can help reduce the intensity of sciatic nerve pain, improve blood flow, and reduce inflammation in the affected area.
Best Stretches for Sciatica Pain
Stretching is a very effective way to quickly relieve sciatica symptoms. Here are some of the best stretches for relieving sciatica pain:
Knee to Chest Stretch:
- Lie on your back on a mat with your legs extended.
- Bend one knee and hug it towards your chest.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, feeling the stretch in your lower back and glutes.
- Switch to the other leg and repeat.
- Lie on your back and bend both knees.
- Place the ankle of the affected leg over the opposite knee.
- Hold the thigh of the bottom leg and pull it towards your chest.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, feeling the stretch in your buttocks and outer hip.
- Lie on your back with your legs extended.
- Bend one knee and cross it over the opposite side of your body.
- Extend your arms out like a “T” and turn your head to the opposite direction of the bent knee.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and then switch sides.
Seated Spinal Stretch:
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front.
- Bend the affected leg and cross it over the opposite leg.
- Turn your upper body towards the bent knee while using the opposite arm to push against it.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and then switch sides.
- Stand up and place the heel of your affected leg on a low surface, like a step or a chair.
- Keep your leg straight and gently lean forward until you feel a stretch at the back of your thigh.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and then switch legs.
- Lie on your stomach with your hands by your shoulders.
- Press into your hands to lift your chest off the ground, keeping your hips on the floor.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, feeling a stretch in your lower back.
- Start in a hands-and-knees position.
- Move the affected leg forward and bend the knee to place it behind the corresponding wrist.
- Extend the other leg straight back.
- You can stay upright or lean forward slightly.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, feeling a deep stretch in the buttocks and outer hip.
- Start in a hands-and-knees position.
- Sit back on your heels, reaching your arms forward and lowering your chest to the ground.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, feeling the stretch along your spine.
Remember to maintain a deep and steady breath during each stretch, and never force a stretch.
It's important to listen to your body and ensure that the stretches alleviate tension rather than exacerbate the pain. If any stretch causes increased pain or discomfort, it's best to stop and consult a medical professional or physical therapist.
How CBD Can Relieve Sciatica Pain
CBD (cannabidiol) is an alternative treatment that has proven very helpful for many patients struggling with pain, particularly chronic pain. You can learn all about it in our comprehensive guide to using CBD for pain relief.
What makes CBD effective in relieving sciatica pain is its interaction with the body's ECS (endocannabinoid system). The ECS plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes, including pain sensation, mood, sleep, and immune responses. CBD can influence this system and other receptors in the body, which can lead to pain relief and reduction in inflammation. It's backed by research, too – a 2021 study of CBD for chronic pain found that CBD was able to alleviate chronic pain and reduce dependency on painkillers for the majority of its participants.
Here Are the Benefits of CBD for Sciatica Pain:
It Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties. Sciatica pain can often be caused or exacerbated by inflammation, particularly if the pain is due to a herniated disc or another inflammatory cause. CBD has been shown to reduce inflammation by interacting with the CB2 receptors in our immune cells.
It Regulates Pain Perception. CBD may also impact the body’s serotonin receptors, which play a role in pain management. By affecting these receptors, CBD can decrease pain perception.
It Relaxes Muscles. Sciatica can lead to muscle spasms or tension in the affected areas. A 2021 study found CBD to be significantly effective in reducing spasms and easing muscle recovery for its participants.
It Has Neuroprotective Properties. Sciatica involves nerve pain, and topical CBD, in particular, has shown neuroprotective properties in various studies. This suggests that CBD might help protect nerve cells and reduce nerve pain.
It's Very Safe. CBD is generally considered safe with a low risk of side effects, especially when compared to some prescription medications used for pain and inflammation. This makes it an attractive option for anyone looking for natural alternatives for pain relief.
It Can Help Improve Sleep. Chronic pain can disrupt sleep. CBD has been studied for its potential role in improving sleep quality, which could be beneficial for those suffering from pain-related insomnia.
It Reduces Reliance on Opioids. With the opioid crisis, there's a push to find safer pain management alternatives. If effective for an individual, CBD could reduce the need for opioids or other potent pain medications.
It Has No Psychoactive Effects. Unlike THC, the other main cannabinoid in cannabis, CBD doesn’t produce psychoactive effects, meaning it doesn't get you "high." This allows patients to gain the benefits of cannabis without the associated high.
When to See a Doctor for Sciatica Pain
Although there are many home treatments that can effectively relieve the pain and discomfort of sciatica, there are some cases in which you should seek medical attention.
You should see your doctor about sciatica if:
- The pain is severe and persistent.
- The pain is preventing you from doing your regular activities.
- The pain does not improve within a few weeks or is getting worse.
You should seek urgent medical attention at A&E or call 999 if:
- The pain is accompanied by bladder or bowel dysfunction.
- There is weakness or numbness in the legs or buttocks.
- You have sciatica on both sides.
Medical Treatments for Sciatica Pain
If home remedies aren't working for you, your doctor may explore the following options with you to help relieve your sciatica pain:
- Prescription painkillers. Some common options include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen, muscle relaxants like cyclobenzaprine, and opioids such as codeine or oxycodone.
- Steroid Injections. In some cases, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid injection to the area around the nerve which is causing pain. You may find relief from just 1 injection, and up to 3 injections can be administered in a year.
- Surgery. In severe sciatica cases, your doctor may refer you for surgery. A sciatica surgery can remove a portion of the herniated disc or bone spur that's pressing on the nerve root and causing your pain.
Bottom Line: Sciatica Pain Can Be Treated
Managing sciatica pain requires a holistic approach, blending both traditional and alternative remedies. We've seen how stretching, physiotherapy, and even acupuncture can bring relief.
But let's not forget the power of nature. CBD has become increasingly popular for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to manage pain, without the side effects associated with many pharmaceuticals.
If you're looking for an all-natural solution to combat your sciatica pain, HEMPE's Hot and Cold CBD Gels are a game-changer. Infused with the best quality CBD, these gels provide a soothing sensation, reduce inflammation, and give comfort where it's needed most. No one should endure chronic pain without exploring every avenue of relief. So why wait? It's time to try HEMPE Hot and Cold CBD Gels and embrace a more natural approach to managing your sciatica pain. You deserve to live your life with ease and comfort. Give nature a chance!
We must have far more video testimonials than any other company of our size in the world!— HEMPE (@hempehelps) August 8, 2023
That is because these products really work.
Try the gels here:https://t.co/57mQersWiD pic.twitter.com/jfEpujBFZD