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Sciatica Self-care: 5 At-home Remedies for Low Back and Leg Pain

Sciatica pain can affect your quality of life and health if you do not take timely measures. At Redefine Healthcare, Dr. Eric Freeman offers the most advanced pain management treatments available in the USA. Dr. Freeman is a board-certified and fellowship-trained physician. He focuses on the diagnosis and management of back and hip pain resulting from various spine and pain disorders. The specialist listens to your complaints and investigates the causes of your pain to determine the best course of treatment that ensures quick relief and also prevents further deterioration. He helps you get back to enjoying life with minimally invasive techniques and self-care home remedies that provide long-term relief. 

The sciatic nerve travels from the lower back through the hips and buttocks down each leg. The pain is felt almost anywhere along the pathway of the sciatic nerve, known as sciatica pain. It is more likely to follow a path from the lower back to the buttock and the back of a thigh and calf. This pain can vary from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation.

This pain is experienced when a herniated disc or an overgrown bone puts pressure on the part of a nerve that leads to inflammation and numbness in the affected leg. It may feel like a jolt or electric shock and worsen as you cough, sneeze or sit for a long time. Usually, sciatica affects only one side of the body. Some people experience numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in the leg or foot. One part of the leg may be in pain while the other feels numb.

Even though the pain associated with sciatica can be severe, it often goes away within 3 months with conservative treatment. Conservative treatment refers to non-invasive therapies you can do at home to relieve the pain.

At-Home Remedies for Low Back and Leg Pain

These 5 at-home sciatica self-care remedies are a good option if you are experiencing mild to moderate sciatica nerve pain. They also help to condition your body, triggering the release of endorphins that reduce your perception of pain.

Sciatica Self-care-5 At-home Remedies for Low Back and Leg Pain

Self-Care Tip # 1 – Exercise Is Effective for Pain Relief

It may seem unusual to exercise when you are suffering from pain, but research shows that lying in bed for a long time can further aggravate your back and leg symptoms. Lack of exercise and movement can lead to weakness and stiffness in the back muscles and spinal structures, and they may not be able to prevent back issues. With a controlled, progressive exercise program, you can look forward to addressing, resolving, and preventing recurrences of the underlying causes of pain. The key is to exercise gently, and keep it from turning painful or strenuous.

Low-impact exercises like water aerobics, stationary biking, and yoga can effectively reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent further back issues. Stronger back muscles also support the spine and alleviate pressure on the spinal nerves, which can reduce the frequency and intensity of sciatica episodes. Exercise keeps the joints flexible, and strengthens your core and the muscles of the lower back and abdomen. These muscles support the spine and prevent trauma and strain that may cause additional pain.

Self-Care Tip # 2 – Stretching It out Helps

Incorporating gentle stretching into your daily routine will help you in more than one way. Not only it is an excellent way to improve spinal flexibility and range of motion, but it can also build core and spinal strength that will benefit you in the long run. Most stretches are simple enough to be done while you are watching TV or listening to your favorite music.

Here are some gentle and effective stretches that will relieve sciatic nerve pain.

Reclined Pigeon Pose

  • Lie down on your back with one foot flat on the floor, and the knee pointed up
  • Cross the other leg’s ankle over the knee
  • Reach forward, bringing your upper back off the floor if needed, and grab your shin with both the hands
  • Pulls your legs towards the chest
  • Hold this pose for at least five breaths and release
  • Repeat this stretch for about three to five times

Supine Twist

  • Lie down on your back and bring your knees towards the chest as much as you can comfortably
  • Spread both arms
  • Lower both legs to one side and turn your head in the opposite direction
  • Hold this pose for at least five breaths
  • Return to the starting point and this time, repeat on the other side
  • Repeat both sides for about three to five times

Seated Forward Bend

  • Sit up straight with your legs stretched out in the front and feet flexed
  • Inhale and bring your arms up over the head
  • Exhale and reach your fingers towards the toes and the chest towards the thighs
  • Hold this post for at least five breaths and release
  • Repeat this stretch for about three to five times

Cat-Cow Stretches

  • Start by getting on all fours with your spine in neutral
  • Inhale and arch your back and move your stomach toward the floor
  • Exhale and come through neutral until your back is bowed with the upper back reaching for the ceiling
  • Come back to the neutral position
  • Repeat this stretch at least 10 to 15 times

Bird-Dogs

  • Start by getting on all fours with a neutral spine
  • Inhale as you straighten and raise an opposing arm and leg, the left arm should be pointing forward while the right foot should be pointing backward or vice versa
  • Hold this posture for about five breaths
  • Return to neutral and repeat with the other arm and leg
  • Repeat this stretch for about three to five times

It is best to learn proper stretching from an experienced instructor who can guide you for low back and leg pain. As you work up to other general strength, core muscle strengthening, and aerobic exercises, it will keep the spine strong and help you fight the pain.

Self-Care Tip # 3 – Correct Your Posture

Sciatica pain can be controlled or relieved by correcting posture. If you work at a desk or sit in the same position for too long, it can spike sciatica pain. The best way to prevent this is to switch your posture every 20 minutes and sit with your head aligned with the hips. It takes the pressure off the spine and reduces sciatica pain symptoms. Taking frequent breaks from sitting can also relieve the strain from the spine and make you feel better.

You can also try the Alexander Technique to release unnecessary muscle tension. This technique teaches improved posture and movement, which is believed to reduce and prevent problems caused by unhealthy habits. You are taught to be more aware of your body so that you can sit, stand and move more comfortably. Correct posture for sitting and walking can play a significant role in alleviating the low back and leg pain associated with sciatica.

Self-Care Tip # 4 – Apply an Ice Pack and Heating Pad

Alternating heat and ice therapy can provide immediate relief from sciatica nerve pain. Ice helps to reduce inflammation, while heat promotes blood flow to the painful area and eases the pain. First, apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables to the affected area to bring down the pain and swelling. Always use a barrier like a towel or cloth to protect your skin when using ice as direct exposure can result in frostbite. Keep it on for about 20 minutes several times a day.

Switch to a hot pad or heating pad after a few days, or you can use it an hour after applying the ice pack. Apply heat for about 20 minutes at a time after every 2 to 3 hours. Heat and ice also help to ease painful muscle spasms that accompany sciatica and make it more stressful for you.

Try a cycle of on-off-on-off, alternating between heat and ice, and take a break to see how it works for you. You will learn which therapy best relieves your discomfort.

Self-Care Tip # 5 – Check Out Over-The-Counter Medications

Over-the-counter medications can reduce the pain, inflammation, and swelling accompanied by sciatica. Acetaminophen as well as NSAIDs work well for muscle spasms. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are believed to be a better option as they ease the sciatica symptoms when they strike. There are many easily available over-the-counter medications that you can use to keep the pain and discomfort down.

If you cannot take NSAIDS for any reason, acetaminophen is an effective alternative. However, these medications come with health risks, and long-term use is not suggested. Taking too much at once or using them for prolonged periods can have dangerous side effects, and you should make an effort to discuss their dosage and duration of usage with your doctor.

It is best to consult your healthcare provider about the conservative approach you are trying for pain relief. If you have been dealing with sciatica for some time or have already tried any of the remedies that resulted in debilitating low pain and leg pain, seek immediate medical attention.

When to See Your Doctor for Sciatica Pain?

Every person may experience different symptoms and varying degrees of pain with sciatica. The type and intensity of pain you go through, as well as the causes behind the pain, are not similar for two people. Some people find relief with self-care home remedies within a few days, while for some people, these remedies take time to work.

If your pain does not seem to be lessening and self-care treatments like ice and heat, stretching, and over-the-counter medications are not having the desired effect, consult your doctor. Pain control specialists at Redefine Healthcare determine the causes behind your symptoms and come up with the best solutions to help you feel better.

Some sciatica symptoms can turn into medical emergencies, and delaying treatment can lead to or cause permanent nerve damage. Call your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Severe pain in the lower back and legs, which is not subsiding with over-the-counter medications
  • Nerve-related symptoms such as weakness, numbness, tingling, or electric shock-like pain in your body
  • The pain has not improved after 2 weeks
  • The pain worsens, even after you are using self-care home remedies
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

Do not take your low back and leg pain lightly and delay seeing a doctor. Acute sciatica may eventually turn into chronic sciatica if you do not seek timely and proper treatment. If you are not careful, persistent pain may force you to give up your favorite activities and interfere with routine life.

Read more: How to Treat a Pulled Back Muscle in 8 Steps

Easing the extreme pain of sciatica does not always require an intensive treatment approach. The nerve pain can be relieved with self-care and at-home remedies that ensure a smooth recovery. Visit Redefine Healthcare, New Jersey’s premier pain management practice, to better understand your condition and treatment options for sciatica and its symptoms. You will receive comprehensive, cutting-edge care that will put you on a speedy road to recovery. Dr. Eric Freeman aims to provide natural relief without the risks and downtime associated with surgery by recommending conservative treatment approaches.  With the most effective pain management strategies that reduce the pain and decrease trauma, you can look forward to getting your life back within no time. 

Page Updated on Dec 12, 2022 by Dr. Freeman (Pain Management Specialist) of Redefine Healthcare

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Dr. Eric D. Freeman

Dr. Eric D. Freeman is a top-rated, best-in-class pain management doctor. He is a nationally recognized pain relief specialist and is among the top pain care doctors in New Jersey and the country. He is an award-winning expert and contributor to prominent media outlets.

Dr. Eric D. Freeman has been recognized for his thoughtful, thorough, modern approach to treating chronic pain. He has been named a “top pain management doctor in New Jersey” and one of “America’s Top Physicians” for advanced sports injury treatments.

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