Cold packs placed on the points of pain often provide relief in the first few days, notes Mayo Clinic. Twenty-minute periods of icing several times a day often work best. After the first few days, switching to heat with hot packs or a heating pad can help relieve pain. Alternating between heat and cold also works for some people. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen also ease pain.
Bed rest or a long period of inactivity is NOT generally helpful in relieving the symptoms of sciatica, explains Mayo Clinic. Taking it easy, especially with strenuous physical activity, can help avoid aggravating the pain, but long-term inactivity may actually make the symptoms WORSE. Stretching exercises that focus on the lower back may bring relief. The stretches should be smooth and gentle without jerky movements, twisting or bouncing. Holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds can maximize results.
Treatment for sciatica isn’t always necessary, states MedlinePlus. Self-care techniques to relieve the symptoms is often adequate. Treating the underlying cause of sciatica can also help resolve the pain.
- Use cold/ice packs on the points of pain, at least 3 times daily for 20 minutes a time, or as often as your time allows, for the first 2/3 days. Applying cold can numb tissues, and relieve muscle spasm, pain due to injuries, and low back pain, or inflammation that has recently developed.
- Heat increases blood flow and makes connective tissue more flexible, and is also used to treat inflammation, muscle spasm, and injuries, however cold pack treatment is generally recognized as the first ‘port of call’ in the first couple of days of pain/injury.
- Avoid long-term inactivity, and start a stretching regime after 3-4 days. Getting a deep massage and using a foam roller will also help remove any scar tissue, once strains or tears have healed.