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Sciatica - DIY Treatments and Prevention

Updated on January 9, 2018
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


Sciatica is a common back problem. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent it as well as treat it yourself. What can you do to prevent sciatica? And what are some home remedies for sciatica?

Hard physical work like lifting loads aggravates sciatica.
Hard physical work like lifting loads aggravates sciatica. | Source

Personal Sciatica Treatment Options

Self-care refers to those treatments you can do yourself at home with little or no assistance. Self treatment is best for those with mild to moderate sciatica symptoms.

  • Alternating hot and cold packs on the affected area is the safest and simplest form of sciatica treatment. Hot and cold packs are safe to use in any situation; even women with sciatica during pregnancy can use hot and cold packs.
  • Over the counter medicines that simulate heat and cold like capsaicin creams are a safe alternative to hot and cold packs.
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines like NSAIDs reduce sciatica pain and the inflammation that contributes to it.
  • You may take over the counter pain medications like Tylenol and ibuprofen to ease sciatica pain. Be careful not to take too many over the counter pain relievers. Muscle relaxants are not available over the counter, and you should not use someone else’s muscle relaxant prescription to treat your sciatica.
    Sciatica may be treated with essential oils that contain pain relieving or anti-inflammatory compounds.
  • Speak with your doctor or pharmacist before using natural essential oils or other herbal treatments in conjunction with over the counter medications or prescription treatments. This is especially true if you are suffering from sciatica during pregnancy; herbal treatments for pregnancy, though natural, can pose a risk to your child. If you go to the doctor for sciatica relief, tell the doctor that you are pregnant so that they can tailor a medical treatment
  • If sciatic pain worsens with hard bowel movements, a high fiber diet or herbal stool softener will help.

Warnings Regarding At-Home Sciatica Solutions

If these treatments for sciatica do not improve your condition or the pain becomes worse, seek the advice of a medical professional. If the sciatica symptoms are accompanied by a loss of motor control or sensation, go to the Emergency Room.

Bed rest should only be used short term, since staying in bed for more than a day or two will result in weakening of the back muscles and increase the risk of a worse episode later. If you confined yourself to bed and your condition worsens, seek medical attention immediately.

If you are suffering from pregnancy sciatica, talk to your doctor before attempting any at-home treatment except bed rest and alternating hot and cold packs.
If you are suffering from pregnancy sciatica, talk to your doctor before attempting any at-home treatment except bed rest and alternating hot and cold packs. | Source

Preventing Future Sciatica Flare-Ups

Physical therapy can help your body heal from a herniated disk. A doctor or physical therapist can help you learn better body postures to avoid aggravating your sciatica.

Sciatica exercises will help build up the muscles that support your back, preventing undue pressure upon the sciatic nerve. A doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist can help you find better ways to lift objects or sit at a work station without aggravating the sciatica or causing another ergonomic injury.

Periodic stretching to reduce compression on the nerve can help prevent future sciatica flare ups. If you get up and move around, it will prevent sciatica flare ups that occur when you sit too long. However, hard twists and impacts will worsen the symptoms. Do gentle arm and back stretches, but don't do a dozen body twists. Go for a short walk, but do not go for a long jog. A physical trainer should be informed if you have sciatica so that he or she can design an exercise routine that will build up your core strength without aggravating the condition. Do not lift weights to build up your back; you will make the sciatica worse.

One easily over looked solution is checking your bed. Is the mattress hard enough to offer back support? Is it so soft that your spine is curved at night? Talk to your doctor or chiropractor to find out if changing your mattress or getting an adjustable bed will prevent future sciatica flare ups. Purchasing an ergonomic office chair with good lumbar support is another option. If you have to use a back pillow for back support, you may be better off getting a better chair altogether. If you are standing a lot, consider purchasing or requesting that your manager install a soft, ergonomic mat to reduce the strain on your legs and back.

Switch from a treadmill to an elliptical so that you get the benefits of exercise without pounding away at your knees and back with every foot fall. Or start taking laps in a pool instead of on a track to lessen the load on your legs while benefiting from gentle resistance as you move through the water.

You should prevent lower back injuries that can cause sciatica. If your job requires heavy lifting, always get help before you lift a heavy object. Wear a back brace if one is provided. Request installation of mobile cranes in the work place; then the machines do the heavy lifting instead of you.

The gentle stretching motions in yoga can form the basis of both an exercise routine and a stretching routine. However, you may need to modify yoga poses to avoid fatiguing your back or worsening a pinched sciatic nerve in the piriformis muscle. You should avoid poses that require you to bend over backward, since this generally worsens sciatica regardless of its causes. If you have sciatica, talk to your yoga instructor about pose modifications to avoid worsening your condition.

Sciatica is far more than a pulled back muscle. However, you need to manage your exercise routine and avoid over-exertion. Over-using muscles in your back while you try to build them up can cause your sciatica to flare up.


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