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Home Remedies and Treatment for Sciatica

This article was written by Chris Marshall

While sciatica is a relatively common condition, affecting up to 40% of people in their lifetime, there are a lot of unknowns about how to deal with it.

Many will know and understand the extreme discomfort, restricted mobility, and the impact on quality of life that sciatica can cause. Understanding the wealth of home remedies, self-care techniques, and home treatments for sciatica can alleviate symptoms and empower those to take charge of their symptoms.

Let’s look at managing sciatica flare-ups while discussing effective and accessible sciatica treatment at home.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is when your sciatic nerve is irritated, inflamed, or compressed. The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back, through your hips, down to each leg, ending at the sole of the foot. This is the largest nerve in the human body and has five nerve roots spanning from the lower spine area.

When it’s being affected in some way, it presents as a pain in the troubled area, ranging from a mild ache to a severe, burning pain. It usually affects adults over 20 - usually those in their 40s and 50s.

Types of Sciatica

There are four main types of sciatica:

Acute sciatica: Acute sciatica refers to a recent onset of pain in the relevant area. This is known as the milder version, with most cases responding well to self-care measures and the pain resolving or easing within just a couple of weeks.

Chronic sciatica: Medical advice may be needed for chronic sciatica as the pain can be infuriating, especially as it lasts longer than eight weeks and is persistent.

Alternating sciatica: This is rare, but it includes both legs being impacted - not at the same time, but one after the other.

Bilateral sciatica: This is when both legs are affected by sciatica and the pain that unfortunately comes with it. You should seek medical help and advice as this can relate to damage to vertebrae or a disc.

Causes of Sciatica

Sciatica occurs when the nerve is directly impacted by something compressing, rubbing, or pressing against it. Causes include:

A direct force

  • Herniated discs: This is when a disc in your back may be protruding, prodding, or compressing the sciatic nerve root in your lower back. Similarly, the disc could have slipped.
  • Foraminal stenosis: Also known as ‘spinal stenosis,’ this is where there’s been a narrowing in any part of your spine. Degenerative changes in the spine can be another factor, as even a thickening of facet joint capsules or a slight difference in ligaments can sit differently against the nerve.
  • Segmental instability: If one vertebra slips over another (spondylolisthesis), dislocates completely, or has a defect (spondylolysis), this can cause a compress onto the nerve root of the infamous sciatic nerve. If you’ve had a back injury recently, spondylolisthesis could cause sciatica.

Inflammation

Chemical irritants, like fibronectin fragments or hyaluronic acid, could cause inflammation or irritation to the nerve. These chemicals can be released when there’s a problem with a disc - especially if it has degenerated in some way or even slightly herniated.

Occupational and Lifestyle Influences

Does your job involve you sitting around for hours on end? If so, you could risk developing some form of pain.

Not taking breaks, having improper posture, or even lifting your arms above shoulder level can leave your body in discomfort.

 

An image of a woman working wiout proper composure that can potentially cause some type of muscle or body pains such as scatia.

Aside from working life, certain physical characteristics can put the sciatica nerve under more pressure - including if you’re overweight. Excess weight can increase the chance of your vertebrae rubbing against one another, which could then irritate the nerve.

Symptoms of Sciatica

The usual symptoms of sciatica include a feeling of pain in either your bottom, leg, foot, or toes. This pain can feel like a sharp stabbing, burning, or shooting sensation. Or, it can be milder and feel tingly or numb.

It typically only affects one side of the body, and the pain can heighten when sitting for long periods. Coughing and sneezing can also increase the symptoms.

You should, however, seek immediate medical attention if you’re experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Pain after a rough injury
  • Difficulty controlling your bowels or bladder, or if you’re finding it hard to do so when you wouldn’t normally
  • Have severe weakness or numbness in both legs
  • Sudden extreme pain in the lower back or leg, or numbness or loss of feeling in a leg
  • Major discomfort or pain in both sides of your body

Risk Factors

Aside from the direct results of a traumatic injury on the body, some factors place you at a higher chance of having sciatica. These are:

Age: When you’re older, your body will naturally go through a process of the usual wear and tear on the spine. Unfortunately, this can’t be helped, as it depends entirely on how your body reacts to aging.

Occupation: If your job requires prolonged sitting, heavy lifting, or working in awkward positions, this can heighten your risk.

Diabetes: Having Type 2 diabetes increases the chance of diabetes-related peripheral neuropathy. 

Smoking: According to research, nicotine can affect circulation and potentially bring on chronic pain.

Weight lifting: This relates to having proper posture, as not using the correct form when lifting at the gym can result in sciatica.

This isn’t to say that if you have sciatica, you do or have the above - many cases of sciatica don’t have a clear reasoning behind it.

Nerves

With access to the whole lower part of your body, the sciatic nerve demands attention and care, especially as it has two key functions.

The sciatic nerve has a motor and sensory function. The latter helps people to feel sensations in the legs, whereas the motor allows the muscles in the leg and foot to be present for movement.

This nerve varies in size as it travels through your body, with the top being around 1 centimeter wide. It then widens as the nerve extends down your leg, reaching about 2 centimeters in diameter - or the size of a penny!

While most people will experience mild and temporary sciatica, it’s important not to underestimate or ignore your sciatic pain as this nerve is valuable, and damage could cause permanent changes. 

Diagnosis

There are a few ways doctors can diagnose this dreaded condition. They’ll first ask general questions about your symptoms, lifestyle, and medical history, followed by a physical examination.

This physical exam includes watching you walk, the straight leg raise test, and other flexibility and strength checks. The straight leg raise test will involve you lying down and slowly raising your legs one at a time. This can help to pinpoint when you start to feel pain and to recognize which other symptoms are present.

Going beyond, some doctors will then wish to conduct more thorough investigations. This could involve an X-ray of your spine or a computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, nerve conduction velocity studies, electromyography, or a myelogram.

Sciatica and Self-Care

Aside from the various sciatica treatments at home that you can carry out, some general self-care steps can prevent sciatica from occurring or worsening.

Posture

Your posture can play a huge role in the development of sciatica and is often a significant problem for those who are sat down all day.

Poor posture, such as slouching or sitting with a curved spine, can cause compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Pay attention to maintaining a good posture throughout the day, especially when sitting.

Ergonomic Support

For those who work on a computer all day, investing in an ergonomic chair can make a huge difference to your daily life.

It can give you proper lumbar support, minimizing strain on the lower back and spine. This chair should have adjustable seat height, seat depth adjustment, reclining and tilt mechanisms, and armrest support and adjustable. 

Stretching and Gentle Exercise

Regular stretching and gentle exercise can help release any muscle tension, improve flexibility of muscles and soft tissue in the lower back area, and strengthen your muscles.

At Home Treatments for Sciatica

Sciatica treatment at home is certainly possible and can be transformative in your experiences with sciatica. 

Medication

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can sometimes be helpful for sciatica as they’re pain relievers. They won’t get rid of sciatica but can help ease any discomfort. 

You should use these as directed and should contact a medical professional if you have any concerns or are looking for other medication that may be suitable.

Stretching

This is an easy treatment that you can do at home, with results leading to improved range of motion and easing of the pain. It could also prevent the recurrence of sciatica as your muscles will be strengthened.

Ensure you get up every so often to get your blood moving and relieve the muscles in your lower body. The stretching doesn’t have to be extensive, but incorporating hamstring and piriformis stretches can help.

Exercising

Low-impact exercises can improve your strength and blood flow and be a relaxant for your muscles.

Some exercises that can be beneficial include walking, swimming, stationary cycling, pilates, and yoga. 

The latter two can be completed easily at home, or get yourself a walking pad or treadmill to get some steps in.

Rest

In contrast to exercising, resting your body can provide much-needed pain relief and promote the healing and relaxing of muscles.

But again, you should stay active with gentle movement - listen to your body and pay attention to how it responds to rest and activity.

Red Light Therapy

Although there have been huge movements in the red light therapy space, it’s still considered a secret in the world of healing and pain relief. In the past, red light therapy has only been able to be accessed via medical clinics, but now, we’ve created an at-home laser therapy approach that helps reduce chronic pain in as little as 5 minutes.

What is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy is a non-invasive treatment that harnesses the power of specific wavelengths of light to promote cellular function, repair, and regeneration.

 

An image of a Kineon Red Light Therapy in the waist to alleviate pain.

 These wavelengths can penetrate the skin, reach cells, tissues, and even deeper structures like muscles and bones. Once this connection is made, it stimulates a series of biochemical reactions, including the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) - the molecule that gives us energy.

How can Kineon Help?

Over the last few decades, red light therapy has emerged as a transformative and revolutionary treatment for sciatica and other chronic pain.

Here at Kineon, we have created a medical-grade light therapy device that you can use from the comfort of your own home!

Combining both LED lights and laser technology, you can specifically pinpoint your problem areas for fast and effective relief.

The MOVE+ Pro is a portable red light therapy device that can help you wave goodbye to that frustrating sciatica pain - our customers report an 80% reduction in pain within 1-4 weeks!

Seeking Medical Help

Sciatica treatment at home can do the job for many people, but there are situations where you’ll need more support - especially if your vertebrae or disc has been affected.

If sciatica greatly impacts your quality of life, surgical and medical options could benefit you.

When To Seek Medical Help?

If you’re experiencing the below, you should consider seeking medical help.

  • Pain after a rough injury (like a car accident)
  • Difficulty controlling your bowels or bladder, or if you’re finding it hard to do so when you wouldn’t normally
  • Have severe weakness or numbness in both legs
  • Sudden extreme pain in the lower back or leg, or numbness or loss of feeling in a leg
  • Major discomfort or pain in both sides of your body

Non-Surgical Treatments

A chiropractor could be helpful to treat or ease sciatic nerve pain, as they use manual manipulation to improve the spine’s alignment. This could address any underlying issues that may be causing the initial pain.

An image of a chiropractor doing his expertise.

Acupuncture is an alternative therapy used for centuries to alleviate various forms of pain, including sciatica. This can get the blood circulating, which will reduce inflammation, and relax muscles through stimulating specific points.

Light therapy is another sciatica treatment at home that is non-invasive and has the benefits of wound healing, tissue repair, and relieving pain. It’s used by athletes, nutritionists, doctors, and medical centers around the world. Now, with Kineon, you can access the healing power of light at home.

Surgical Options

Surgery is typically offered or suggested after a round of nonsurgical treatments or if you have a tumor, bilateral sciatica, an infection, or cauda equina syndrome.

One of the surgical approaches is ‘microdiscectomy,’ which is where a small part of disc material under the nerve root and/or bone over the nerve root is removed.

Other options include:

Laminectomy - Where part of or all of the lamina is removed to provide more space for the spinal nerves.

Foraminotomy - In this surgery, the neuroforamen is enlarged by removing bony overgrowth.

Facetectomy - This is where the facet joints are trimmed, undercut, or removed to relieve pressure on the nerve.

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Chris Marshall

Chris Marshall

Job Title: Health and Fitness Content Writer
Location: United Kingdom
Bio: Chris Marshall is an experienced health and fitness writer with a passion to empower others to achieve better health and well-being through meaningful lifestyle changes.

With a background in nutrition and fitness, Chris aims to deliver science-based, informative content to educate others.

Alongside health and fitness writing, he also works with private online clients to build positive lifestyle habits and improve their overall well-being.

About Kineon

Bringing the latest advancements in enhanced red light therapy for home use. Our mission is to get you back on your feet and moving pain-free.