Sciatica is a painful condition characterized by sharp, burning or irregular shooting pains that begin in the lower back or buttocks, and travel down to the back of your thighs and legs. It is interesting to know that sciatica in itself is not a disease, but a group of symptoms that point towards an underlying problem.

Sciatica treatment would depend on the cause of sciatica which can be a herniated disc, narrowing of the spinal canal or age-related disc degeneration. Your health practitioner might adopt one of the following sciatica pain treatments based on the intensity of your symptoms, underlying medical condition and other factors:

1. Physical Therapy

physical therapy for sciatica

Physical therapy is typically one of the first treatments recommended for sciatica-related lower back pain treatment. While this is not an active cure for this condition, physical therapy sessions can provide significant relief from pain and inflammation at least temporarily.

Your physical therapy sessions would include simple exercises aimed at improving flexibility and movement. Sciatica exercises are focused on three key areas –

  • Strengthening – These exercises are focused on strengthening the spinal column and the supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons. While most of the strengthening exercises are focused on the lower back, they also support the abdominal and hip muscles. When performed regularly, these exercises can strengthen the spine and ensure better alignment and movement.
  • Stretching – Stretching exercises are an integral part of sciatica relief treatment and can effectively reduce the pressure on the sciatic nerve.  Muscles can become tight and inflexible and can therefore create pain and weakness in the thighs and legs.  Stretching exercises for sciatica patients are focused on these specific muscles. Activities such as hamstring stretches can especially benefit patients suffering from lower back pain and leg pain.
  • Low-impact aerobics – Aerobic exercises such as swimming and walking encourage the exchange of fluids and nutrients between the nerves, which promotes healing.  Low-impact aerobic activities also promote the release of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers.

2. Medications

In some cases, doctors may prescribe general NSAIDs or anti-inflammatory medications to bring about temporary relief in symptoms. Other medications that are used for sciatica pain treatment are muscle relaxants, Tricyclic antidepressants, narcotics and anticonvulsants.  Some of the commonly prescribed drugs for treatment of sciatica pain are Paracetamol, Codeine, Amitriptyline, and Gabapentin.

While NSAIDs block the transmission of pain messages to the brain, antidepressants increase the production of endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers.

However the long-term usage of these medicines for alleviating nerve pain is not recommended because of their many side effects.  In addition to general problems such as drowsiness, blurred vision and dry mouth, continued use of NSAIDs can result in serious health problems such as stomach ulcers, internal bleeding and digestive disorders.

Under any circumstances, you must not self-medicate. Consult your doctor regarding the right medicine for sciatica relief treatment, and follow their guidelines in terms of dosage and use.

3. Injections

injection for sciatica pain

If normal medications and physical therapy measures have not provided much relief, your doctor may recommend injectables.

Epidural steroid injection – In severe cases, an Epidural steroid injection is usually given to the patient for immediate relief from pain and inflammation. This works more effectively than oral medications for sciatica treatment because the steroids are directly injected to the affected area around the sciatic nerve, thereby providing faster relief.

The effect of injections can last for as little as one week up to few months. But epidural steroids do not work for everyone and are most effective in cases of acute sciatica.

The National American Spine Society and The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons mutually agree on the working of cortisone injections as a satisfactory sciatic nerve treatment.

4. Surgery

Surgical treatment of sciatica pain is recommended and implemented only in rare cases – when the compressed nerve has been damaged, or when it causes significant weakness, loss of bowel and bladder control and so on. Typically if the pain is uncontrollable with medications and injections, and is impairing mobility or movement, a surgery is the best alternative.

There are mainly two types of sciatica surgery options – Diskectomy, Microdiskectomy and Lumbar Laminectomy.

In diskectomy, a portion of herniated disk that is compressing the sciatic nerve is removed. A large part of the disc is left intact to maintain normal biological functions. When this procedure is performed by making a small incision on the compressed disk by looking through a microscope, it is known as microdiskectomy.

Another common sciatica surgery performed in cases of spinal Stenosis is Lumbar Laminectomy. This involves removal of the arthritic bone from the spine, to create more space for the nerves in the spinal canal.

Fusion surgery though not very common, is still performed in some sciatica cases.  If a vertebra has slipped out of place, it can create sciatica symptoms and cause extreme discomfort.  Doctors use a bone graft supported by metal rods to fuse the vertebra back into place.

Success rates for each of the surgical sciatic nerve treatment can vary depending on the severity of condition, age of the patient and other factors.

5. Other Sciatica Treatments

In addition to physical therapy, medications/injections and surgery, there are some other treatments that can be used to relieve sciatica-related pain and soreness.  These include –

ultrasound for sciatica pain

  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS – TENS treatment uses electric current of varying intensities to safely stimulate the patient’s muscles.  The procedure can be performed in the doctor’s clinic and does not require hospitalization. Smaller version of the TENS machines can be used for self-treatment of sciatica pain at home.  Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation works in two ways – it enhances the secretion of endorphins, body’s natural painkillers and it reduces spasms by stimulating the muscles. When performed correctly, TENS therapy can offer good results in most sciatica cases.
  • Ultrasound – Ultrasound works by sending sound waves into the deep tissues and muscles surrounding the inflamed sciatic nerve. This generates mild heat in these areas and improves circulation. Improved circulation further assists with rapid healing by reducing cramping/spasms, stiffness and pain.  Ultrasound technique is being recommended by many neurologists and health practitioners for sciatica relief treatment.
  • Hot & Cold Packs – Another common sciatica treatment involves the use of heat and cold packs. Heat packs are known relieve pain by improving the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients in the affected area.  The therapist places heat packs on the Piriformis muscles for a specific duration, which reduces the intensity and occurrence of muscle spasms that could be causing sciatica. Ice packs are used in the same manner, except that they work by numbing the affected area and reducing the sensation of pain.

Sciatica symptoms can be controlled and treated in many ways. Discuss with your doctor the sciatica treatment options available and the ones that would work best for you.


Sciatica refers to a group of symptoms involving pain, tingling or sharp, shooting twinges along the path of the sciatic nerve – which starts from your back and goes up to the back of your legs. Sciatica can be a result of sudden injury or any physical condition that creates inflammation or any kind of pressure on the sciatic nerves.  While the pain can be difficult to handle, it usually subsides or goes away on its own within a few weeks or months.

How to relieve sciatica pain?

acupuncture for sciatica-pain

In addition to medical procedures, there are some alternative sciatica treatments that can help ease the pain and inflammation associated with sciatica in a natural and safe way.  Here’s a look at some of the most effective non-medical cures for sciatica:

1. Acupressure – is a popular technique that can work effectively for sciatica patients.  The therapist applies mild to moderate pressure on your trigger points, in order to remove accumulated stress in these areas.

Acupressure Trigger Points for sciatica

The sciatic nerve is positioned under the spine and is the biggest peripheral nerve in the body. Any compression or pinching on these nerves can lead to sciatica pain. Acupressure attempts to treat this condition by applying pressure on the roots of the sciatic nerves positioned at different parts in the lower half of your body. These points are pressed hard for a couple of minutes, and then released.

Acupressure can be done at any time during the day, though it’s best to do it when your muscles are relaxed.  Depending on the severity of your condition, you can either get acupressure treatment done by a professional or do it yourself after understanding the trigger points.  Acupressure therapy for sciatica can be more beneficial when combined with some basic stretching and strengthening exercises.

While acupressure might not offer permanent relief from sciatica, it can ease the symptoms and help you cope up with this condition in a better way.

2. Acupuncture – Traditional Chinese medical practitioners attribute sciatica pain to blocked meridians on your back. It may be a result of stagnation of blood, or Qi (energy) in the meridians, or presence of wet Qi in these meridians.  An acupuncturist will first do a thorough diagnosis of your condition and then determine the points that are affected. He/she would then insert sterilized stainless steel needles into these points to release blocked Qi and restore balance.

How does acupuncture sciatica treatment work?

The insertion of needles into specific points stimulates the central nervous system forcing the release of neurotransmitters and hormones in the blood. These biochemicals then regulate the body functions, boost the immune system and help ease the pain.  In addition to influencing the pain inhibitory system, acupuncture sciatica treatment and electrical stimulation promote a transient change in sciatic nerve blood blow, including circulation to the cauda equine and nerve root.

The insertion of needles is usually painless and can offer deep relaxation.  A study published in the British Medical Journal stated that acupuncture has a “mild analgesic effect” on the treatment sites and can offer temporary relief from pain. Acupuncture can help the body heal itself by releasing blockages and allowing the muscles to stay relaxed and flexible.

3. Chiropractic – is an alternate healthcare stream dedicated to the treatment of disorders of the nervous system and musculoskeletal system. The first step in sciatica chiropractic treatment is determining the underlying cause of sciatica through thorough physical and neurological examination. Based on the diagnosis, a treatment plan is sketched.

The main focus is to stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Chiropractics believe that restricted spinal movement can lead to inflexibility of muscles, reduced functionality and pain. Sciatica treatment chiropractic is non-surgical and drug free.

Chiropractic Treatment of Sciatica

Chiropractors, typically treat conditions involving muscle pain or back pain through “hands-on” spinal chiropractic care. Sciatica nerve therapy using Chiropractics may include many treatment modalities such as:

  • Spinal manipulation – It refers to a high-velocity, short lever arm thrust applied on the affected part of the vertebra in order to reduce nerve irritability and improve movement.  Spinal adjustment helps to reduce inflammation, muscle spasm, pain, and other sciatica symptoms.
  • Manual manipulation – Also known as chiropractic manipulation, this involves low-velocity manipulation and stretching of the muscles and joints. This improves functionality of the muscles and tendons. Manipulation can restore movement and correct the alignment of the vertebral bodies in the spinal column.
  • TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) – Chiropractors often use TENS therapy as one of the most effective cures for sciatica. This technique attempts to stimulate the central nervous system by sending electrical current of varying intensities to the affected area. TENS can ease sciatic nerve pain and muscle spasms to a large extent.
  • Ice/Cold Therapy – Applying ice packs on affected areas can reduce inflammation of the sciatic nerve. Ice application also numbs the muscles, thereby easing pain and discomfort.
  • Ultrasound – Chiropractors make use of ultrasound equipments for sciatica treatment. Ultrasound produces sound waves, which when concentrated on the affected area, generates heat that penetrates body’s tissues. This improves blood circulation around the sciatic nerve tissues and muscles, thereby reducing pain, swelling and spasms.

Sciatica chiropractic treatment has helped many patients cope up with their symptoms in a better way.

4. Reflexology –  is a simple technique that uses foot and hand massage to control and cure parts of the body. It is based on the premise that all organs, glands, tissues and nerves are reflected on our hands and feet. By applying pressure on specific points on the feet or hands, the nerves associated with specific body parts can be stimulated.

reflexology for sciatica pain

For sciatica patients there are mainly two reflex points – one is located on the bottom of the foot, while the other one is on the outer surface of the foot near the ankle. Massaging these areas can stimulate the sciatic nerves and free them of energy blockages.  Reflexology is often used as part of physical therapy for sciatica. It can ease the discomfort in the spinal column and legs, and can allow the muscles in these areas to relax.

Reflexology sessions involve deep or superficial massage, using herbal oils and lotions. A critical point to remember after every foot reflexology session is to drink at least 8 oz of water, so the toxins released during the therapy can be flushed out from the body.

5. Massage – Therapeutic massage can ease out the pressure exerted on the sciatic nerve, and thus reduce the intensity of symptoms. Deep tissue massage is a powerful physical therapy for sciatica as it relaxes the muscles, enhances the flow of blood and oxygen, and eliminates accumulated waste from the tissues and muscles. Massages can be used in conjunction with other treatment modalities to restore muscle flexibility and range of motion.

Sciatica patients can opt for any of the following massage therapies –

massage therapy for sciatica pain

  • Deep Tissue Massage – Friction and direct pressure is applied to muscles, ligaments and tendons to release accumulated stress and tension in these areas. The compressed sciatic nerve and adjoining areas get relaxed as the chronic tension in the muscles is released.
  • Swedish massage – It uses stroking and kneading movements in and around the lumbar region and the buttocks. The therapist uses moderate to a little high pressure to loosen the muscles and ease chronic back pain.
  • Neuromuscular therapy – One of the most common sciatica treatments is neuromuscular therapy. It targets the tensed muscle groups surrounding the sciatic nerve. It is especially beneficial in reducing the pain caused by pinched sciatic nerve.
  • Feldenkrais massage – A specialized therapy, Feldenkrais massage alleviates the sciatic nerve pain by increasing awareness of movement.  The patient will be taught proper postures for various movements including sitting, standing, lifting and bending. These postures are especially meant to lay minimal stress on the spine and prevent further injury.
  • Static compression or Longitudinal strapping – This is a specialized sciatica nerve therapy which allows the therapist to correct the muscular imbalances present in the body. Using static compression technique, the masseur can reach every corner of the muscle and offer deep massage. By applying the right amount of force on the target areas, including back, hips and legs, the pent up tension in these areas can be released.

Your therapist will be able to guide you regarding the best sciatic nerve therapy for you, in terms of massages. It would also depend on the type of sciatica pain you are experiencing and its severity.

6. Qi gong – is quite similar to yoga as it involves light movements either in the standing position or sitting.The main aim of Qi gong is to direct Chi (life energy) towards that part of the body where an energy deficit or blockage is present. Qi gong uses ‘Shen’ (the mind) to direct ‘Chi’ (energy) to areas where it is needed.  Thus, most of these exercises begin by focusing your attention on the area or areas of pain & discomfort. As your concentration grows, your mind is able to direct healing energy to these areas and make them stronger.

qi gong exercise for sciatica pain

The practice is similar to acupuncture where the insertion of needles gets your attention towards the pain points and allows Chi (healing energy) to move to these points. Qi gong sessions are often combined with acupuncture to relieve chronic back pain.

Similarly, in acupuncture when you have a needle stuck at your back, it makes you concentrate on it and catches your complete focus and therefore Chi moves in with its healing powers. As acupuncture is also a treatment for sciatica, Qi Gong is often recommended in between the acupuncture sessions.

7. Hydrotherapy – Hydrotherapy or hot tub therapy works as a natural pain reliever for sciatica patients. The compression and inflammation around the sciatic nerve causes great deal of stress and pain, leading to an increase in blood pressure and pulse rate. Regular sessions of hydrotherapy are proven to reverse these bodily reactions and provide relief.

Hot tub therapy is one of most effective natural cures for sciatica as it helps the patients to unwind and feel deeply relaxed, while also reducing the nerve pain.  It also reduces stress, alleviates swelling and improves circulation in the affected areas.

For severe cases, regular sessions of hydrotherapy with a physical therapist are recommended.  You can also do it at home using a hot water tub.  By submerging the body in hot water, the body becomes weightless and is relieved from the constant pull of gravity. The jets of hot stream and the bubbles also mimic the effects of a massage session and offer similar benefits.

Hydrotherapy can stimulate blood circulation, relax muscles, enhance the secretion of stress-reducing hormones and allow faster healing.

8. Hypnosis therapy for sciatica – Hypnosis or hypnotherapy is a therapeutic technique that can help with a variety of physical and emotional disorders.  Hypnosis uses the power of the subconscious mind by inducing a state of deep relaxation. During sciatica treatment, the therapist will stimulate your subconscious state and offer suggestions to reduce the effects of pain in your body.

In the hypnotic state, you mind stays focused on the suggestions it receives and is more open to accepting them as a reality. Therefore, positive suggestions can help decrease your sensitivity to pain and help you cope up with the sciatica symptoms in an effective way.

While there is no certainty as to how hypnotherapy works, it is believed that hypnosis can change the brain wave pattern to support the desired outcome.  If you are keen on using hypnosis for sciatica treatment, find a professional and licensed hypnotherapist.

There are many alternative healthcare practices that can help relieve the sciatica pain and help you manage the condition in a better manner.  While most of the sciatica nerve therapies mentioned above can offer significant relief, they should not be taken as a substitute for medical care. Supplementing your regular treatment with natural cures for sciatica can accelerate healing and offer long-term benefits.


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