Sciatica refers to a type of nerve pain that radiates from your back to your thigh and down your leg.  It is typically caused by irritation of the lower lumber nerves. Your pain may be mild or severe and you may need to seek medical treatment. Sciatica frequently develops due to degeneration of the lumbar discs, a disc herniation or stenosis. Fortunately, sciatica can often resolve within a few weeks without surgery. There are a number of non-surgical alternatives to surgery:

5 Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Sciatica

Five different types of non-surgical treatment options for sciatica nerve pain include:

1. Cold and Heat Therapy

Applying a cold pack to the area where you’re first experiencing sciatica pain can offer you great relief. You can wrap a bag of frozen peas in a towel or use a cold pack. Apply either to the painful area for 20 minutes, several times daily.

After a few days, if you’re still experiencing sciatica pain, then you can try heat. Heat can be applied by using a:

  • Heating pad
  • Hot pack
  • Heat lamp

If the pain persists, you can try to alternate between cold and hot therapy.

2. Physical Therapy with Exercise

Physical Therapy incorporating exercise is generally the first-line treatment to relieve, treat, and prevent sciatica symptoms. To treat sciatica, PT may:

  • Contribute to the healing of the underlying cause
  • Offer symptom relief
  • Prevent flare ups and recurrences

With exercise, PT can help strengthen and mobilize your lower back, abdomen, pelvis, buttocks, and thigh tissues. The goals of physical therapy with exercise in treating sciatica symptoms are to:

  • Ease pain in the lower back, thigh, leg, and buttocks
  • Restore functional, pain-free movement patterns
  • Restore lumbar spine and sacroiliac joint function
  • Reduce muscle spasm
  • Promote neurological adaptations to decrease pain perception
  • Improve lower body mobility
  • Decrease fear linked with movement
  • Prevent future pain flare ups
  • Foster an improved healing environment in your lower back

3. Massage Therapy

Sciatica pain can cause tight muscles in the lower back and legs.  Massage may help loosen your muscles, alleviating some of your pain and possibly improving flexibility and mobility.

4. Epidural Steroid Injections (ESIs)

ESIs are a common treatment options for the low back and nerve pain.  They’ve been used for years and are an important part of nonsurgical management of lower back pain and sciatica. This treatment involves the injection of steroid medication and local anesthetic into the space surrounding your nerve roots and spinal cord.

The goals of ESIs are to:

  • Improve lower back and leg function and mobility
  • Control pain by decreasing inflammation around your spinal canal and nerves.

Generally, ESIs are recommended after physical therapy, medications, and other non-surgical treatments have failed to reduce your symptoms.  

5. Diagnostic Nerve Blocks 

Doctors use nerve blocks to help manage pain. However, they can also use them as a diagnostic tool to help determine if certain nerves are causing the pain. Nerve blocks can help your doctor predict how the pain you’re experiencing will respond to long-term therapies. If nerve blocks help provide temporary pain relief, then surgery to address nerve compression may be helpful.

Sciatica can be quite painful and can impact the quality of life. It can make daily life activities more challenging. Fortunately, non-surgical treatment options can help ease your pain and reduce your symptoms. You’ll want to speak with your doctor to see which treatment options are a good fit for your symptoms and personal situation.

For reliable and effective pain management options for sciatica and other back pain types, the First State Spine team can coordinate an effective treatment plan tailored specifically for you. Contact them today to schedule an appointment.