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Sciatica (cont.)

Self-Care at Home

Pain from sciatica often limits your activities. Here are some home treatments for sciatica:

  • Do not bend, lift, or sit in a soft, low chair; your pain will get worse.
  • Unless you are allergic or should not take them for other reasons (if you take a blood thinner such as Coumadin, for example), over-the-counter pain medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin (Bufferin or Bayer Aspirin), or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) will probably help ease the pain.
  • Try a cold pack to see if it helps the pain. If you don't have a cold pack, use a large bag of frozen vegetables; it makes a good first aid cold pack. Or have someone close to you massage you in a triangular pattern with an ice cube over the sore areas. The person should move the ice cube if your skin gets too cold (this may melt several ice cubes).
    • After the cold massages, try alternating with heat from an electric heating pad to see if it helps the pain. (Do not sleep with a heating pad on your back. It could cause a bad burn.)
    • If you don't have an electric heating pad, put a hand towel under hot water, wring it out, and place it on your back. Some physical therapy experts believe that moist heat penetrates more deeply and gives better relief of pain. (Do not use wet packs with your electric heating pad because electrical shock may result.)
  • You may feel better lying on your back on a firm surface with a pillow under your knees. Another option is lying on your side with a pillow between your knees to keep your back straight. Also, you might find that a recliner chair is helpful.
  • Take it easy, but do not lie in bed for longer than two days because this has been shown to actually worsen the condition. Do activities you are able to tolerate, and do not expect to feel better overnight.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/27/2014

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