Tips on How to Relieve Sciatica Pain

November 12, 2021
By Nima Salari, M.D. FAAOS
Dr. Salari is a Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Orthopedic Spine Surgeon with specialized training in the operative and non-operative treatment of pathologic conditions affecting the spine. He specializes in ultra-minimally invasive endoscopic spine surgery and cervical artificial disc replacement.

Sciatica is a common condition causing pain, numbness and tingling sensations. It’s a form of nerve pain stemming from the compression of the sciatic nerve. You may hear sciatica referred to as lumbar pain or lumbar radiculopathy. Learn how to identify sciatica and how to relieve sciatica pain with simple practices and stretches.

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What Does Sciatica Feel Like?

Sciatic pain is a familiar sensation for many — up to 40% of people experience it at some time in their life, and frequency increases with age. It differs from other types of back pain in that it often feels like burning, tingling or numbness, low in the back and down the backs of the legs. It might feel like a shooting pain from deep in the buttocks downward. Some patients describe a dull, constant ache rather than a sharp, shooting pain. 

The sensations can manifest down the legs because the sciatic nerve travels from the lower back down to the toes. In most cases, sciatic pain occurs on only one side of the body. It happens when any of the nerve roots that exit from your lower spine become irritated or pinched. Many different scenarios can result in sciatic pain.

Learn More About The Sciatica Condition

How to Relieve Sciatic Pain

You can take several measures to reduce and prevent sciatic nerve pain. Here are some strategies for sciatic pain relief, most of which you can do at home.


  • 1. Eat a Balanced Diet

    Nutrition plays a significant role in pain prevention and relief. Maintaining a healthy weight might prevent sciatic issues, and eating anti-inflammatory foods can reduce pain. Some foods you can eat to target inflammation include: 

    • Green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. 
    • Tomatoes. 
    • Olive oil. 
    • Almonds and walnuts. 
    • Salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines. 
    • Strawberries, blueberries, cherries and oranges. 
  • 2. Apply a Hot or Cold Compress

    Hot or cold compresses can also help relieve sciatic pain. Use a cold compress to address inflammation, and use a heating pad to encourage blood flow and soothe muscle tension. You can also swim in a pool for a cool sensation or take a bath for warmth. 

  • 3. Start a Therapy Program

    Many patients find a physical therapy program effective for sciatica pain relief. A physical therapist will guide you through specific movements meant to centralize the pain and strengthen the related muscles.

    If severe pain or disability makes it challenging to exercise on a hard surface, you might also benefit from water therapy. Water’s buoyancy will support your joints, helping improve your range of motion.  

  • 4. Take Over-the-Counter Medications

    For sciatic pain relief at home, you can also take over-the-counter pain medication. Be sure not to exceed the recommended dosage. If over-the-counter medication proves ineffective, you can talk with your doctor about prescription pain relievers. Your doctor might prescribe a muscle relaxer or higher-strength pain killer. 

  • 5. Adjust Your Posture

    Proper posture will support your back tissue, minimizing sciatic pain and other forms of back pain. Try to pay attention to your body’s position throughout the day. Use the following tips to help you correct your posture. 

    • Walking: As you walk, look straight ahead and relax your shoulders. Make sure you land on your heel and push off from your toes. 
    • Sitting: While sitting, keep your back against the back of your chair and roll your shoulders toward each other. Your legs should be hip-distance apart, with both feet flat on the floor or a footrest. Give yourself a chance to get up and walk around once an hour or so if you tend to sit for long periods.
    • Lifting: When picking objects up off the floor, always squat down, bending at your knees instead of your waist. Hold the item close to your chest and straighten your knees to stand up
  • 6. Do Gentle Exercise

    Movement throughout the day is vital for your health. Try to avoid sitting for long periods and incorporate aerobic exercise into your daily routine. Sciatica treatment at home should include gentle exercises, like walking, stretching or swimming. 

Sciatica Pain Relief Exercises

Simple stretches and movements can strengthen your back and core muscles, promoting stability and balance and helping reduce pain. As you stretch, remember to continue breathing deeply rather than holding your breath. Try these beginner-friendly stretches for sciatic nerve pain.

  • Sitting Spinal Stretch

    For this stretch, you’ll need to follow these steps:

    1. Sit on the ground, extend your legs straight out and turn your feet upward. 
    2. Bend one knee, placing the foot flat on the floor on the other side of the opposite knee. 
    3. Place your elbow on the outside of the lifted knee and push against it to turn your body. 
    4. Repeat on the other side. 
  • Hamstring Stretch

    Since static pain can travel down the legs, hamstring stretches are also beneficial. All you need to do is:

    1. Place one heel on an elevated surface, with the toes facing upward. 
    2. Bend your body forward slightly toward your elevated foot. 
    3. Repeat with the other leg. 
  • Cat and Cow Pose

    Cat and cow poses can also help relieve pain.

    1. On all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips, arch your back upward, as though you were a scared cat.
    2. Then, arch your back downward, bringing your stomach closer to the floor.
    3. Slowly alternate between these two poses for a full back stretch.
  • Spinal Twists

    To do a spinal twist, you’ll need to lie down on your back with your arms extended outward, palms up. You’ll then:

    1. Draw one knee toward your chest, crossing it over your midline to the floor on the opposite side of your body. You should now have one hip stacked over the other. If you cannot reach the floor with your knee, go as far as you find comfortable. 
    2. Hold the pose for a few breaths before releasing your leg back to the starting position. 
    3. Repeat with the other leg. 

Pigeon Poses

Pigeon poses are also helpful for relieving stiffness in the hips. You can choose between lying or standing variations, depending on whichever works better for you.

For a lying pigeon pose: 

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent toward the ceiling and your feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Place one ankle on top of the other thigh with the knee pointing outward. 
  3. With both feet flexed, lift the supporting foot off of the floor. 
  4. Reach your hands through your legs and clasp them behind your thigh. 
  5. Pull your thigh in toward your chest to deepen the stretch. 
  6. Repeat with the opposite leg. 

To do a pigeon pose while sitting up, you’ll start in a downward dog pose and step one leg up toward your hands, putting your shin perpendicular to your opposite leg. With your other leg extended behind you, you can sit in this pose for as long as you like. 

Get Treatment for Sciatica Pain

Sciatic nerve pain can manifest itself in various ways, causing discomfort in the lower back and down the legs. Many people experience sciatica at some point in their lives. Thankfully, you can take plenty of simple measures in your daily life to lessen your sciatica pain, including lifestyle changes. 

Relieving sciatica pain at home may only be possible for mild cases. If your sciatic pain is worsening or disruptive, you may need further treatment. At the Desert Institute for Spine Care, we can determine the best minimally invasive treatment option for you. We strive to provide our patients with outstanding and compassionate care, using innovative and effective treatment methods. If you’re experiencing sciatic nerve pain, schedule an appointment with us

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