Using hot and cold therapy to treat sciatica

Sciatica treatment generally targets the pain, tingling, numbness and weakness that radiates down one or both legs when the sciatic nerve is compressed in the lumbar (lower back) region of the spine. This large nerve, running from the base of the spine through the buttocks and all the way down both legs, can be affected by many conditions.

Some of the most common causes of sciatica are due to spine conditions like a herniated or bulging disc, bone spurs and spinal stenosis. Other causes may include traumatic injury or piriformis syndrome, which involves sciatic nerve compression. For most cases, initial treatment involves a range of conservative methods that are usually effective for alleviating pain. It is very important to consult with a doctor regarding any treatment plan in order to make sure that it won’t make your symptoms worsen.

One very popular choice for relieving sciatica symptoms is hot and cold compression therapy. This technique is so widely used because of its combination of being effective, inexpensive and convenient to self-apply. Hot and cold therapy each offer a different form of relief that can be beneficial to sciatica patients. Alternating the application of a heating pad and an ice pack can be an especially effective form of sciatica treatment. Learn more about how to use hot and cold therapy to manage your condition as well as the options available if surgical intervention becomes necessary.

Using hot therapy to treat sciatica

A heating pad can help relax tense muscles in the back and legs that may be compressing the sciatic nerve. Heat stimulates sensory receptors in the skin, which is why so many people find it to be soothing. This can actually help you take your mind off the pain associated with sciatica. One of the biggest benefits to this therapy is that heat dilates blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the area. This better delivers oxygen and nutrients, which can help the healing process. You can use a heating pad as often as necessary throughout the day. To avoid burns, the heat source should be carefully monitored and never applied directly to the skin.

Using cold therapy to treat sciatica

Applying an ice pack to a painful area can provide significant relief, so it too is a common approach to sciatica treatment. Cold therapy is often effective in treating sciatica because ice is a natural anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling on the nerve. Additionally, ice has a numbing effect on the area of soreness, giving temporary pain relief. You should apply an ice pack to the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes and repeat for three times per session. Several cold therapy sessions may be performed throughout the day, as needed. To prevent frostbite, ice should never be applied directly to the skin.

If sciatica pain is debilitating

When months of nonsurgical sciatica treatment, such as rest, hot and cold therapy and pain medications do not bring acceptable pain relief and a return to normal activity, surgery may become an option. If you are looking for the best approach for your needs and have concerns about open back surgery, you should see if you are a potential candidate for Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive spine surgery. Our board-certified surgeons+ offer outpatient procedures that use a less than 1-inch incision as well as muscle-sparing techniques to remove the agent that is pinching the nerve and relieve the symptoms associated with sciatica.

Sometimes, sciatica is caused by advanced degeneration where the surgical recommendation is disc removal and fusion. At Laser Spine Institute, we perform minimally invasive stabilization procedures don’t require a lengthy recovery and are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^ We have helped more than 75,000 patients to date find relief from their chronic neck or back pain.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a no-cost MRI review* to learn if our outpatient procedures would be effective in relieving your sciatica pain.

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