There are various treatment options available to ease sciatica pain. These include over-the-counter (OTC) medications, creams, exercises, massage, and surgery.

Sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain, is a nonspecific term that describes a variety of leg or back symptoms. It may refer to a sharp or burning pain that radiates down the legs from the buttocks.

Sciatica is not a diagnosis in itself but the result of an underlying condition.

This article will examine the evidence for some of the common treatments for sciatica.

A person who may have sciatica pain lying on an orange yoga mat.Share on Pinterest
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Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin, could help ease the pain of sciatica. These are available over the counter from drugstores.

However, it is worth noting that there is limited evidence to suggest that these medications work for sciatica. As with all drugs, they have some possible side effects. For example, drowsiness is a common side effect of some muscle relaxants.

If the pain does not get better, doctors might suggest injecting steroids into the spine. Steroid injections can help with the pain by reducing swelling. However, this only works for a short time, and some people find that it can make the pain worse.


Some, though not many, people find that creams can help ease sciatica pain. However, it is important to note that these creams are not curative and will only temporarily mask the pain.

In 2017, scientists carried out a review of creams to help relieve nerve pain such as sciatica. They found that there was not enough evidence to be sure that they worked.

Staying active is also very important and can help ease the inflammation that can cause sciatica pain.

People can try gentle exercises, such as walking and swimming, as much as the pain allows.

Typically, physiotherapists also recommend that people with sciatica try to do exercises that increase core strength, improve the mobility of the hips and spine, and maintain or improve flexibility in the lower body.

However, in rare cases, a physiotherapist may actually remove stretching from a person’s sciatica treatment program if they are hypermobile. This means that the person can move their joints beyond the typical range of movement.

It is also very important never to exercise or stretch to the point that it makes the sciatica pain worse.

Exercises that can help ease sciatica pain include:


To perform a plank:

  • Lie face down on the floor.
  • Keeping the whole trunk and legs in a straight line, lift up onto the forearms and toes, making sure to keep the elbows directly underneath the shoulders.
  • Hold for as long as possible.

Knee-to-chest stretch

To perform a knee-to-chest stretch:

  • Lie on the back with a small cushion under the head, the knees bent, and the feet flat on the floor, hip width apart.
  • Bend one knee up toward the chest and hold it with both hands.
  • Hold for 20–30 seconds.
  • Swap sides.
  • Repeat twice on each side.

Sciatic nerve mobilization

To perform a sciatic nerve mobilization:

  • Lie on the back with a small cushion under the head, the knees bent, and the feet flat on the floor, hip width apart.
  • Bend one knee toward the chest and hold the back of the knee with both hands.
  • Slowly straighten the leg up. Stop at the point of sciatic nerve pain. Going beyond this point could worsen the pain.
  • Hold for 5–10 seconds.
  • Swap sides.
  • Repeat 10–20 times on each side.

There are a number of at-home methods that can help ease the pain of sciatica. These include:

  • applying ice packs
  • applying heat pads
  • avoiding sitting where possible, as this can put extra pressure on the lower back and irritate the sciatic nerve
  • avoiding too much bed rest where possible, as this can make the pain worse
  • placing a small, firm pillow between the knees when lying or sleeping on the side
  • placing a small, firm pillow underneath the knees when lying or sleeping on the back
  • trying a deep tissue massage

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In most cases, sciatica will go away on its own within several weeks. If pain is still present after about 12 weeks and conservative treatments have not helped, doctors might recommend surgery, depending on the cause of a person’s sciatica symptoms.

One surgical example is a microdiscectomy. During a microdiscectomy, a surgeon removes the damaged parts of the spinal disk that are pressing on the nerve. This procedure takes place under general anesthetic and requires a short stay in the hospital.

Surgical treatments can potentially lead to further pain, but this is uncommon.

Sciatica is a nonspecific term that describes pain in the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs along the back or side of the leg, usually to the foot or ankle.

If something pinches the sciatic nerve anywhere along its path, it can cause sciatica.

The most common cause of sciatica is a disk herniation with nerve root compression. Some other causes of sciatica include:

In most cases, the pain will affect just one side of the body. Some people with sciatica also experience the following symptoms:

People between the ages of 30 and 50 years are most likely to develop sciatica. Age-related wear and tear and injury are the most common causes of a slipped disk that can lead to sciatica.

Sciatica usually gets better on its own and does not return. However, there is always a chance that it can come back.

That said, there are some things a person can do to reduce the risk of this happening. Some steps to help prevent sciatica include:

  • practicing good posture
  • practicing core strength exercises
  • getting regular exercise
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • always using proper lifting techniques

Sciatica will usually get better on its own within 4–6 weeks. In the meantime, people can use OTC medications, such as NSAIDs, and home remedies, such as ice packs, to control the pain.

A person should contact a doctor if these measures do not work or if the pain lasts for longer than several weeks.

In most cases, sciatica will go away on its own.

In moderate cases, physical therapy is a good option to help ease the pain. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to fix the problem.

Sciatica pain refers to the pain a person can feel in the sciatic nerve, which runs along the leg, if something presses on it.

In most cases, the pain will get better by itself in about 4–6 weeks. In the meantime, people should try to stay active and avoid sitting or lying down for too long.

Using OTC pain medications, ice packs, heat pads, and nerve mobilizations can help people deal with the pain while they are recovering.

Sometimes, doctors might recommend taking stronger pain medications or trying steroid injections. In rare cases, an operation might be necessary.