The sciatic nerve runs from your buttocks down the back of your leg. If you have somehow disturbed the nerve, such as with a herniated disk, or just sleeping in an uncomfortable position, you may feel pain that follows the nerve path. Sciatic nerve pain (called sciatica) can be disabling for some people, while merely annoying for others. Pain relievers and exercise are usually all it takes to treat minor sciatic nerve pain, while more involved cases may call for physical therapy or even surgery.
Reduce the inflammation of your sciatic nerve by icing the area. Use an ice pack for 15 minutes up to three times a day. If you do not have an ice pack, wrap a package of frozen vegetables in a towel.
Treat your sciatic nerve pain with heat after you have iced the area for two days. A heating pad on the low setting can help reduce your discomfort without the risk of burning.
Take a pain reliever in addition to using topical anti-inflammatory methods. Aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen are available in over-the-counter strengths without a prescription and can take the edge off minor pain. Speak to your doctor about stronger medications if you are still experiencing discomfort.
Exercise to treat your sciatica. Stretch down gently to touch the floor without bouncing and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Bike riding and swimming can also be effective ways to alleviate your sciatic nerve pain.
Get a referral to a physical therapist if regular exercise is not helping your condition. A physical therapist can evaluate your individual situation and teach you stretches to reduce your pain. The American Physical Therapy Association directory contains names of therapists in every state (see Resources).
Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your sciatica if you have experienced pain for more than a month, or if you suddenly feel numbness in your legs.