Self-help for sciatic nerve pain
Do you suffer from sciatica (sciatic nerve pain)? Are you using heat or ice for pain relief? One of the most common misconceptions people have when it comes to treating sciatica is whether or not to use heat or ice. You can find many recommendations, but a simple rule of thumb for deciding on heat or ice is based, or should be based, on your symptoms.
~ If you have sharp or severe pain with or without swelling, indicating inflammation, then this is when you should use ice.
~ If your symptoms are primarily stiffness or mild pain, this is an indication that there is no significant swelling present and heat would be a better option for this situation.
Whenever you experience a sciatic nerve injury or trauma, it is best to avoid using heat for at least 48 hours to ensure that there is no inflammation and does not develop. Whenever in doubt, it is always best to avoid using heat! Heat can be felt while wearing it, but heat also increases inflammation if present. Since the heat blocks the sensory receptors in the nerves, it may feel good until you remove the heat, then because the heat increases inflammation, the pain will be much worse.
I found this to be very true as I have suffered from sciatic nerve pain for many years and have always applied heat and felt relief while applying it but, after removing the heat, the sciatic nerve pain was always there and many times it got worse after removing the heat than before applying it.
For any injury with inflammation and swelling, most doctors will recommend applying ice packs to help reduce swelling and inflammation. Ice is one of the best anti-inflammatory measures you can take even if you are not comfortable. The short-term discomfort of applying ice packs will pay off with long-term relief from sciatic nerve pain.
Regardless of whether you are using heat or ice to treat sciatic nerve pain, you should always separate the ice or heat pack from your skin with a layer of clothing to help prevent skin damage. It is also important to avoid using ice or heat if you have recently applied a topical pain reliever such as Icy Hot, Ben Gay, Theragesic, Biofreeze, or any other until they are completely gone or heat or ice can cause skin irritation and damage. .
When using heat or ice to treat sciatica, it is important to apply only twenty minutes at a time to allow the skin to return to its normal temperature, be careful, wait 1-2 hours before reapplying. It will take a few minutes or more for heat or cold to penetrate your clothing, so start timing when you actually feel it. Remember twenty minutes at one to two hour intervals to avoid skin irritation or damage.
People who have circulation problems or decreased skin sensitivity due to nerve damage, diabetes, or anything else, should consult a doctor before applying ice or heat.