Ways to Relieve Sciatica Pain

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There are many options for sciatica pain relief, including exercises, physical therapy, natural remedies, and medications.

This article will detail the various ways of easing sciatica pain, from conservative care to more invasive interventions.

person doing hip bridge exercise at home

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What Is an Integrative Treatment Plan?

Integrative medicine often combines Western-based interventions, such as medications or physical therapy, with complementary or alternative treatments, like acupuncture. The resulting treatment plan is much more focused on the overall health and wellness of the individual and less concerned with the disease process itself.

The treatment options outlined in this article are part of an integrative treatment plan for sciatica pain relief.

If you are experiencing a sudden onset of sharp pain, muscle cramping, numbness, or burning in one of your legs, it is important to have your symptoms evaluated by a medical professional.


Exercise is one of the most effective ways to alleviate the discomfort associated with sciatica. It is important, however, to choose the right type. This is because inappropriate sciatica exercises may cause your symptoms to worsen.

Several stretches may help alleviate your low back's nerve compression.

Techniques include:

The most effective exercises will be determined by the root cause of your sciatica. Any stretches that cause increased pain should be discontinued.

Strengthening exercises can help activate the muscles in your hips and core:

These important structures support the lumbar spine and may provide sciatica nerve relief.

Is Bed Rest Ever Necessary for Sciatica Pain Reief?

Even though it may seem practical, bed rest is rarely the best option for treating this condition.

Physical Therapy

Once you’re diagnosed with sciatica, you may also receive a physical therapy (PT) prescription. Physical therapists (PTs) are skilled in assessing your symptoms and creating a customized exercise program to help reduce the

Accessing Physical Therapy

While some states or insurance companies require a prescription for physical therapy, others allow you to access PT directly without needing a referral. Many physical therapy clinics also offer self-pay discounts that make accessing these services more affordable.

One type of treatment—the McKenzie technique—is particularly effective in people experiencing acute sciatic pain radiating into the leg.

Other manual techniques, like massage or spinal mobilizations, may also be performed. Finally, some PTs also utilize spinal traction for sciatica symptoms, though it is still questionable whether this is truly beneficial.

Herbs and Supplements

People who pursue an integrative treatment approach for their sciatica may wonder if taking herbs or supplements is helpful. In fact, some initial studies have shown that properties from herbs like cannabis, namely (tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), can provide meaningful nerve pain relief in people with other diseases, like multiple sclerosis and cancer.

In addition, some animal experiments have shown supplements like ginkgo and saffron help reduce nerve pain. Unfortunately, these studies are still experimental, and no scientific conclusions have been drawn.

It is also worth noting that THC and CBD are not legal to obtain in all states. At this point, there is minimal evidence to support using this type of treatment for sciatica pain.


One other type of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment that may benefit your sciatica is acupuncture. This Eastern medicine intervention involves inserting fine needles into trigger points on the body to alleviate your symptoms.

One review of research found that this natural sciatica treatment was effective in reducing the intensity of pain in people suffering from sciatica.


There is still some question about the best medicine for sciatica pain. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a common first-line treatment and include:

  • Advil (ibuprofen)
  • Aspirin
  • Aleve (naproxen)

Other oral medications may also be recommended, such as:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • Lyrica (pregabalin)
  • Topamax (topiramate)

However, the benefits of these drugs for sciatica-related pain have yet to be proven.

There is some evidence showing that Neurontin (gabapentin) can lead to meaningful reductions in sciatica pain. Additionally, epidural injections with steroids may also bring short-term relief, though there is doubt about the long-term benefits of this intervention.


People who don’t respond to conservative treatments may need low-back surgery to address their sciatica pain.

Usually, this involves a lumbar laminectomy, diskectomy, or fusion procedure. These operations aim to alleviate disabling leg symptoms by reducing spinal nerve compression in the low back.

They are usually only considered if you’ve had persistent sciatica symptoms and have tried nonsurgical treatment for several months with no relief.

Tips for Easing Sciatica Pain Safely

If you are experiencing sciatica-related symptoms in your low back or leg, try these tips to help with the discomfort:

  • Stay active by going on a walk or performing milder forms of exercise.
  • Try gentle low-back stretches (like the child’s pose) to avoid increasing symptoms.
  • Avoid extended periods of sitting or lying down.
  • Apply heat or cold packs to the affected area several times daily for up to 15 minutes at a time.
  • Have your symptoms evaluated by a healthcare provider if they do not improve.


Sciatica is a painful condition that can cause pain, numbness, and burning in your low back and leg. Staying active, trying physical therapy, and taking any medications that are recommended by your healthcare provider are common first-line interventions. Acupuncture may also be a beneficial treatment. In rarer cases, surgery may be needed to address persistent symptoms that don’t respond to conservative care.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Berry JA, Elia C, Saini HS, Miulli DE. A review of lumbar radiculopathy, diagnosis, and treatment. Cureus. Published online October 17, 2019. doi: 10.7759/cureus.5934

  3. Stephenson A, Kelsberg G, Neher JO, Anna LS. Treatments for sciatica. AFP. 2015;91(9):612-615.

  4. Forouzanfar F, hosseinzadeh H. Medicinal herbs in the treatment of neuropathic pain: a review. Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences. 2018;21(4). doi:10.22038/IJBMS.2018.24026.6021

  5. Ji M, Wang X, Chen M, Shen Y, Zhang X, Yang J. The efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of sciatica:a systematic review and meta-analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.2015;2015:1-12. doi:10.1155/2015/192808

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By Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS
Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS, is a board-certified orthopedic specialist who has practiced as a physical therapist for more than a decade.