Readily available nonsurgical remedies and regular exercise will go a long way toward relieving the pain most people experience. For others, when the pain is severe or does not get better on its own, a more structured treatment approach, and possibly surgery, may be the best option for finding pain relief and preventing or minimizing future pain and/or dysfunction. The goals of nonsurgical sciatica treatments are to relieve pain and any neurological symptoms caused by a compressed nerve root.
There is a broad range of options available for sciatica treatment. One or more of the treatments below are usually recommended in conjunction with specific exercises. For acute sciatic pain, heat and/or ice packs are readily available and can help alleviate the leg pain, especially in the initial phase. Usually ice or heat is applied for approximately 20 minutes, and repeated every two hours. Most people use ice first, but some find more relief with heat. The two may be alternated. It is best to apply ice with a cloth or towel placed between the ice and skin to avoid an ice burn.
Over-the-counter or prescription medications are often effective in reducing or relieving sciatica pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen or naproxen), or oral steroids can reduce the inflammation that is usually part of the cause of pain. Muscle relaxants or narcotic medications may also be prescribed for the short term (a few days and up to 2 weeks) to alleviate pain.
If the pain is severe, an epidural steroid injection can reduce inflammation. Unlike oral medications, an injection goes directly into the painful area around the sciatic nerve to address the inflammation that may be causing pain. While the effects tend to be temporary (providing pain relief for as little as one week or up to a year), and it does not work for everyone, an epidural steroid injection can be effective in relieving acute sciatic pain.