Sciatica is a unique type of nerve pain that originates from the lower back, travels down through the buttock and then down the back of the leg, and possibly to the foot. You might feel the discomfort almost anywhere along the nerve pathway, but it’s especially likely to follow a path from your low back to your buttock and the back of your thigh and calf.
People with sciatica often suffer sharp low back, hip, and leg pain as well as burning sensations, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness. Others feel symptoms and pain so strongly that they are debilitated and incapable of performing everyday activities.
What Causes Sciatica Pain?
Sciatica often happens when your nerve roots get compressed or irritated on the sacrum or the lumbar spine. These nerve roots form the top piece of the sciatic nerve which extends all the way to the big toe, explaining sciatica’s radiating pain.
The term sciatica is not actually a medical diagnosis. It is a symptom of an underlying problem in the lower back. This could be a herniated disc or spinal stenosis that is compressing or irritating the nerve roots.
If you suffer from sciatica or other types of lower back pain, you might be wondering whether heat or ice is better for sciatica. In this article, we will discuss heat therapy, cold therapy, and whether heat or ice is better for sciatica, as long as the best heating pad for sciatica.
Is heat or ice better for sciatica?
Both ice packs and heat can be used to ease the pain of sciatica and help you function better. But they should come in quite handy in different situations.
Alternating heat and ice therapy can provide immediate relief of sciatic nerve pain. Ice can help reduce inflammation, while heat encourages blood flow to the painful area (which speeds healing). Heat and ice may also help ease painful muscle spasms that often accompany sciatica.
When to use ice for Sciatica Nerve Pain?
The best time to use ice therapy is immediately when your pain begins. Doctors especially recommend cold therapy for acute sciatica or when it flares up.
If you have sciatica, you will be well aware that it causes a great deal of inflammation. Applying ice to the affected area can lower the temperature of your tissues, decreasing their oxygen intake, which can reduce inflammation greatly. Reduced inflammation means that there will be less swelling and lower fluid collection.
Using ice for sciatica pain can significantly reduce pain and lower nerve conduction on your skin. What’s more, applying ice reduces tissue temperature, which creates a numbing effect due to constricted blood vessels and decreased blood flow. Upon using cold therapy regularly, you will notice that it reduces muscle spasms. It does so by cooling down your muscle fibers.
You can apply a heating pad after a majority of the sharp swelling and pain goes away. Utilizing heat therapy during this time helps promote healing.
Is a heating pad good for sciatica?
Well, it definitely does, depending on when and how you use it. You can apply a heating pad after a majority of the sharp swelling and pain goes away. Utilizing heat therapy during this time helps promote healing.
Where to put a heating pad for sciatica pain relief?
Generally, it is ideal to apply the heating pad to your rear pelvis as sciatic nerve roots are present in this area. You generally feel weakness, numbness, and sciatic nerve pain once these roots become compressed, irritated, or inflamed. These symptoms quickly travel all the way down to your leg, causing a great deal of pain.
Benefits of using heat therapy for treating sciatica pain:
- It minimizes the tightness felt in the muscles and improves your lower back’s range of motion.
- Lowers spasm and tension in your muscles, by keeping the muscle fibers relaxed.
- Applying heat helps dilate the blood vessels and supplies more nutrients, oxygen, and blood to promote healing.
Can Heat Make Sciatica Worse?
Applying heat to your back at the wrong time can make sciatica worse. Applying a heating pad or taking a hot shower can worsen your sciatica because heat can increase inflammation and cause fluid buildup. So, while heat does help promote healing after you treat the inflammation with cold therapy, it is not a substitute for cold therapy when you have acute pain.
Heat can be used after the first week when some healing has taken place and the pain is subsiding. (If the pain has not subsided after a week, visit the doctor.) Heat treatments will increase the flow of blood to the area, which can speed healing. Heat also will relax the muscles, allowing for gentle stretching that can help relieve the pain.
You can use a hot water bottle or heating pad wrapped in a towel, or soak in a warm bath. If you use a water bottle or heating pad, apply it to your lower back. Improperly applied heat treatment can cause burns, so follow a few rules:
- Place a cloth barrier between the heat source and your body (if using a hot water bottle or heating pad).
- Make sure that the treatment feels warm, not hot; if it is uncomfortably warm, it’s too warm.
- Apply heat for at least 15 minutes, but no longer than two hours. The duration depends on your pain level.
- If using a heating pad, take care not to fall asleep while applying it.
- Moving is probably the most important thing you can do to help your pain.
Best Heating Pad for Sciatica Pain
Full-body Heating Pad for Sciatica
Have been suffering from lower back pain lately, that leaves you frustrated and causes disruption in your daily life? Maybe you’re not aware, but it could be sciatica pain.
In this article, we will share with you several effective heating pads for sciatica nerve pain relief.