Sciatica Treatment – Heat and Ice

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Cold ice packs or direct application of ice is the best remedy to reduce the numb or sore tissue and inflammation.  This reduces the initial intense and sharp pain. This cold treatment with an ice pack has to be continued for a minimum of 2 days. If the pain is severe, the treatment should be continued for about 7 days.


Application of heat on the sore area is also an excellent treatment. Heat treatment is done after the decrease of initial sharp and intense pain. It has to be continued for 3 to 7 days depending upon the response to the treatment by the patient. The brain is tricked to focus on the sensory receptors present in the human skin which are stimulated by the applied heat. This takes away the brain’s focus from the pain and hence the patient experiences less pain and relief. Heat also helps to heal by dilating the blood vessels enabling the blood to carry more food and oxygen to the affected area. The best option is to treat the patient by both cold and heat treatment. Patients often respond well to this alternation of treatments.

Cold treatment is best done by utilization of the ice massage technique. This technique provides instant relief to patients complaining of back pain. It is an easy and quick treatment and is highly effective in treating a sore back due to strain of the lower back muscle.

Here are the simple steps to this technique.

  • Fill up a paper cup with water and freeze the water.
  • Cut and discard the cup’s top half. Cutting should be done such that the cup’s top half is exposed.
  • The patient should be made to lie on his or her abdomen.
  • Apply the exposed ice from the paper cup over the affected area. Slow and gradual circular movements of the ice provide instant relief from the pain to the patient.
  • Carefully avoid bony areas on the back due to the spine.

This treatment should not be overdone or it may lead to frostbite. The second last stage of the cold treatment creates a burning sensation followed by numbness as the last stage. If the last stage is prolonged, frostbite will set in. So, the treatment should be aborted as soon as the numbness replaces the burning sensation. As the numbness wears of, the whole process of the treatment can be repeated. This numbs the sore and affected area. The circular and gradual should be done gently and slowly so as to only help the sciatic nerve to stretch out thus releasing the compression.

3 to 6 minutes is all it takes to successfully complete the cold treatment. The whole process should be repeated 2 to 3 times a day.

The ice massaging technique is advantageous in a number of ways:-

  • Often inflammation is a side effect of back pain. If the inflammation can be subsided, the back pain also subsides. Ice massage efficiently slows down the inflammation thus effectively killing the pain.
  • Ice treatment has effects similar to that of a local anesthetic. It helps numb the sore area and provide relief from the pain.
  • Damage of the tissues is reduces with the help of ice massage.
  • Nerve impulses are slowed down due to the massaging of the ice. This reduces pain by slowing down the pain-spasm reaction in the nerves, which is the sole reason behind the pain.
  • Soft tissues are gently manipulated by ice massage.

The therapy of ice massage should be carried out on the injured area within a time interval of 24 to 48 hours after the injury in order to get the best results. In order to heal, back muscles, tendons, ligaments require fresh oxygenated rejuvenated blood filled with nutrients. Blood vessels and veins present in the tissues of the injured area are made to contract by the application of ice massage. With the removal of the cold ice from the injured area, these contacted blood vessels and veins again dilate thus helping rejuvenated blood flows into the area carrying oxygen and nutrients. This facilitates quick healing.

Ice packs can be prepared at home by wrapping ice in a simple towel. Commercial and medical ice packs are also used. The pinching of the sciatic nerve generally occurs in the lower back. If the ice pack is allowed to rest on the lower back of the patient for near about 15 to 20 minutes with three times of repetition, sciatica can be quickly and effectively healed. Also massage should do along with the ice pack for better results.

If the heat during the heat treatment is not applied carefully, there is a risk of burning the injured area. Temperature of the heating medium (heating pad, water) has to be warm. A towel should be used as a buffer to prevent loss of moisture from the area where the heat treatment is being applied. Muscle relaxation is a positive effect of this treatment. This lets the sciatic nerve to stretch and relieves the patient of the pain.

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