The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and runs through the buttock, down into the leg. When this nerve becomes irritated or compressed, the resulting condition (called sciatica) can manifest in excruciating pain. You may find it uncomfortable to walk or change position, experiencing burning and tingling sensations throughout the day.
You’ll need to seek the advice of a doctor to find out why you’ve developed sciatica and how it should be treated—common causes include a slipped disc, degenerative disc disease, spinal injury, pregnancy and herniated discs. However, the following ten home remedies can also speed up the healing process and reduce your pain.
1. Apply St. John’s wort oil
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, St. John’s wort oil is a traditional remedy for nerve pain. You can apply it to areas of discomfort up to three times a day. As a bonus, some alternative health practitioners say that St. John’s wort oil can even help to regenerate damaged nerve tissue.
2. Make a fenugreek seed paste
Fenugreek seeds also contain natural anti-inflammatory chemicals, so you can use them to make a potent paste that can reduce sciatic pain. Simply grind a handful of the seeds into fine dust, then combine the ground seeds with a little milk until a paste forms. This paste can be left on the skin 2-3 hours, and then it should be gently rinsed off with warm water.
3. Use a pillow when lying down
Lying down on a firm surface can help to ease the pain of sciatica, and adding a pillow under the knees can provide even more relief. Others prefer to lie on one side, placing a pillow between the knees (stabilizing the pelvis and straightening the back). Try both positions and see which is most comfortable.
While it’s tempting to just stay in bed or lie on the sofa, a sedentary lifestyle actually makes sciatica worse. There’s no need for run for miles or start lifting heavy weights at the gym, but you should engage in daily walking and stretching at least. These activities help to tone and strengthen the muscles that support your back, and can therefore help you recover more quickly.
5. Take devil’s claw
Devil’s claw is an herbal supplement that is said to work in similar ways as anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. You can start with a dose of around 1,500mg taken twice a day, and most people suffer no significant side effects. However, since devil’s claw interacts with blood-thinning drugs like warfarin and may cause problems in those with peptic ulcers, it’s worth talking to your doctor before making your purchase.
6. Make turmeric tea
Another natural treatment that has apparent anti-inflammatory properties, 1tsp of turmeric can be combined with a cup of milk to make a medicinal tea. The curcumin it contains not only reduces inflammation but also specifically targets nerve pain. Alternatively, you can opt to take turmeric supplements, but (as with devil’s claw) these are not suitable for everyone and should always be discussed with your healthcare team.
7. Take an Epsom salt bath
Finally, since Epsom salts are believed to detoxify the body and relax the nervous system, you can try adding two cups to a hot bath and soaking in it for up to 20 minutes. As mentioned above, heat also boosts circulation and relieves muscle spasms, so there are multiple reasons why this soothing bath might leave you feeling significantly better.
8. Do yoga
A promising study recently published in the journal Pain found that participants who suffered chronic back pain experienced a 64% reduction in pain within four months of starting to regularly practice Iyengar yoga. Although research is ongoing, yoga could similarly soothe sciatic pain by improving posture, muscle strength and flexibility.
9. Use capsaicin cream
Derived from the capsaicin in cayenne peppers, capsaicin cream is naturally capable of limiting the amount of substance P in your body. This neurotransmitter is responsible for communicating pain signals, so inhibiting it may reduce aches all over the body. Experts recommend using a cream that contains at least 0.025% capsaicin but no more than 0.075%. It is normal for the cream cause some tingling upon application, but its potentially irritating properties mean that it should never be applied to damaged skin.
10. Try heat and ice
Some sciatica sufferers advise using cold packs, while others emphasize the soothing quality of heat patches. Consequently, it’s smart to try both. If you don’t have a cold pack, you can place a bag of frozen vegetables against the most painful place. Cold helps by slowing circulation, reducing inflammation, and numbing the area. In contrast, a heat patch or hot water bottle increases blood flow (boosting the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the injured area) and decreases painful muscle spasms.