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How to Relax Your Sciatic Nerve and Relieve Pain


9.8 - What Relaxes the Sciatic Nerve

If you have ever experienced a sharp, shooting pain that travels from your lower back to your leg, you may have sciatica. Sciatica is a condition that occurs when the sciatic nerve, the longest and thickest nerve in the body, becomes irritated or compressed by a herniated disc, bone spur, or other spinal problem. Sciatica can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the lower back, buttock, thigh, calf, or foot. The pain can range from mild to severe and may be worse when coughing, sneezing, sitting, or standing for a long time.

Sciatica can be treated with various methods, such as medication, physical therapy, or surgery. However, there are also some simple and natural ways to relax the sciatic nerve and relieve pain at home. This article explores effective methods and techniques that can provide relief and soothe the sciatic nerve.

Apply Ice or Heat Therapy

One of the easiest and most effective ways to relax the sciatic nerve and reduce inflammation and pain is to apply ice or heat packs to the affected area. According to Harvard Health, you should use ice for the first few days after the onset of pain, as it can numb the nerve and prevent swelling. You can use an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel and place it on your lower back or buttock for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day.

After two or three days, you can switch to heat therapy, as it can relax the muscles and increase blood flow to the nerve. You can use a heating pad, a hot water bottle, or a warm bath and apply it to the same area for the same duration. You can also alternate between ice and heat therapy for optimal results.

Do Some Gentle Stretches

Another way to relax the sciatic nerve and ease pain is to do some gentle stretches that target the muscles and tissues surrounding the nerve. Stretching can loosen the tightness and tension that may be causing pressure on the nerve. It can also increase flexibility and range of motion in the lower back and legs, especially in the last stages of sciatica.

Some of the best stretches for sciatica are:

  • Seated glute stretch – Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and lean forward slightly until you feel a stretch in your right buttock. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  • Pigeon pose – Start on your hands and knees on the floor. Slide your right knee forward and place it behind your right wrist. Extend your left leg behind you and keep it straight. Lower your torso over your right leg and rest your forehead on the floor or a pillow. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  • Standing hamstring stretch – Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Place your right foot on a low stool or step in front of you and keep it straight. Bend your left knee slightly and lean forward from your hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your right leg. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Do these stretches once or twice a day, preferably after applying heat therapy. You should also breathe deeply and relax while stretching. Avoid any stretch that causes more pain or discomfort.

Try Some Sciatica Exercises

In addition to stretching, try some sciatica exercises that can strengthen your core and back muscles, improve your posture and alignment, and reduce pressure on your sciatic nerve. Exercises can also increase blood circulation and oxygen delivery to the nerve, which can promote healing and recovery.

Some of the best exercises for sciatica are:

  • Pelvic tilt – Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat. Tighten your abdominal muscles and press your lower back into the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times.
  • Knee to chest – Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat. Bring one knee up to your chest and hold it with both hands. Gently pull it closer to your chest until you feel a stretch in your lower back and hip. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  • Bird dog – Start on your hands and knees on the floor with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Keep your spine straight and engage your core muscles. Lift one arm and extend it forward while lifting the opposite leg and extending it backward. Keep them parallel to the floor without arching or twisting your back. Hold for 5 seconds and switch sides. Repeat 10 times.
Do these exercises once or twice a day, preferably before applying ice therapy. You should also start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of the exercises as you get stronger.

Calm Your Nervous System with Mind-Body Techniques

The mind-body connection plays a significant role in managing pain and promoting relaxation. Techniques that focus on relaxation and stress reduction can indirectly ease sciatic nerve discomfort. 

Some of the most effective mind-body techniques include:

  • Deep breathing – Practicing deep breathing exercises can trigger the relaxation response in the body, which in turn can reduce muscle tension and alleviate nerve irritation.
  • Mindfulness and meditation – Mindfulness practices and meditation techniques promote a sense of calm and help manage pain perception. Regular practice can contribute to overall relaxation and wellbeing.
  • Yoga – Yoga combines stretching, breathing, and mindfulness, making it an effective practice for easing sciatic nerve discomfort. However, it is essential to choose yoga poses that are safe and comfortable for your specific condition.

Make Lifestyle Adjustments for Long-Term Relief

Making certain lifestyle adjustments can contribute to ongoing relief from sciatic nerve discomfort.

Some of the most beneficial lifestyle practices are:

  • Good posture – Poor posture can exacerbate sciatic nerve irritation. Pay attention to your sitting and standing posture to alleviate pressure on the lower back.
  • Regular activity – Engaging in regular physical activity can prevent muscle imbalances and keep the body flexible, reducing the risk of sciatic nerve irritation.
  • Healthy diet and hydration – A well-balanced diet and proper hydration support overall body health, including the health of nerves and muscles.
Soothing the sciatic nerve involves a combination of techniques that address muscle tension, inflammation, and the mind-body connection. While these methods can provide relief for mild to moderate cases of sciatica, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for severe or persistent discomfort. By incorporating gentle stretching, heat and cold therapy, mind-body techniques, and lifestyle adjustments, you can promote relaxation, reduce irritation, and find relief from sciatic nerve discomfort, enhancing your overall quality of life.

A patient who has had a discectomy or less invasive microdiscectomy for a herniated disc (also known as a slipped disc or bulging disc) may experience sciatica if the disc reherniates, which often occurs if there is a large hole in the outer ring of the disc after surgery. Fortunately, there is a new treatment available. Barricaid is a device shown to reduce the risk of reherniation by closing the hole in the disc after a discectomy, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment or how to get access to Barricaid, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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