Does Heat Help Sciatica Pain?
Sciatica is a medical term used to refer to pain along the sciatic nerve in the human body. The sciatic nerve is a prominent nerve which stretches from the lower part of the back and bifurcates into the back of each leg.
As a result of this, a person suffering from sciatica tends to experience pain which starts from the lower spine and extends to the back of the leg. It is important to note that sciatica is not a medical condition itself.
Rather, it is a general term that is used to refer to a set of symptoms which are caused by various medical conditions. There are many remedies to try, but one common question is, does heat help sciatica?
Sciatica does not occur suddenly. On the contrary, it tends to build up over time. People who engage in strenuous activities and heavy-duty jobs on a regular basis are prone to sciatica. Usually, these are people who have to bend their backbone forward or sideways or those who have to raise their hands above their heads at irregular intervals.
Symptoms that are associated with sciatica include pain in the lower spine, hip pain, pain in the leg, difficulty in moving the leg, sharp pain when trying to stand up, pain at the calf, and so on.
An individual suffering from sciatica usually feels pain in only one of the legs. It is not common to experience pain in both legs at the same time. Pain can, however, reach the feet and extend as far as the toes.
The degree or intensity of the pain differs from individual to individual. Some people can feel excruciating pain while others may only experience mild discomfort. Also, the pain may be persistent for some people while for others it is intermittent and infrequent. The less severe pain can, however, become worse over time, especially if immediate treatment is not provided.
Causes of Sciatica
There are several causes of sciatica. The main cause is a medical condition known as lumbar disc herniation. It happens when the disc directly compresses the nerve. Other causes of sciatica include lumbar spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, spondylolisthesis, as well as any of the numerous activities that can lead to inflammation or irritation of the sciatic nerve.
Treatment of Sciatica
A lot of methods are being used to treat sciatica. They include yoga, medication, exercise, acupuncture, cold and hot therapies, and even evasive (surgical methods). While some of these methods are a little on the high side, other methods, such as exercise and hot and cold therapy are cheap and quite effective. Hot therapy is especially relied on by a lot of people to ease their pain.
Benefits of Heat Therapy
A lot of people have curiously asked the question, “does heat help sciatica?” Well, the simple answer is yes. One of the most efficient methods of treating sciatica is heat therapy. If you are looking for a quick, cheap and efficient way of getting relief from sciatica, then look no further. Since time immemorial, heat has been known to work wonders when it comes to alleviating pain.
It is quite unlikely that this is the first time you will be hearing about the efficacy of heat therapy, even if you might have doubted the claim on previous occasions. However, you will be surprised at how effective the method is. Heat therapy implies a warm temperature, rather than a hot temperature. If the temperature is too hot, you can receive a burn.
There are so many benefits that you stand to derive from using this method. One is that it is very simple and can be carried out by anybody – you can administer heat therapy on yourself without anybody’s help.
In addition, it is a very cheap alternative – all you need is to purchase a heating pad, which costs very little. Another great advantage is that the method does not have any known side effects and you have absolutely nothing to lose by adopting it.
When Should You Apply Heat Therapy?
It is advised that cold therapy should be applied first. You should then follow this up with heat therapy. This is because both of them usually go together.
The reason is quite simple. Inflammation is often associated with sciatica, around the region of pain. Applying cold packs to this region will help to stem the inflammation. On the other hand, heat therapy serves to improve blood flow to the region of pain.
How Should You Apply Heat Therapy?
The heat used should be warm and not hot. How to go about heat therapy depends on the extent of your pain. For mild inflammation, a session of no more than 20 minutes should suffice. However, if the pain is severe, it is recommended that you spend a longer period per session.
Hence, a session for acute pain can last for as much as two hours for effective treatment. The sessions should be repeated time and again on a frequent basis. You can even go through as many as five sessions in a day. The more the sessions, the more the relief you get.
To carry out heat therapy, you can make use of warm water bottles, heated gel packs or handkerchiefs dipped in warm water for moist heat. It is now common for people to make use of electric heating pads. However, do ensure that you make use of a device that is safe for your body. As a precaution, avoid direct contact between your skin and the heating device.
Where Should You Apply the Heat?
It is quite logical to apply the heat to the point where you feel the pain. However, since sciatica is a symptom of a medical condition to the sciatic nerve, it may also make sense for you to apply heat to your lower back where the sciatic nerve originates.
Is Heat Therapy Ideal For You?
Heat therapy is not ideal for people who are suffering from dermatitis, diabetes, or thrombosis. Also, if you have an open wound or a bruise, heat therapy is not recommended for you.
Conclusively, it is important to stress that heat therapy is more efficient when combined with other methods. Usually, heat therapy and cold therapy are capable of achieving good results on their own, but better if they are combined and used appropriately. However, for better results, it is advisable that you include activities such as stretching, yoga and normal exercises on a regular basis.