Heat or ice for sciatica are both effective tools for home-based acute nerve pain relief. Heat and ice work well in combination with each other, but should be custom tailored to fit the criteria of each painful complaint.
Heat and ice therapy are free home remedies which have been used for millennia to treat an impossibly huge diversity of health conditions. Since there are no risks, when used sensibly, heat and ice are both valuable additions to a combined care approach to pain management.
This dialog centers on providing patients a simple guide to using heat and ice as part of their own sciatica care regimen.
First Aid Heat or Ice for Sciatica
Ice is always advised for use immediately after a traumatic injury. Ice will reduce acute pain and also help to fight any inflammatory response. Ice should be used 15 to 20 minutes on and 30 minutes off, for the first 48 hours after a fresh injury. Do not apply heat during this time, as it will counteract the anti-inflammatory benefits of the ice.
Heat can be used to treat a fresh injury after 48 hours, but some patients find waiting an additional day or two to be helpful. Heat will help increase circulation, removing metabolic waste products and facilitating the healing response to the affected region. Heat should be applied half hour on and one hour off for best results and may still be alternated with ice for the first day or two of treatment.
Extended Use of Heat or Ice
For ongoing sciatica pain conditions, heat and ice can be used in combination for maximum effectiveness.
Ice should be used first and left applied for 15 to 20 minutes. It is best to wait for 30 to 60 minutes, then apply heat for 30 to 45 minutes. This double dose of ice and heat will reduce pain and increase circulation, providing lasting relief for many patients.
This treatment can be repeated as necessary and can be used in the comfort of your own home, without cost or risk.
Efficacy of Heat or Ice for Sciatica
Ice can be applied using simple ice cubes in a bag, then wrapped in a towel. Never apply ice directly to the skin. Ice can also be applied utilizing a commercial cold pack which can be stored in the freezer until it is needed. These soft gel packs are much more comfortable and versatile than traditional ice. There are also chemical cold packs for travel use, which do not need to be frozen and can be stored anywhere.
Heat is most effective when applied with moisture. Wet heat, such as hot towels or hot water bags, is more efficient than a heating pad or other source of dry heat. Even better is a hot bath or shower to really allow the temperature to have the maximum effect. Hot tubs can be an ideal back pain treatment if you have one available for regular use.
Never leave ice applied for too long or you might suffer injury to the region. Make sure not to fall asleep with a cold pack, since this will be counterproductive to the very theory of the treatment and can actually retard the healing process.
Always be sure that heat is not too hot to use. You want to cure your pain, not create burns. Please, use common sense.
Tips on Using Heat or Ice Therapy at Home
I have used both of these remedies for many years, both for back pain and for the various martial arts injuries which I have sustained on a regular basis. Ice was a particular favorite of mine and was always recommended by my caregivers. Now, I only use heat, since I find it to be far more soothing.
While I can honestly say that both of these modalities worked well for me when I had acute flare-ups, it is important to remember that these methods are the simplest form of purely symptomatic treatment. However, compared to other forms of symptomatic treatment, ice and heat are terrific, since they are convenient, free and quite effective.
I recommend ice and heat for providing ongoing relief while you try to work out a real cure. These modalities are far better than pharmaceutical pain management and do not have any of the many risks inherent to sciatica drugs.