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Sciatica Pain Relief : When To Ice or Heat For Nerve Pain

Sciatica Pain Relief : When To Ice or Heat For Nerve Pain
Shweta Chaubey

Temperature therapy is one of the most effective treatments for sciatic nerve pain. Heat and cold therapy work efficaciously in relieving muscle and nerve pain. However, whether to use ice or heat for nerve pain is a daunting question. Using heat or ice for sciatica pain relief will depend on the location, type, and cause.

Sciatica pain refers to the pain that travels through the sciatic nerve, which further travels from the lower back via the hips and buttocks and down to each leg. It often occurs due to an overgrowth of bone or a herniated disk that puts excessive pressure on the part of the sciatic nerve. This nerve pain can cause inflammation and often numbness in legs.

Where is the sciatic nerve located?

The sciatic nerve starts right outside the base of the spine, i.e., the lumbar spine and sacral region, and runs through the top of the gluteus muscles, the butt, and down to the back of the thighs and lower legs.

Where is the sciatic nerve located

Symptoms of sciatica nerve pain

Sciatica can cause mild aches or a sharp, burning pain that can radiate into the lower thigh and calf. Since sciatica pain is only felt on one side of the body, the other side may feel numb. The pain may also feel like a jolt or electric shock and worsen when coughing, sneezing or sitting for a prolonged duration.

Causes of pinched sciatic nerve

Certain factors put one at a greater risk of developing sciatic pain. These factors may include -

  1. Age: Changes in the spine that are caused due to aging, such as bone spurs and herniated disks, are the most common causes of sciatica.
  2. Obesity: Being overweight increases the stress on the spine, leading to sciatica pain. 
  3. Profession: A job or lifestyle that demands long sitting hours, twisting the back, carrying heavy objects, or driving might significantly increase your chances of sciatica. 
  4. Lifestyle: People with a sedentary lifestyle who sit or have very limited physical activities are most likely to develop nerve pain. 
  5. Diabetes: it largely affects how one's body uses blood sugar, increasing the risk of nerve damage.

How to relieve sciatic pain with ice and heat?

Ice and heat can be a great idea to reduce nerve pain associated with sciatica. Applying an ice pack for sciatica pain relief in a circular motion creates a feeling of coldness, which progresses to a slight burning or tingling sensation, followed by numbness. Once the numbness occurs, take the ice pack off the pain site to avoid frostbite.

Heat therapy, on the other hand, helps in sciatica pain relief by promoting tissue healing. Heat therapy is best used after the nerve pain is calmed down by an ice pack. This initial pain flare-up causes inflammation which may worsen with the heat pad. Thus, it should be controlled with cold therapy first.

Why use sciatica ice packs?

  • Sciatica ice packs help relieve stiffness and inflammation by curbing muscle tension.
  • Ice slows down the blood flow, which reduces swelling. Applying ice numbs the area, which alleviates pain.

Things to remember while using cold or ice packs

Ice or ice bags can reduce swelling & pain very efficiently, but there are also some things to take care of before using ice for pain relief, such as-

  • Keeping ice for more than 15 minutes can numb the area. Avoid keeping it for long.
  • Avoid directly applying ice to the skin. Prefer keeping a cloth between the skin and the ice.
  • Keeping the ice in one place is the wrong way to use it. Always massage in a circular motion.
  • In case of cramping, ice massage is not applicable.
  • In any case, don't apply ice directly to the wound.
  • Applying ice before any activity is a bad idea as it can damage the body tissues.

How does heat help nerve pain?

  • Heat soothes & relaxes your muscles.
  • Heat promotes blood flow.
  • The heat releases tension & spasms from the area.
  • Heat develops the range of motion in joints.

Things to remember while using heat for sciatic nerve pain  

Heat can easily relax your muscles if you use it the correct way. Otherwise, it may increase the chances of problems. Some of the safety measures are-

  • Heat is not used for fresh injuries or open wounds.
  • For infections, heat treatment is prohibited.
  • Dermatitis patients should not use heat treatment.
  • Cancer patients should not use heat as heat can increase the chances of the tumor.
  • Heat alternately, and avoid placing it for a longer time.

Best Ice and Heat Packs for Sciatica Pain Relief

1. Breg Intelli-Flo Cold Therapy Hip Pad

Breg Intelli-Flo Cold Therapy Hip Pad is designed to provide cold therapy to the hip area. It offers custom-tailored temperature control and allows consistent and reliable cold treatment. For appropriate use, an insulation barrier is required between the Intelli-Flo Pads and the patient's skin.

Whether to use ice or heat for pain relief will depend on the location and nature of the pain and injury. Using the wrong treatment may worsen the situation. Hence, you should always use ice or heat for sciatic pain after consulting your doctor.

Breg Intelli-Flo Cold Therapy Hip Pad



Breg Intelli-Flo Cold Therapy Hip Pad Customer Reviews

5 Star Reviews on Breg Intelli-Flo Cold Therapy Hip Pad


07/08/20 by Cathy. ”Works great. Using it for hip osteoarthritis after stretching and exercising. Will be using it for upcoming hip surgery. Greatly decreases pain. Far superior to ice alone. "

02/07/20 by James C. ”The cold relief, coupled with the ease of application make this product well worth the price "

2. Gebauer's Pain Ease Topical Pain Relief

Sciatica and lower back pain are daunting. Besides ice or heat for sciatica pain relief, an analgesic pain relief spray also helps curb the pain. Gebauer's Pain Ease Medium Stream Spray is an anesthetic skin refrigerant used to relieve nerve pain associated with injections and minor sports injuries such as sprains, bruising, cuts, and abrasions. It targets the areas of pain that have swelling or are inflamed due to an injury or post-surgery. It is a topical vapocoolant with an aerosol and offers effective pain relief within 4-10 seconds. Subsequently, Gebauer's Topical Pain Relief Spray is easy to use by pressing the actuator button firmly for 4-10 seconds or until the skin turns white.

Gebauer's Pain Ease Topical Pain Relief



Gebauer's Pain Ease Topical Pain Relief Customer Reviews

5 Star Reviews on Gebauer's Pain Ease Topical Pain Relief


09/01/22 by JMark N. ”This item is fantastic for people that are scared of needle pokes. Never go to the doctor or clinic without it if you fear the poke of a needle. This purse sized spray bottle of Pain Ease will take the fear out of blood draws and other needle pokes. "

3. Battle Creek Thermophore MaxHEAT Moist Heat Pack 

The thermophore heating pad is designed to provide heat therapy to the entire spinal area, a hip and leg length for sciatica pain relief, or across both shoulders to relieve upper back pain effectively. The heat pad comes with properly positioned weights that cause the Moist Heat Pack to conform to body contours, reducing air spaces between the hot pack and the body, so more heat is transmitted to the body tissues. Additionally, this FSA-approved heat pack produces intense moist heat without adding water, while its fast-acting therapy relieves pain and stiffness for hours. 

Battle Creek Thermophore MaxHEAT Moist Heat Pack



Battle Creek Thermophore MaxHEAT Moist Heat Pack Customer Reviews

4.5 Star Reviews on Battle Creek Thermophore MaxHEAT Moist Heat Pack


03/06/22 by Jillian W. ”Good quality products are helping me to feel better. The heating pad gets nice and warm-much better than typical heating pads. The compression glove fits perfectly as measured. I will purchase future items as needed. "

01/11/22 by Mary G. ”Wonderful heating pad! It’s huge too so I can wrap it around any part of my body or lay it long ways on top of me. Best heating pad ever. Makes a great gift too. "

Pain and discomfort in the back, neck, knee, sciatic nerve, shoulder, or anywhere else in the body is quite common. With our stress-packed hectic lifestyles, pain comes complementary and affects almost all age groups. Ice and heat for sciatica pain relief can help alleviate your symptoms. However, it is advised you consult your doctor for an elaborate treatment plan.

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HPFY Shweta Chaubey

Shweta Chaubey

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Shweta Chaubey, has been a Health Products For You contributor since 2021. An advocate-turned-writer, her desire to create meaningful and positive content has brought her to HPFY and what better than writing ...

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