How to Manage Nerve Pain in the Leg

Acupuncture (Image: Wonderlane:

The sciatic nerve runs down the spine and the back of each leg and can be a common cause of nerve pain in the legs. Nerve pain can range from mild tingling or dull aching to severe pain that makes it hard to move. Causes of nerve pain include diabetes, trauma, chronic renal insufficiency, medications, infections, porphyria, tumors and inflammation. There are many options available to manage nerve pain in the leg.

Things You'll Need

  • Ice pack
  • Hot pack
  • Over-the-counter pain reliever

Apply ice to the area for the first 48 to 72 hours to reduce inflammation and relieve discomfort. You can wrap an ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables in a clean towel and apply it to the area for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Switch to hot packs after 48 hours. Apply a heating pad on its lowest setting, or a warm pack or heat lamp. You can opt to alternate between hot and cold packs if the pain persists.

Take over-the-counter pain relievers (analgesics) for mild pain. Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for more moderate pain.

Exercise on a regular basis to release endorphins (chemicals that prevent pain signals from reaching the brain). Start with low-impact exercise such as swimming or a treadmill. Switch to aerobic and strength training activities as the pain improves. You may consider consulting a physical therapist or personal trainer to prevent further injury.

Consider acupuncture. Acupuncture focuses on the qi, energy that flows along pathways in the body. It is believed that when the qi is blocked, disease and illness results. Acupuncture works to unblock these pathways to restore balance. Treatment involves the insertion of painless hair-thin needles in the skin.

Visit a chiropractor as another alternative. Chiropractic medicine follows the philosophy that restricted spine movement can lead to reduced function and pain. Chiropractors perform spinal adjustment (manipulation) to restrict spinal mobility, decreasing pain and improving function.

Try hypnosis. Hypnosis leaves the mind open to suggestion during a deep relaxation. The hypnotist can make suggestions to improve pain tolerance and decrease perception of pain.

Visit the doctor for moderate-to-severe pain to consider more invasive treatment options. Doctors can prescribe antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, narcotics and topical creams. Doctors also treat nerve pain with injections of anesthetics (pain-relievers), nerve blocks and other surgical procedures.

Tips & Warnings

  • Nerve pain can sometimes be the result of another underlying condition. It is important for the doctor to rule out other causes before pursuing treatment.

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