How to Treat Sciatica in the Knees


Sciatica is a symptom that describes pain down the back of the leg. It can be felt in different ways, including shooting pain, numbness and tingling in your leg, muscle weakness and difficulty walking. It is a symptom of another medical condition that occurs when there is damage or pressure on the sciatic nerve, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) (Ref. 3). Because the large nerve controls the muscles in the back of the knee, pain can be felt there. It could be caused by piriformis syndrome, in which the sciatic nerve is pinched by the muscle running from the base of your spine to your outer hip bone. It could also be a condition in your lower back, such as a herniated disc. Fortunately, there are many ways to treat sciatic nerve pain (Ref. 1).

Things You'll Need

  • Ice pack
  • Heat pack
  • Doctor
  • Physical therapist
  • Chiropractor
  • Acupuncturist
  • Pain medications

Treat sciatica in the knees with self-care, to which acute pain will often respond. Use ice and heat packs on the affected areas. Try simple stretches and exercises to relieve the pain. These remedies may help, but if the pain persists and becomes more severe, it's a good idea to consult your doctor (Ref. 1).

Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen. These can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. If the pain does not subside, your doctor may recommend a prescription drug. A muscle relaxant can help with the muscle spasms, or an antidepressant can be useful in stopping pain signals from reaching your brain (Ref. 1, 2).

Have an epidural steroid injection administered if your doctor recommends it. A corticosteroid injection reduces the inflammation around the nerve, but some research shows it is only useful for short-term relief (Ref. 2).

Try physical therapy, especially if you have a herniated disc causing the sciatica. There are various treatments you can receive from a physical therapist, such as massage, heat and ice therapies and a method call transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). In this treatment, a device sends an electrical current to stimulate your muscles, reducing muscle spasms (Ref. 1).

Your therapist will also help you develop a rehabilitation exercise routine, including cardio and strengthening. Exercise is usually imperative for a full recovery (Ref. 1, 2).

Begin alternative therapies, which many patients say have been quite beneficial. To help your sciatica in the knees, try acupuncture. This Chinese medicinal approach involves fine needles inserted into your body to restore an energy flow throughout your body and heal pain. You could also try doing yoga. According to Kamiah A. Walker, of SpineUniverse, yoga can really help if piriformis syndrome is the cause of your sciatica. It can help stretch the muscle (Ref. 1).

Consider chiropractic care for treating your sciatica. In addition to similar methods used by a physical therapist, a chiropractor will use spinal manipulation to realign your spine. Misalignment may be causing your symptoms (Ref. 1).

If you have an extremely severe case that is causing you to be weak, ask your doctor about surgery options. Spine surgery may be necessary if the pain keeps getting worse. A common surgery is a discectomy, which is a removal of a herniated disc that is compressing the sciatic nerve (Ref. 1).

Tips & Warnings

  • If you can find the cause of the sciatica symptoms in your knees, in most cases you can successfully treat it and fully recover, according to the NIH (Ref. 3).
  • There are possible complications if sciatica in your knees is not treated. You could lose part of your leg movement or sensation in your legs (Ref. 3).

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