Sciatica is a symptom of an irritating nerve whose type and severity determine how long does sciatica lasts. This radiating back pain results from the compression or pinching of a sciatic nerve that affects the hips, buttocks, and legs. It can hinder your daily life and limits your productivity at work.
Management of the patient with sciatica varies in clinical practice from conservative care to spinal surgery. As compared to back pain, there is limited research on sciatica. This lack of scientific attention has led to little knowledge about sciatica diagnosis, disease management, and the efficacy of medical interventions.
If you are wondering how long does sciatica last? And what are your options for sciatica pain management? Then this information-packed post is for you.
How Long Does Sciatica Last?
There are two forms of sciatica: acute and chronic. It depends upon the severity and duration of the symptoms.
The inflammation of the spine sometimes pushes the sciatic nerve resulting in irritation and pain. This episodic pain can last for one or two weeks and mostly go away within 4-6 weeks.
Pain management is still required for acute sciatica as it can affect daily chores while impeding your workflow. Symptoms in the acute form are burning, throbbing, and numbness sensation.
Managing Acute Sciatica
While enduring acute sciatica pain, the most effective remedy is self-care. Given below are some practices that can help curb sciatica symptoms:
- Rest can subside acute sciatica flare-ups. However, it is critical not to be rested for longer periods as the extended duration of inactivity can aggravate your symptoms.
- Hot or Cold Therapy can enhance blood flow and relax muscles in your lower back. How?
- Frequent Stretches that can relax the piriformis muscle may give pain relief.
- A walk can help to ease the muscles in your back. Here is the complete guide
- Over-the-counter medication like aspirin or ibuprofen can alleviate pain by reducing inflammation.
- Steroid injections can be administered in case if no other remedy works.
- Acupuncture is considered an effective strategy to counter sciatica. SEE HOW?
2. Chronic Sciatica
If acute sciatica lasts for more than three months, it may turn into chronic sciatica pain. Though this condition is life-long, the pain severity is often less than acute form.
The chronic pain is exasperating, often accompanied by weakness in the legs impacting the quality of life.
Managing Chronic Sciatica
The persistent form of sciatica can be challenging to manage, particularly when sciatica symptoms are severe. Therefore, see your doctor for professional help. They may suggest medications to lessen your symptoms, such as:
- Muscle Relaxer
- Tricyclic Antidepressants
- Anti-Seizures Medications
Sign that Acute Sciatica is Going Away
In sciatica, the pain moves from the back to the leg, which is the route of the sciatic nerve. But if you feel that the pain has traveled up to your lumbar region, it’s usually a telling sign that acute sciatica is resolving.
The sciatic nerve is in the lower spine and goes through the buttocks to the legs. The probability of affecting several nerve roots is very high, thus impacting various parts of your thigh, leg, or foot. Therefore, the efficacy of treatment may vary among different individuals with a similar diagnosis.
How long does sciatica last? Experts have answers now and they suggest trying a combination of treatments that will increase the probability of pain relief.
Your physician may recommend you a complete plan that may have the following options:
1. Physical Therapy
It involves stretches and exercises that help to alleviate sciatica pain. It is highly recommended to hire a professional trainer for treatment purposes.
These are some stretches and exercises that can rotate the hip externally and provide pain relief:
- Reclining Pigeon Pose targets piriformis muscle: a muscle in front of the sciatic nerve. Sometimes this muscle gets inflamed and pushes the sciatic nerve underneath it.
- Sitting Pigeon Pose helps in stretching the lower back and glutes.
- Scissor Hamstring String targets your hamstrings. If your hamstrings muscles are not relaxed, that can pull pressure on your lower back and irritate the sciatic nerve.
- Back Flexion Stretch helps to improve spine mobility, abdominal muscles and relaxes your lower back. Flexion is a condition in which your spine is bending forward.
2. Water Therapy
Water exercises can be a lot easier because of water’s buoyancy, which reduces the body’s weight. Activities like walking in waist-high water and swimming are good options for pain-relieving exercises.
3. Medication for Sciatica
The sciatic nerve pain can be resolved by using over-the-counter pain medications like aspirin that decrease pain. If the pain persists, steroids can also be used orally to reduce the inflammation.
In rare cases, steroid injections can be administered with a doctor’s advice. These injections, like epidural steroids, lessen the inflammation and relieve pain.
Sometimes patients may require surgical intervention. There are two surgical procedures: microdiscectomy and laminectomy. The former is used to remove disc fragments pushing against the sciatic nerve, while the latter, a more extreme form, is used to remove lamina from vertebrae.
4. Change in Lifestyle
Prevention is better than cure; a healthy lifestyle can curb future sciatica flare-ups and ease the pain. These daily routines include:
- Regular exercises.
- Knowing how to sit comfortably in sciatica.
- Include a healthy diet to counter risk factors for obesity and diabetes.
- Walk regularly.
- Aiding specialized chairs for sciatica.
Note: If your flare-ups persist for longer than a week and pain severity increases, see your doctor.
Can sciatica pain persist for months?
Yes, chronic sciatica can last for months.
Can the sciatica pain self-resolve?
Most acute sciatica usually self-resolves, but it requires a healthy lifestyle.
Why is the sciatica pain worse in the morning?
When we sleep in an awkward position, it irritates the sciatic nerve. That’s why sciatica is often worst in the night and early morning.
Sciatica is a debilitating pain condition that reduces productivity from life. You might encounter acute sciatica that will last for a few weeks but has more episodes of pain, or you may have chronic sciatica that lasts for months.
With several ways to effectively treat sciatica, the pain can go away within a couple of weeks. But if symptoms last a long time, then you should talk with your doctor.