How long does sciatica last? (Updated 2.0)

How long does sciatica last?

This is a question I get asked on a weekly basis, it is the most common condition we treat in the clinic, and it can be serious pain in the buttocks.

If you are struggling or know someone struggling with sciatica, then you will know that it can be one of the most uncomfortable few weeks of your life. Shooting pain in the back and legs, unable to find a comfortable position and therefore cannot sleep meaning sleep deprivation is severe.

Not to mention day-to-day activities become almost impossible due to the severity of the pain. Some people think that when they have sciatica it will last forever, and they need to learn to live with it. Well help is here…

I once had a client who had debilitating sciatica and we started treating him. He had a prolapsed disc at L5/S1 and we could see on an x-ray the disc space was squashed and he also had an MRI confirming this was the case. The first two weeks we threw everything at him: Chiropractic, spinal decompression, sports massage, shockwave, acupuncture, and rehab exercises. It literally did not change for 2 weeks; he was in so much pain and I felt terrible that we couldn’t help him. I thought we are going to have to refer him for surgery there is nothing we can do.

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Until the Monday, he walked in with a spring in his step to all my front desk’s amazement. It was incredible to see. He came bounding up the stairs and said he woke up on Sunday morning with no pain, no leg pain and felt amazing, he was worried it would come back but literally nothing. He had a small ache in his low back, but otherwise he was back to normal.

Now it wasn’t healed, the symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg there was still work to do.

But to the point and title of this blog, how long does it take?

To feel better it can take 2-6 weeks for the symptoms to die down. To heal can take longer, if it is a disc prolapse, this can take anywhere from 9-18 months to fully heal.

Please be careful even when the symptoms have healed you need to make sure you are relaxing and taking it easy. No marathons, no 300kg deadlifts or bungee jumps.

How long should I take off work with sciatica?

This does depend on what job you have, if you are desk based you may find it tricky to sit at the desk due to the compression of the low back and this causes sciatic pain referral.  You may need at least 2 weeks off to allow this to heal, if you can work from home, I would recommend this where possible. Do not do work in bed or the sofa as this will compress the spine more.

If you have a physical job like a trade or are in a hospitality job where you are on your feet. This could be trickier; you don’t want to lift anything heavy for 6 weeks until the inflammation and pain has settled down.

Standing can be good for sciatica as it takes pressure off the nerve as you are in extension and upright. You need to find what is most comfortable for you and discuss this with your employer.

If you think your workplace could benefit from our wellbeing workshop, please have a look at our site.

How long does the sciatic nerve take to heal?

If there has been compression on the nerve for a while does the nerve die? Well, not exactly, it doesn’t die, but severe compression or trauma can cause parts of the nerve to stop working and it is very hard to get it back again.

This is rare, and it is important to recognise the warning signs of severe compression before it goes on for too long and then you can seek help.

One thing to look out for is scuffing of the big toe on the floor when you are walking, this is often a telling sign that something could be beginning to go wrong with the nerve, and it is worth seeking professional help.

Thanks for reading I appreciate your time. Hope it was helpful, if you know someone with sciatica, please share this with them.  

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If you do know someone who wants more advice, please send them our details. You can send them this assessment as well to diagnose their back pain. It is a great tool to understand where your back pain is coming from, it is free and takes 60 seconds. Click here for assessment

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