What to Expect Living With Sciatica

Woman Living With Sciatica Starting Her Day

Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed causing pain, tingling, weakness, or numbness anywhere from the lower back to the foot. While sciatica can become chronic, the good news is that it normally resolves within 4-6 weeks. However, in the meantime, here’s what you can expect living with sciatica, and when to call a doctor.

Does Sciatica Get Worse When You Move?

You might find certain positions aggravate your symptoms e.g. sitting for prolonged periods. However, some movement, such as walking at a gentle pace, might ease your pain.

It’s best to avoid bed rest for more than 1 or 2 days. Otherwise, your muscles may become stiff and guarded which could make your pain worse.

Will I Need Surgery?

Typically, no – most sciatica episodes resolve without treatment within six weeks.

However, if your symptoms are particularly severe, or if they progress beyond a few months, then a specialist can advise you whether spine surgery might be right for you.

Modern spine surgery is minimally invasive; however, there are always risks attached, so surgery is not normally advised unless your condition worsens over time or there’s evidence of severe spinal cord compression.

How Do I Know If My Sciatica Is Getting Worse?

Signs your sciatica might need further investigation include:

  • Progressive numbness or weakness in the affected side
  • Pain which moves further down your leg
  • Worsening pain which affects your day-to-day activities

Always contact a qualified doctor for advice if you’re unsure whether your nerve pain is healing.

When Should I Call a Doctor Urgently?

Call your doctor immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Bowel and/or bladder changes e.g. inability to urinate or incontinence
  • A loss of sensation or sensory changes around the buttocks, groin, upper thighs, or genital area (“saddle anesthesia”)
  • Sciatica in both legs
  • Numbness or weakness which is getting worse or is suddenly severe

These symptoms can indicate a more serious type of spinal cord compression which requires urgent medical treatment.

How Do You Get Rid of Sciatica Pain Fast?

While there’s no way to instantly cure sciatica, there are a few things you can do to quickly minimize the pain until healing occurs.

  • Avoid sitting for too long.
  • Move around as much as possible.
  • Alternate heat and ice packs to reduce inflammation around the nerves.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach or on the affected side.
  • Take painkillers like Advil to ease pain. Your doctor might also recommend special medication for nerve pain.

Consult a qualified doctor or therapist before trying any stretches or exercises, especially if your sciatica is severe.

Remember, although sciatica can be extremely distressing, it usually resolves on its own without invasive treatment. To learn more about sciatica and how our specialists can help, contact us today.