Sciatica is a chronic painful condition of the lower back that causes radiating pain into the buttock, lower leg, and foot. The intensity of the pain varies from person to person, and in some cases the pain is severe and debilitating. Even when the pain is not severe, it lasts for weeks in most cases, prompting the questions: How long will sciatica last? Or will sciatica ever go away?
Sciatica is difficult to predict, and unfortunately in most cases the pain would last at least a few weeks. Fortunately, in the majority of cases, the pain would subside within a few weeks, only in a small number of cases, the pain may continue for months. The sciatic nerve, the most important nerve in the human body, is responsible not only for sensation but also for movement. Thus, in many cases, sciatica can be associated with difficulty controlling movements of the lower limbs.
Pain in sciatica occurs due to compression or pinching of the nerve. Sciatica pain can be either acute or chronic. The acute pain would last only a few days and would subside quickly. In acute sciatica, rest, physiotherapy along with common painkillers are effective. However, things are different with chronic sciatica. Chronic sciatica is usually the result of a herniated disc or changes in the spinal bones and therefore requires more specific treatment.
What are the options for quick relief from sciatica?
The good news is that in most cases, sciatica will go away with rest, physical therapy, use of common pain relievers and supplements, stretching, heat, and other simple methods. Most people can expect to get better in a few months. The use of traditional medicines or natural methods can greatly speed recovery. Some of the most common methods for quick pain relief and healing are
- Using pain relievers for sciatica pain: One of the first approaches of most people in sciatica is to go for some kind of pain reliever. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often used as the primary way to relieve pain and inflammation. These drugs can help in some cases, but in most cases they would only reduce the pain. Some people may also take pain relievers with muscle relaxants. In severe cases, doctors may prescribe an opioid to relieve the pain. Although narcotics are effective in reducing pain, they must be used with caution due to side effects.
- Chiropractic Treatment: This is one of the procedures of choice. Chiropractic may provide some manipulation, may prescribe massage, or may recommend physical therapy sessions. Chiropractic may also prescribe stretching exercises, may advise on improving posture.
- Acupuncture: It may help relieve pain; acupuncture has been shown to help with nerve-related pain.
- Therapeutic Yoga: It helps reduce stress, stretch muscles, and improve flexibility. Yoga can also help prevent sciatica in the future.
- Osteopathic Manipulation: In some cases, specialists in this form of medicine can perform specific manipulations of the spine and related structures. It can help improve the movement and shape of the lower back.
- Surgical method: Often the last resort, but in some cases, pain may not be relieved by any of the methods, and the condition may be debilitating. Surgery can help treat a herniated disc or correct bone spurs.
So how quickly can one expect to get well?
Perhaps the worst thing about sciatica is the unpredictability surrounding it. Each case is different, each individual's cause of nerve compression is different, and so is the prognosis. In some cases, the pain may suddenly subside after a few weeks, while in others the condition may persist for months, even with intensive treatment.
However, there is no need to be discouraged; it is important to understand that most people would recover completely within a month or two with common pain medications and physical therapy. It is important not to neglect these things, it is extremely important to treat sciatica with a combination of non-pharmacological methods and one should stick to them. So do yoga, stretching exercises, go to a physiotherapist, consult a chiropractor or osteopath, take health supplements, use over-the-counter pain relievers. Just remember that in most cases of sciatica, the outlook is excellent.
Once the person has recovered from sciatica, it is also important to stick to the specific form of exercises to prevent it from returning. Exercises to prevent sciatica should include stretching of the back, strengthening of the back muscles, relaxation techniques. For lower back conditions like sciatica, strengthening the abdomen is also very important as the abdominal muscles are important supporting muscles.
Finally, one should try to identify the causes of sciatica. If it is stress, yoga or tai chi or mindfulness practice may help. If it is obesity or diabetes, losing 10% of your body weight can do wonders. And don't forget to take supplements known to be good for nerve health, such as B12 or fish oil.