What is Sciatica & How Long Does It Take To Go Away?

If you’re experiencing your first painful flare up, you are likely wondering how long will sciatica take to heal?

On top of the shooting pains, this condition can be detrimental to your day-to-day life, preventing you from simple tasks.

In this article, we’ll explain how long sciatica will take to heal. We’ll explain why your flare-up may not be a one time occurrence, and give you some tips to manage back pain in the elderly naturally.
If you cannot wait and wish for some relief then it would be worth considering trying out sciatic nerve stretches. Let’s start with some general information on sciatica first.

What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a painful, uncomfortable condition that radiates pain along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve starts in your lower back, and runs all the way through your hips and down your leg.

This condition is notorious for the shooting pain you’ll feel, likely down just one side of your body

It’s a radiating pain, and while the type of pain varies, most experience excruciating pain that leaves them bedridden during their flareup. However, some people only experience minor aches.

Others classify sciatic pain as an electric shock that shoots from their lower back down their buttocks, and all the way down their leg. On top of pain, you may experience other unpleasant symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, and weakness. Some patients claim their flare up feels like cold water running down their leg.

What Causes Sciatica?

The exact reason for sciatica pain is when the sciatic nerve gets pinched or aggravated. A number of things can cause this to happen.

Most often, the culprit is a herniated disk in your spine, a bone spur, or in rare cases, a tumor pressing against the nerve.

There are a few risk factors that will increase your likelihood of developing sciatica. These include age, obesity, excessive sitting, poor lifting technique, and diabetes.

When you first develop sciatica, it can be scary. Especially if you have pain to the extent that you are unable to perform routine tasks, you wonder if life is changing as you know it. So, let’s get into the timeline for sciatica recovery – and answer the question, how long will it take sciatica to heal?

How Long Will Sciatica Take To Heal?

More often than not, your sciatica flare up will resolve itself with time and rest. In those experiencing simply a temporary issue, recovery takes between 4-8 weeks.

This can feel like an eternity depending on the degree of pain your nerve is giving you, but we’ll get to some things you can do to alleviate the discomfort later on.

Let’s talk about why some people’s sciatica does not heal over time.

Does Sciatica Ever Go Away Completely?

You may have heard cases of people dealing with sciatica their entire life. This is super rare, but it does occur. The reason for this is permanent nerve damage.

The good news, though, is you can watch for some warning signs and see a doctor. If you lose any sensation in the affected leg, this can be a sign of nerve damage occurring. Another sign to look out for is weakness in said leg.

A third, less common warning sign is loss of bowel or bladder function. If you experience any of these three warning signs, it’s reasonable to believe permanent nerve damage may be occurring. See your doctor immediately.

How Do You Know When Sciatica Is Getting Better?

You may be experiencing 3, 4, even 5 weeks of pain, and wonder why you aren’t getting any better. The reality is, your condition may be improving despite the constant occurrence of pain. One sign is if your sciatica recovery time is shortening.

What you need to look for to determine if your body is making progress in healing the issue is the location of your symptoms.

As we mentioned earlier, sciatic pain can start in the lower back and work its way all the way down your leg, into your foot. If you notice that you used to feel the tingling, shooting pain in your foot, and now it stops in your calf, this is a good sign.

The more your sciatica retreats back into your back, the better it is going. The opposite is true as well. If your sciatica could only be felt in your lower back and buttocks, and now you feel it in your thigh, the condition is worsening.

Worry not, however. Here are some tips to help you manage your sciatic nerve pain naturally.

Tips To Manage Sciatica Pain Naturally

For the most part, you’ll want to give your back a bit of rest when you first have a flare up. Laying down can be really beneficial. However, prolonged bed rest can be detrimental to your recovery.

We often say “motion is lotion” and that is true for sciatica as well. Once you give yourself a bit of time to recover, try and get back to walking around and going about your day. You should also consider trying out stretches and exercises for sciatica pain relief.

You can try NSAIDs, such as advil or ibuprofen, to help with any inflammation. If your pain is incredibly severe, you may consider something a bit stronger, such as muscle relaxers if your doctor prescribes them.

Professional Care Options For Sciatica

If you have the time and resources, and your pain level warrants it, consider a professional care option. This can be chiropractic care, acupuncture, or physical therapy.

Physical therapy can be especially beneficial once your symptoms start to improve, as you can build up strength in that area to prevent future flare ups.

Final Thoughts On How Long It Will Take Sciatica To Heal

Now that you know your sciatic pain should reside within 4-8 weeks, you can rest assured you’ll be back to doing the things you love in no time.

In the meantime, take some anti-inflammatories and try to go about your business. If you notice any of the warning signs of nerve damage, schedule a doctor’s visit.

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers, MD

Sean Byers is currently a Resident in the Internal Medicine program at UTMB. He studied at the University of Queensland School of Medicine as well as received his Master’s in Public Health with a focus in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Southern California. His background is in biology, computer science, public health, and internal medicine.

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