- How Long Does It Take for Sciatica to Go Away?
- So how quickly can one expect to get well?
- 9 Myths and Facts About Sciatica
- Myth 1: Sciatica Is a Condition or a Diagnosis
- Myth 2: All Leg Pain Qualifies as Sciatica
- Myth 3: We Don’t Know What Causes Sciatica
- Myth 4: A Specific Event Brings on Sciatica
- Myth 5: If You Have Sciatica, You Should Stay in Bed and Rest
- Myth 6: Medication Is the Best Way to Provide Relief From Sciatica
- Myth 7: Surgery Is the Only Way to Truly Remedy Sciatica
- Myth 8: Sometimes Nothing Helps Sciatica
- Myth 9: Sciatica Cannot Be Prevented
- What does sciatica feel like?
- How long does sciatica last?
- Complications of sciatica
- When to see a doctor?
- Physio Works – Physiotherapy Brisbane
- What is the Prognosis for Sciatica?
- Other Treatment Options
- When Should You Contact Your Physiotherapist?
- How to Prevent Sciatica?
- Why does Pinching a Nerve Hurt?
- Common Sciatica Treatment Techniques
- Helpful Sciatica Products
- Related Conditions
- FAQs about Sciatica
- How Long Does Sciatica Last?
- How Long Does Sciatica Last? / Acute Attacks
How Long Does It Take for Sciatica to Go Away?
So how quickly can one expect to get well?
Perhaps the worst thing about the sciatica is a little bit of unpredictability around it. Every case is different, in every individual reason for nerve compression varies, and thus the prognosis. In some cases, pain may subside all of a sudden after a couple of weeks, while in some cases condition may linger on for months even with intensive treatment.
However, there is no need to lose heart; it is vital to understand that most people would recover entirely within month or two with general painkillers and physiotherapy. Essential is not to neglect the things, it is extremely important to treat sciatica with a combination of non-pharmacological methods, and one should stick to them. Thus do yoga, stretching exercise, go to a physiotherapist, consult chiropractic or osteopath, take health supplements, use over the counter pain relievers. Just remember that in most cases of sciatica 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 back muscles, relaxation techniques. In lower back conditions like sciatica strengthening of the abdomen is also very important, as abs muscles are major supporting muscles.
Finally, one should try to identify the causes of sciatica. If it is stress, yoga or tai chi or practicing mindfulness may help. If the reason is obesity or diabetes, shedding 10% of your body weight may do wonder. And do not forget to take supplement known to be good for nerve health like B12 or fish oil.
Alarming False Facts!
This is a special treat. Here are 5 unexpected false facts about neuropathy.
Read the false facts about the causes and treatment procedures of neuropathy your doctor mistakenly promotes. Get them now!
9 Myths and Facts About Sciatica
Myth 1: Sciatica Is a Condition or a Diagnosis
Fact: People commonly call sciatica a condition or a diagnosis, but it is really a symptom, indicating that something is irritating a nerve root in the lower back.
“The important thing is to decipher what is causing the pressure on the nerve,” says Peter Ottone, a chiropractor in Brick, New Jersey.
Myth 2: All Leg Pain Qualifies as Sciatica
Fact: Ottone often hears from people who believe that any leg pain qualifies as sciatica, but that’s not true.
“Leg pain can be induced by vascular issues, muscle strains, cellulitis, or a different nerve being irritated, such as the femoral nerve, which would cause pain in the front of the leg,” Dr. Ottone says.
“A true sciatic symptom runs from the mid-buttock down the back of the leg, commonly past the knee and down through the calf.”
Myth 3: We Don’t Know What Causes Sciatica
Fact: Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched or compressed, and that typically is caused by a bulging or herniated disk between the vertebrae in the lower spine.
It can also be caused by a bone spur, or bony growth, on the spine itself or by spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal. In rare cases, a spinal tumor can compress the nerve, causing sciatic pain.
Myth 4: A Specific Event Brings on Sciatica
Fact: “People often think if they didn’t lift that suitcase, sit on a long flight, or help a friend move they would not have pain,” said David A. Spinner, DO, the director of pain medicine and endoscopic lumbar surgery for the department of rehabilitation medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and an assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
“Most of the time, the intervertebral disk has a small defect and is ready to herniate, and not necessarily caused from that specific event,” Dr. Spinner says.
According to Loren Fishman, MD, an assistant clinical professor at Columbia Medical School and the medical director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, most people have isolated or, occasionally, repeating episodes of sciatica; it’s major when it happens, but overall it’s a minor part of their lives.
“After all, 80 percent of Americans have back pain or sciatica at one point or another, so it’s really part of being normal,” says Dr. Fishman.
While a specific event may not lead to sciatica, certain jobs may. A study published in European Spine Journal in June 2017 found that physically demanding work is a strong risk factor for sciatica. For men, the jobs associated with higher risk included metal, machine, and other industrial work. For women, the risk was higher among nurses, sales workers, and industrial workers. (1)
Myth 5: If You Have Sciatica, You Should Stay in Bed and Rest
Fact: “Most patients do better if they remain active and avoid excessive rest,” says Atul Patel, MD, a physiatrist at the Kansas City Bone and Joint Clinic, with locations in Kansas and Missouri.
Numerous studies have found that there is little to no benefit to staying in bed compared with staying active for people with sciatica. (2)
Myth 6: Medication Is the Best Way to Provide Relief From Sciatica
Fact: You might think that taking an analgesic or anti-inflammatory drug could ease the pain of sciatica, but in fact, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in February 2012 in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) found a lack of evidence of the efficacy of drugs including NSAIDs, corticosteroids, antidepressants, and opioid analgesics.
“There is at best only low-quality evidence to judge the efficacy and tolerability of drugs commonly prescribed for the management of sciatica in primary care,” the authors concluded. (3)
But short-term treatment with an anti-inflammatory or acetaminophen can be helpful for some people.
For people with persistent severe symptoms that don’t respond to analgesics or improve with activity modification, other treatment options include taking oral steroids or receiving epidural steroid injections — injections into the epidural space around the spinal cord.
But as Patel notes, “Epidural steroid injections are typically indicated for acute radiculopathy . They do not typically help for chronic sciatica.”
Myth 7: Surgery Is the Only Way to Truly Remedy Sciatica
Most cases of sciatica resolve within about six weeks and do not need surgery, says Stephen Tolhurst, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Texas Back Institute in Flower Mound.
Other treatments, including physical therapy and epidural injections, can be useful. But “if these treatments fail, or, in rare cases, where there is severe weakness, numbness, or pain, surgery can substantially and durably improve sciatic pain,” Dr. Tolhurst says.
Myth 8: Sometimes Nothing Helps Sciatica
“I commonly hear patients worry that there is no cure or that nothing can be done to improve their symptoms. I also hear patients worry that surgical treatment might not be successful,” Tolhurst says. “Fortunately, very high quality scientific studies have repeatedly shown that most symptoms improve and that, if needed, surgery is highly effective.”
Myth 9: Sciatica Cannot Be Prevented
Not all cases of sciatica can be prevented, but staying active — and using proper form during activities — can go a long way toward reducing the incidence and recurrence of lower back pain, according to Fishman.
Spinner adds that maintaining a strong core — that is, strengthening the muscles in your abdomen and back — can also help prevent sciatica recurrence.
Pilates is notable for increasing core strength and can be adapted to many health conditions, including sciatica.
Ottone contributes a few more suggestions: “Sciatica can be prevented by practicing good posture, minimizing sitting, managing weight, maintaining good hamstring flexibility, and maintaining good spinal alignment.”
Sciatica is a pain that radiates down the back, though the buttocks, and into the leg. The most common question people ask is: how long is this going to last? We want to know how long each attack will last and how long between flare-ups, but the answer may be more complicated than just simply giving a definite length of time. There are unfortunate individuals who have pain that doesn’t go away, often leaving them with suffering from chronic and persistent pain.
What most doctors and medical professionals can agree on is that there is no universally applicable answer to this question. This article will address questions such as, does sciatica go away on its own? What does sciatica feel like? And can sciatica go away? We will also discuss the causes of sciatica pain, severe complications of sciatica, and sciatica relief.
What does sciatica feel like?
Sciatica is a pain in the lower back or hip that radiates down into the buttocks and into the back of the leg along the sciatic nerve, with the pain often terminating in the foot. It is often the result of a pinched or inflamed sciatic nerve, which can occur after an injury, muscular strain, or herniated vertebral disc. Sciatic pain typically goes away on its own within a few weeks.
This type of pain can be difficult to describe, as it can take a number of different forms. It may feel like more of a cramping or numbing pain sensation that worsens when you sit, sneeze, or cough. It may be described as numbness combined with an electrical or burning sensation running down the leg, or even just as “pins and needles” along the leg. Pain associated with sciatica can be accompanied with muscle weakness, and it sometimes results in loss of bowel and bladder control, which would require emergency care treatment.
Current statistics show that 80 to 90 percent of all patients recover within six weeks without surgery.
How long does sciatica last?
Acute sciatica attacks
Acute attacks are by far the most common complaint in those with sciatic pain, with symptoms coming and going. The frequency of flare-ups can vary from patient to patient, with some having more episodes and others only having them on occasion. The following are some of the facts associated with acute episodes of sciatica:
- Attack episodes do not typically last long in patients with a limited history of attacks—less than five years. These patients have occasional bouts of sciatic pain they might endure for about a week or two that gets better on its own. However, some may find these flare-up periods severely debilitating, as they are not accustomed to the pain, frequently leading to feelings of anxiousness and stress.
- There is no clear evidence of any triggers that lead to flare-ups of sciatica pain, but certain physical and emotional instigators may be potential causes.
- Statistically, acute pattern flare-ups may occur between two to six times a year, but there are patients who experience more or even less.
Chronic sciatica attacks
As the name suggests, chronic symptoms exist over longer periods of time or virtually all the time. This category of sciatic pain is often described as a pain that never really goes away. The severity of the symptoms, however, is often not as intense as it was when they first developed sciatica. Over time, their tolerance for pain has increased, allowing them to endure it for lengthy periods of time. The following are some facts associated with chronic episodes of sciatica:
- Chronic pain sufferers often report their symptoms to be less severe over time, along with decreased levels of anxiety and fear that once was associated with the condition
- It is rare for a person to just suddenly develop chronic sciatica from nowhere and have the pain remain for an extended period of time
- Chronic sciatic is, unfortunately, a lifelong condition, as it is one of the most difficult pain disorders to resolve
While there are cases of individuals who make full recovery from sciatic pain, the harsh truth of the matter is that the majority of patients will have some degree of pain for the rest of their lives. Sciatica does not respond well to most forms of treatment, with no accurate explanation for its cause.
Complications of sciatica
While most people fully recover from sciatic pain, it can still potentially cause some serious complications, such as:
- Loss of feeling in the affected leg
- Weakness in the affected leg
- Loss of bowel and bladder function
When to see a doctor?
Experiencing sciatic type symptoms should prompt you to go see your doctor right away, as it can drastically reduce the length of time you suffer from the condition. Your doctor may also help you determine if you are at risk for any further complication and provide treatment that is best for you. While mild sciatic pain can go away in time, it’s a good rule of thumb to call your doctor if you are finding your pain to be particularly unbearable.
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What is sciatica?
Sciatica is pain in the lower back or hip that radiates down into the buttock and back of the leg along the sciatic nerve, often to the foot. Sciatic pain is the result of a pinched or inflamed sciatic nerve and can occur following an injury, muscular strain or herniated (“slipped”) vertebral disc that presses on the nerve. Fortunately, sciatica usually goes away on its own within a few weeks.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
The pain of sciatica can take a number of forms – it may feel like a cramp in the leg, may worsen when you sit, sneeze or cough, and may show up as numbness, burning, tingling, an electrical shock or as “pins-and-needles” along the leg. Muscle weakness can occur either due to pain or pressure on the nerve. Loss of bowel or bladder control is a rare but serious complication that requires emergency treatment.
Only 10 to 25 percent of all cases last more than six weeks and 80 to 90 percent of all people with sciatica recover, in time, without surgery.
What are the causes of sciatica?
The two sciatic nerves are the longest nerves in the body, running from the lower spinal cord down the buttock and hip, and continuing down the back of each leg to the foot. Each carries nerve signals for motor control of several muscles of the lower leg as well as sensation to the backs of the thighs, calves and feet.
Anything that compresses a sciatic nerve for prolonged periods of time can cause sciatica. Sometimes this is the result of herniation in a disc of the lower back. Age-related changes to the spine cause deterioration to the shock-absorbing pads of cartilage that separate the back bones (vertebrae) from each other. These pads create space between the bones, allowing a place for the nerves to travel as they leave the spinal cord. If these discs rupture, their inner gelatinous substance can seep out and push against the nerves. Degenerative arthritis can also cause a narrowing of the space between vertebrae or cause one vertebra to slip forward onto another. This can pinch a root of the sciatic nerve, and cause similar symptoms.
Trauma from a car accident or blow to the spine can injure the sciatic nerve directly, as can muscular strains of the large lower back muscles and spasms of the piriformis muscle that runs directly over the nerve. As these muscles become tight or go into spasm, they can create a rope-like tension that irritates the nerve. Tumors of the spine, spinal cord, or the nerve itself are rare causes of chronic sciatic pain.
In addition to getting older, being in a job that requires constant twisting, heavy-lifting or driving can make one more prone to sciatica. The constant sitting that occurs as a result of a desk-job or being overly sedentary can also put excess pressure on the lower back and legs. And finally those with diabetes have an increased risk of sciatica due to the damage that occurs to peripheral nerves when blood sugars are abnormally high.
What is the conventional treatment for sciatica?
For most people, sciatic pain responds well to simple measures, including hot and cold packs, stretching exercises and the use of over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) like ibubrofen. In some instances, doctors will prescribe an NSAID along with a muscle relaxant to treat tension and muscle spasm. Narcotics may be given to deal with poorly controlled sciatic pain, although they can become addictive when prescribed for long periods of time. Chronic sciatic pain – longer than 2-3 months – can be treated with narcotic pain patches or the use of tricyclic antidepressants and anticonvulsant drugs, which work by blocking pain messages to the brain or by enhancing the body’s own production of endorphins. These medications can have side effects which include constipation, dry mouth, weight gain, bladder problems, blurred vision and dizziness.
Most conventional doctors recommend physical therapy with stretching exercises as soon as the pain begins to diminish. You often can begin this rehabilitation by taking short walks even before starting physical therapy. Rehabilitation typically includes exercises to help correct posture, improve flexibility, and strengthen lower back and leg muscles. Massage therapy, ultrasound, and other techniques are often included in a therapy session, which typically lasts one hour.
When conservative measures don’t alleviate pain within a few months, an epidural steroid injection or nerve block may be considered. Typically, a steroid is given along with a numbing agent – sometimes under X-ray guidance – into the area of suspicious nerve irritation with the hope that it will suppress inflammation and help relieve sciatic pain. These types of procedures are still under investigation as to how effective they are. Some research has found that corticosteroids can provide short-term symptom relief; however, data doesn’t seem to confirm its long-term usefulness. In addition, because of the side effects steroids can have, the number of injections you can receive is limited – usually no more than three in one year.
Surgery to correct a herniated disc is usually reserved for times when the compressed nerve causes significant weakness, bowel or bladder incontinence, or when pain gets progressively worse or doesn’t improve with other therapies. Most current surgical options involve a lumbar laminectomy with diskectomy, where the herniated portion of the disc is removed, relieving the compression and retaining as much normal disc anatomy as possible. Sometimes a surgeon will perform this operation through a small incision while looking through a microscope (microdiskectomy). Fusion of vertebrae for sciatica is rarely done. Success rates of standard diskectomy versus microdiskectomy are about equal, although sometimes pain control and recovery time can be better with the lesser intervention of miscrosurgery.
What therapies does Dr. Weil recommend for sciatica?
Regarding surgery to remove part or all of a herniated disk, Dr. Weil recommends considering it only if, after three months of treatment, you still have disabling leg pain. Luckily, that is rarely the case.
If the problem is muscular, specific stretches that can relax the piraformis muscle are frequently beneficial and can bring immediate relief.
Anyone with chronic low back pain should review the recommendations in that section and consider the books written by Dr. John Sarno.
The best therapy is prevention. Maintain ideal weight, engage in regular physical activity several times a week, and avoid prolonged sitting as much as possible. Also, carrying a large wallet in the hip pocket of pants can sometimes cause or aggravate sciatica – remove unnecessary items and/or find alternative ways to transport your money, identification and other essentials. If you are diagnosed with sciatica, Dr. Weil recommends these treatment options:
- Acupuncture: The National Institutes of Health recognizes acupuncture as an acceptable alternative to conventional therapies for low back pain. Look for an acupuncturist accredited by the American Association of Oriental Medicine or the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.
- Bodywork: Both the Alexander Technique and the Trager Approach can help overcome back pain. The Trager Approach includes table work (a practitioner gently rocks and lengthens your body to release tension) followed by a movement lesson for continued self-care. The Alexander Technique can help relieve pain and prevent recurrences by correcting poor posture and teaching proper patterns of movement.
- Therapeutic Yoga: Yoga can help relieve pain and protect against recurrences by strengthening your back. It also can balance nervous functioning, promote flexibility and neutralize stress, all of which contribute to back pain. (Therapeutic yoga may offer more benefits than physical therapy.)
- Osteopathic Manipulation: This system of manipulation of the musculoskeletal system can be a highly effective treatment and usually requires only a few visits to a qualified practitioner.
Physio Works – Physiotherapy Brisbane
Please check with your physiotherapist or doctor for their professional opinion.
What is the Prognosis for Sciatica?
Fortunately, sciatica usually eases after a short period of rest and avoiding aggravating activities. Everyone is different because of the various pathologies that cause sciatica, but 90% plus of sciatica suffers will be asymptomatic within six weeks.
About one in every 50 people experiences sciatica as a result of a herniated disc. Of these, 10-25 percent has symptoms lasting more than six weeks. About 80-90 percent of people with sciatica get better, over time.
All sciatica patients who suffer pain that lasts longer than six weeks should undertake a specific exercise regime to regain control of their symptoms in an effort to avoid spinal surgery.
Other Treatment Options
A back brace or corset can provide excellent relief for most sciatica sufferers. Those who gain the most benefit are those who find their pain eases when they wrap/bind a towel or sheet (folded-lengthwise) tightly around their stomach and back. If this simple test eases your pain, you should use a back brace in the short-term. Back braces and strong deep core muscles help to avoid a recurrence in the future.
Back braces are available from PhysioWorks or via the following web link: Back Brace
Your spinal muscles will often present in muscle spasm, which responds favourably to soft tissue techniques such as massage therapy. You should seek the assistance of a quality remedial massage therapist to assist your sciatica treatment.
Discover more about Massage.
Acupuncture has been an effective source of pain relief for over 5000 years. While we do not fully understand how it works, acupuncture can assist you pain relief. Ask your physiotherapist for advice as most of our PhysioWorks physiotherapists have acupuncture training.
Find out more about: Acupuncture.
TENS machines are an electronic pain relieving device that will reduce your pain and your need for pain-relieving drugs. More information can be found here: Tens Machine
Swiss Exercise Ball
The unstable surface that your Swiss Exercise Ball provides can help awaken your deep core stability muscles. Your physiotherapist can advise you specific exercises or you can download some exercise plans from the following web link: Ball Exercises
Poor sitting posture is a common cause of sciatica. To assist the support of your lower back many simple and effective products have been developed over time. These include:
- Lumbar D-Roll
- Bassett Frame
- Kinesiology Lumbar Tape
Please ask your physiotherapist for their advice in what will help you most.
When Should You Contact Your Physiotherapist?
Contact your Physiotherapist if sciatica pain grows worse over a few days, or if it begins to interfere significantly with your daily activities.
Call your physiotherapist or doctor immediately if you experience sudden, extreme weakness in a leg, numbness in the groin or rectum, or difficulty controlling bladder or bowel function. Patients with these symptoms may have cauda equina syndrome and should seek immediate medical attention. This condition can cause permanent damage if not quickly treated.
How to Prevent Sciatica?
If your life involves a lot of sitting, a back brace or an external ergonomic support such as a Lumbar Roll or Bassett Frame can be very useful in avoiding future bouts.
Following treatment for sciatica, you will probably be able to resume your normal lifestyle and keep your pain under control. However, it’s always possible for your disk to rupture again. This happens to about five percent of people with sciatica.
Once the pain of sciatica passes, there are strengthening and postural exercises, stretches and other measures that help prevent its return. Please contact your physiotherapist for specific advice. Here are some steps you can take in the meantime:
Practice Good Posture.
Stand up straight and stretch yourself upwards “trying to grow as tall as you can”. This will help to turn on your deep abdominal muscles that open the spaces in your spine where your nerves are vulnerable to pinching.
Avoid Postures that Hurt.
Depending on where your nerve is pinched, you may experience pain when sitting, standing, walking or even lying down. It is important to avoid whichever postures aggravate your pain. If it’s painful to sit for more than 5 minutes, limit your sitting to 4 minutes. Take regular breaks to stand and walk around. If you must be on your feet, prop one foot on a small block or footrest, and then switch feet throughout the day. Your body provides heaps of painful hints. Listen carefully and you will recover quicker.
Walking and swimming can help to strengthen your lower back. Lift objects safely. Always lift from a squatting position, using your hips and legs to do the heavy work. Never bend over and lift with a straight back. Look up as you lift.
Use Proper Sleeping Posture.
Take the pressure off your back by sleeping on your side or on your back with a pillow under your knees. If you don’t feel pain, you are in the right position.
Avoid Wearing High Heels.
Shoes with heels that are more than 1½ inches high shift your weight forward, excessively arches your back and can further pinch the sciatic nerve.
For more advice about Sciatica, please contact your physiotherapist.
Why does Pinching a Nerve Hurt?
Nerves have many functions, transmitting messages around the body, rather like a telephone system. They allow us to feel things that happen to us, such as things we touch or that touch us, hot and cold, and pain, and they cause our body to do things, eg making your leg muscles contract when you want to walk.
When a nerve is squashed, it may malfunction, and we might feel pain, numbness, pins and needles, and we might find our limbs are weak or do not work in the way they should. The nerve may also get inflamed and irritated by chemicals from the disc’s nucleus, without surgery.
Pressure on the sciatic nerve from a herniated disc usually causes sciatica. The problem is also termed a radiculopathy, meaning that a disc has protruded from its normal position in the vertebral column and is pinching the root (origin) of the sciatic nerve.
The degree of pain is often “ridiculously” high as well. Less direct nerve pinching e.g. swelling around the nerve is usually a less severe dull ache. However, this can progress into a radiculopathy as swelling increases.
Other things can cause irritation of or pressure on a nerve in the spine. Sometimes this may be a rough and enlarged part of one of the bony vertebrae, brought about by ageing. Rarely, infections and tumours are to blame. Most times the cause is nothing too serious, but one of the reasons for seeing your physiotherapist or doctor if the pain persists is to exclude these serious and treatable causes.
For individualised advice regarding the best management for your sciatica, please consult your physiotherapist or doctor.
Common Sciatica Treatment Techniques
Helpful Sciatica Products
- Lower Back Pain
- Back Cramps
- Back Muscle Pain
- Core Stability Deficiency
- DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
- Side Strain
- Back Stress Fracture
- Scheuermann’s Disease
- Spinal Stenosis
- Stress Fracture Spine (Cricket Bowlers)
- Bulging Disc – Slipped Disc – Herniated Disc
- Degenerative Disc Disease
Back Joint Injuries
- Facet Joint Pain
- Nerve Pain
- Pinched Nerve
- Sacroiliac Joint Pain
- Piriformis Syndrome
- Pregnancy Back Pain
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Back Treatment Options
- Back Exercises
- Lower Back Pain Treatment
FAQs about Sciatica
Surgery is rarely needed for sciatica.
But a type of surgery called lumbar decompression surgery may be considered if:
- the condition has an identifiable cause, such as a slipped disc
- the symptoms haven’t responded to other forms of treatment
- the symptoms are getting progressively worse
Decompression surgery can involve several different techniques, such as:
- discectomy – where the part of the herniated disc pressing on your nerve is removed; this is the most common type of surgery required
- fusion surgery – it may be possible to fuse a vertebra that has slipped out of place by using a metal or plastic cage between the vertebra, supported with metal rods and screws
- laminectomy – a procedure often used to treat spinal stenosis, where a section of vertebrae called the lamina is removed
Many people have a positive result from surgery but, as with all surgical procedures, spinal surgery carries some risks.
Potential complications range from the relatively minor, such as an infection at the operation site, to the more serious, such as permanent damage to the spinal nerves.
Before choosing spinal surgery, your surgeon will discuss the relative risks and benefits with you.
How Long Does Sciatica Last?
How long does sciatica last? This is a very common inquiry made by patients towards their doctors, as well as a frequent question that we receive here at The Sciatica Authority on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, there is little good news for us to share on this topic, since sciatica is well known to be a chronic and therapy-defiant health crisis.
The duration of sciatica can mean different things to different inquirers. Some patients want to know how long each attack might last or how much time they might enjoy without symptoms in between flare-ups. Other patients have persistent pain that never goes away and these people want to know if their sciatica will ever leave them in peace.
While there are no universally applicable answers to any of these questions, there is a tremendous amount of statistical evidence that we have compiled over our many years of patient advocacy work. Therefore, the scope of this dialog is to discuss the timeline of sciatica and how long patients might expect various manifestations to endure in their lives.
How Long Does Sciatica Last? / Acute Attacks
Acute attacks represent a very typical patient complaint, with symptoms coming and going from time to time. Some patients suffer frequent flare-ups of sciatica, while others only endure occasional bouts of misery. Here are the some of the facts we have collected about recurrent acute sciatica attacks:
In patients with a limited history of attacks (less than 5 years), episodes typically do not last too long. Most of these patients have occasional painful bouts of sciatica that might endure for a week or two, and then slowly get better so that the patient makes a full, or nearly full, recovery. These episodic attacks are often terribly fierce and can be debilitating in some instances. Since patients are not accustomed to the pain, they frequently become very frightened and stressed, often exacerbating the expressions exponentially.
These patterned attacks may or may not be linked to trigger factors, although most are definitely caused by certain physical or emotional instigators. However, these causations might not be immediately recognized by the patient or their care providers. Statistically, acute patterned flare-ups might occur between 2 to 6 times yearly, although there are patients with fewer and more attacks, as well.
How Long Does Sciatica Last? / Chronic Conditions
Chronic sciatica describes conditions where symptoms exist all the time, or virtually all the time. The patient never gets any real semblance of full relief from their pain, although many victims do report significant changes in the severity of symptoms. Statistically, most chronic sciatica patients do not suffer this type of pain right from the commencement of their first attack. Instead, chronic pain conditions usually build over time, often replacing occasional acute attacks with never-ending pain.
The good news is that chronic pain sufferers often report their symptoms to be less severe when they reach the persistent stage. However, there remains great speculation that the symptoms are actually just as painful, but the patient has learned to better cope with the pain out of habit and necessity. Furthermore, the fear of the condition often diminishes over time, alleviating much of the collateral effects of previous unpredictable acute flare-ups.
Patients who do begin experiencing chronic versions of sciatica right from the start generally have significant injurious explanations for the symptoms. It is rare for a person to just suddenly develop chronic sciatica from nowhere and have the pain remain for an extended timeframe.
The bad news is that once a sciatica condition reaches a chronic state, it is one of the most difficult of all dorsalgia syndromes to resolve. Being that virtually all forms of back and neck pain can be stubborn and long-lasting, this is a horrifying truth. Treatment notwithstanding, including all forms of surgery, chronic sufferers will likely have some degree of pain for life, if their persistent symptoms endure for more than a year.
How Long Does Sciatica Last? / Summation
We see lots of patients who break the mold on these statistics, since individual cases vary tremendously. However, over the last 15 years of compiling research evidence, these patient citations have remained constant and do represent the vast majority of people who take part in our ongoing clinical statistic collection efforts.
Sciatica is not likely to go away easily, if at all. Sciatica does not respond well to most forms of treatment. Worse still, many cases of sciatica do not even enjoy the benefit of an accurate diagnosis to explain the causative origin of the symptoms. No wonder most patients become chronic and suffer for the long haul.
In the last year, I have personally broken some of the statistical standards of our own research. Having suffered with sciatica for decades already, in acute, then chronic forms, I was very accepting of the fact that my pain might be there until I die. However, my sciatica finally yielded to my latest attempts at treatment and I am now lucky to say that I am completely cured.
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