When experiencing the aching and discomfort of sciatica, most people just want to know how long the pain will last. The duration of pain from sciatica can be acute or chronic. Acute sciatica usually resolves itself in a few weeks. However, it may recur and individuals can experience multiple sciatic episodes a year. Back pain is a serious issue that affects up to 80 percent of Americans at some time in their lives. It is stunning to learn that 39 percent of adults say that low back pain affects their ability to do even the simplest tasks in their daily lives.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a pain in the lower extremities. If you are experiencing any of these following symptoms, it may be due to issues with your sciatica nerve:
- numbness in the legs
- tingling sensation in the feet or toes
- mild to severe shooting pain from the lower back, through the buttock, and down the back of either leg
- excessive pain that makes standing or sitting nearly impossible
Unfortunately, as many as 40% of people will experience sciatica symptoms during their lifetime. When this happens, your entire focus is fixated on resolving the pain and finding methods to manage the intense discomfort throughout your body.
Sciatica is a symptom of an underlying medical condition. It usually occurs when the large sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed.
- The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, which is why it’s symptoms can cause so much discomfort
- The sciatic nerve begins in the spinal cord in the low back and extends through the buttock area to send nerve endings down the lower limbs
- Sciatica pain is typically felt from the low back to behind the thigh and radiates down below the knee
There are times where sciatica pain appears without warning. However, there are some common causes that include:
- A herniated disc (also referred to as a ruptured disc, pinched nerve, or slipped disc)
- Degenerative disc disease, a natural process that occurs with aging
- Lumbar spinal stenosis which is a narrowing of the spinal canal
- Osteoarthritis that results in the reduction of the opening through which the nerve roots exit the lower spine
- Piriformis syndrome, in which the piriformis muscle in the buttock compresses the sciatic nerve
With proper care and treatment, the symptoms of acute sciatica usually do not last longer than four to eight weeks. In fact, most healthcare experts believe that with proper treatment, sciatica will go away on its own. Data reveals that approximately half of people with acute sciatica will recover within six weeks. But, if the pain persists for more than eight weeks, imaging tests such as an X-ray or MRI may be necessary to help identify what is compressing the sciatic nerve and causing the symptoms.
Choosing the proper recovery program for sciatica pain is essential to returning to health. Treatments for sciatica depend on the underlying cause and the severity of the pain. That is why working with qualified and knowledgeable health professionals who can develop a personalized plan is critical to for optimum recovery. One patient’s treatment options may be very different than those of another. The goal of a rehabilitation program is to decrease pain and increase mobility. A complete plan can include a range of options such as:
Physical therapy. In physical therapy, it is important that a trained professional evaluate and treat the condition. Stretching and strengthening movements help alleviate sciatic pain. Stretches target muscles that cause pain when they are tight and inflexible. Exercises that strengthen the core and back muscles are beneficial as well and may help prevent future flare-ups.
Water therapy. Water’s natural buoyancy helps lighten the weight of the body when moving. Activities such as lifting your legs are a great deal easier in water and there is less chance of injury. The viscosity of water provides natural resistance, allowing simple exercises to go farther in building strength.
Medication. This can include both over-the-counter or prescription medications. Also, oral steroids can reduce the inflammation that is usually part of the cause of pain.
Injections such as an epidural steroid may help reduce inflammation and temporarily eliminate the pain. These types of injections work to reduce swelling and inflammation of the nerve roots, allowing for increased comfort and mobility.
Prevention. The old saying is true; “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So, practice these healthy lifestyle strategies:
- Exercise regularly to maintain strength in your back
- Maintain a good posture
- Avoid bending over to lift heavy objects
- Maintain a healthy diet since obesity and diabetes are risk factors for sciatica
Treating sciatica requires the expertise of pain specialists. Arizona Pain and Spine Institute specializes in pain management and offers personalized solutions for sciatica and other conditions. Our team includes highly trained, compassionate providers. We are a committed and skilled staff of pain management doctors and experts who will help you find answers to existing pain. To learn more, visit our website to see what our clients say about us.
If you are suffering from sciatica or any type of condition that is causing you pain, we can help. At Arizona Pain and Spine, our professional, knowledgeable and experienced pain specialists provide safe and effective pain management and individualized treatment solutions. Our mission is to improve every patients’ quality of life by alleviating and managing their pain. Call us now at (480) 986-7246 and make an appointment today to begin your road to a pain-free life.