How Long Does Sciatica Last (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 4 To 8 Weeks

Sciatica refers to the pain that occurs along the sciatic nerve. It affects the lower back, hips, buttocks and legs. Patients affected only experience pain on one side of the body. 

Sciatica may last for anywhere from four to eight weeks. However, in worst cases, the pain may last for more than 12 months. The duration of the pain depends on if the condition is acute or chronic and its underlying cause. 

How Long Does Sciatica Last?

Sciatica may be of different types depending on the duration of the symptoms. The first type, acute Sciatica, lasts for 4 to 8 weeks. Patients may feel pain and numbness, which usually resolves by itself or with self-treatment. Patients with the condition experience sciatic pain a few times a year. 

Acute Sciatica may eventually turn to chronic Sciatica if the underlying cause is severe. Chronic Sciatica lasts for over eight weeks and requires medical intervention. If the pain lasts over a year, the patient may require surgical treatment.

Patients with sciatica due to a herniated disc experience painful symptoms for six months. The pain generally goes away within six months. A herniated disc is when a fragment of the disc nucleus comes out from between the vertebrae. The displaced disk presses on the sciatic nerve producing pain.

Spondylolisthesis is another condition that causes Sciatica. It occurs when a vertebra slides forward on the adjacent vertebrae. Spondylolisthesis occurs in individuals partaking in physical sports such as weightlifting or gymnastics. The majority of patients recover in three to six months with proper treatment. Recovery time differs for each individual.

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People who experience Sciatica due to degenerative disc disease heal within three months. Degenerative disc disease is the common cause of back pain in the aging population caused due to wear-and-tear on a spinal disc. 

Sciatica pain caused by the sacroiliac joint may vanish within several days or take months, depending on its severity. Acute SI Sciatica pain disappears within weeks, but chronic pain lasts over three months. 

Muscle spasms may be another cause of Sciatica. Sciatica pain caused by spasms resolves in one to two weeks. 

In summary,

Type/Underlying CauseDuration
Acute Sciatica4 to 8 weeks
Chronic Sciatica over 8 weeks
Sciatica due to a herniated disc6 months
Sciatica due to spondylolisthesis 3 to 6 months
Sciatica due to degenerative disc disease Within 3 months
Sciatica due to muscle spasms 1 to 2 weeks

Why Does Sciatica Last So Long?

Sciatica occurs when a sciatic nerve gets pinched. There are a few contributing factors like a herniated disc or an overgrowth of the bone, known as a bone spur. This action causes pain and inflammation in the affected area. The pain caused is severe, and the patient may take some time to recover. 

One gets acute Sciatica due to various lifestyle choices. For example, sitting for long periods with a bad posture can trigger symptoms or make them worse. Even lying down for lengthy periods can aggravate the condition. Lifting heavy objects without the proper technique may also worsen the symptoms. Patients diagnosed introduce exercise and topical treatments that are sufficient to treat the symptoms in four to eight weeks. 

Chronic Sciatica may develop due to repeated strain on the back due to an occupational hazard or obesity. Hence, such individuals experience pain for over eight weeks. Another risk factor, aging, causes wear and tear of the spine. Therefore, the individual may experience herniated discs or bone spurs that require surgery. 

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Diabetes is one factor that may prolong the duration of sciatica symptoms. The condition affects the way the body uses blood sugar, increasing the risk of further nerve damage. 

Conclusion

Sciatica is the pain that affects one side of the body. The condition occurs when the sciatic nerve gets pinched by a bone spur or herniated disk. In the case of acute Sciatica, simple home remedies and exercises are sufficient to treat the symptoms. However, patients with chronic Sciatica must receive proper medical help. 

Caring for Sciatica is a part of daily living. Patients must keep up with physical activity and routine exercises, along with lifestyle modifications to reduce or prevent Sciatica. 

Reference

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1521694209001417
  2. https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM198802043180506
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