Patients Ask: How Long Can Sciatica Last?

A woman grabs her lower back as pain shoots down along the sciatica nerve.

Many Americans are familiar with lower back pain—in fact, lower back pain is so prevalent that approximately 84% of all adults will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives, and about 8% of all adults are dealing with it while you read this article.

However, many people may not realize that issues with the back can also affect other parts of the body. Sciatica is one way these problems can manifest. 

Even though it’s not as common as general lower back pain, around 40% of Americans will experience sciatica in their lives. If you’re dealing with sciatica, you’re probably feeling pain in your legs, back, feet, or even your buttocks. But just how long can sciatica last?

In this article, we will explain what sciatica is, the different ways it affects the body, and how long it takes to recover from it.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica, sometimes called lumbar radiculopathy, is a condition that affects a part of the body known as the sciatic nerve. This nerve originates in the gluteal area with five nerve roots and runs along the entirety of the legs and feet with nerve endings that branch outward. 

It is the longest and thickest nerve in the entire body, and while it runs along the length of the lower extremities, its roots are in the back. Two of these roots are in the lumbar or lower back region of the spine, and three are located in the sacrum area of the spine (the portion that connects the spine to your pelvis).

The sciatic nerve controls the muscles in your lower legs and the back of your knees while also providing the sensation of feeling in your legs, hamstrings, and bottoms of your feet. When excess pressure is placed onto the nerve, it can become pinched or irritated, sending signals to other parts of the nervous system. 

Common causes of sciatica include: 

  • Postural issues
  • Herniated discs
  • Leg asymmetry
  • Bone spurs

In addition, certain risk factors play a role in sciatica. These include:

  • Age: As we age, our spine changes, and we can become more susceptible to poor posture, herniated discs, and bone spurs.
  • Weight: Being overweight increases the amount of pressure applied to the sciatic nerve.
  • Occupation: Jobs that require manual labor and repetitive movements such as twisting the back or driving for long periods can increase the risk of sciatica.
  • Lifestyle factors: Sedentary lifestyles contribute to sciatica because prolonged sitting can cause excess pressure to be applied to the nerve.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes increases the risk of nerve damage; this also applies to the sciatic nerve. 

The symptoms of sciatica can vary in intensity and range from mild to severe pain. Because sciatica is a condition involving nerve compression, symptoms are not isolated to one region, nor are they limited to just pain.

Common symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Burning, shooting, or radiating pain along the length of the sciatic nerve.
  • Numbness or sensations of “pins-and-needles” in the feet and legs.
  • Weakness in the feet and legs.
  • General discomfort in the leg.
  • Pain when bending forward or backward or when twisting.

It should also be noted that sciatica can affect each side of the body differently. Symptoms could be more severe on one side or not appear at all.

How Long Can Sciatica Last?

So, how long can sciatica last? The good news is that some forms of sciatica don’t last very long, and symptoms may go away on their own within a couple of weeks. However, other forms of sciatica may last a lot longer and could require treatment. 

Whether or not your sciatica symptoms will resolve on their own and the length of symptoms and recovery time depends wholly on the type of sciatica you have. Sciatica, like many other illnesses, can be acute, sub-acute, or chronic.

Type of Sciatica How Long It LastsTime of Recovery
Acute sciatica2-3 days1-2 weeks 
Sub-acute sciatica2-3 weeks  6-8 weeks
Chronic sciaticaMany years Recurring without treatment

How to Treat Sciatica

While it may be disheartening to know that your sciatica may take longer to recover from and could require treatment, there are many effective remedies for sciatica. Most people with sciatica will get better within a few weeks. 

If the symptoms are mild and don’t interfere with your daily activities, then you may want to start with some basic at-home treatments, such as:

If these options don’t provide relief and your sciatica persists for more than a few weeks, it may be time to consider more in-depth treatment options.

One such option is reaching out to a chiropractor for chiropractic care. Chiropractic care can provide immediate relief from symptoms associated with sciatica as well as non-invasive, long-term solutions.

Some chiropractic care treatments that can help alleviate sciatica are:

  • Chiropractic adjustments: Chiropractic adjustments use either the hands or a small device to apply controlled force to each joint in the spine. The lower back can benefit from chiropractic adjustments to increase mobility, ease inflammation and irritation, and lessen sciatic nerve pain. However, it’s important to note that if the cause of your sciatica is due to postural issues or spinal misalignments, chiropractic adjustments alone cannot fix it, and symptoms may persist.
  • Muscle therapy: Muscle therapies such as myofascial release can help relax the muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve, which can relieve symptoms. 

Certain treatments for sciatica will be more or less effective depending on the cause or source of your sciatica. For example, muscle or massage therapy may be effective for treating sciatica if the cause of sciatica is scar tissue and adhesions in the muscle or swelling. However, it may be less effective as a long-term solution if the cause of sciatica stems from a structural issue such as posture, spinal misalignment, or leg asymmetry (one leg longer than the other).

This is why it’s important to know what the actual cause of your sciatica is. That way, the most effective treatments can be implemented. 

PostureWorks Provides Effective Sciatica Relief 

How long sciatica lasts can depend on its cause and the treatments used to relieve it. At PostureWorks, we understand how debilitating sciatica can be. That’s why we use Chiropractic BioPhysics®, the gold standard in chiropractic care, to comprehensively assess your medical history and unique spinal curvature to isolate the cause of your sciatica. 

That way, we can develop a fully customized, non-invasive treatment plan that includes postural exercises, spinal traction, chiropractic adjustments, and neuromuscular reeducation, tailored to your unique needs. Not only will you receive relief from your symptoms, but you will receive care that provides a long-term resolution to prevent sciatica from returning.

Contact us today to learn more about how long sciatica can last or schedule your appointment with PostureWorks.

Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine to health and optimal function. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive.

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