Signs Sciatica is Getting Worse: What Patients Need to Know

A man sits in front of his computer at his desk, holding his back in pain as a result of failing to get treated after showing signs that sciatica is getting worse.

Sciatica is a condition caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve, the largest and thickest nerve in the body, or the tissues surrounding it. The sciatic nerve is critical in providing sensation and movement to the lower extremities. 

Sciatica can be caused by various factors, such as:

  • Herniated discs
  • Poor posture
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Trauma
  • Piriformis syndrome

Sciatica symptoms include shooting pain, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, sensory changes, difficulty sleeping, and discomfort while sitting or standing for long periods. The intensity and duration of symptoms vary depending on the cause. 

While it’s a condition that often responds well to treatment, what happens if sciatica is left untreated? Below, we’ll explore telltale signs that sciatica is getting worse, and introduce you to a possible solution that could get you back to living your life to the fullest. 

Signs Sciatica Is Getting Worse

While some forms of sciatica may resolve independently within a couple of weeks, chronic cases of sciatica with an underlying cause could linger for significantly longer and will likely require treatment. 

There are three types of sciatica—acute, sub-acute, and chronic. 

Type of Sciatica How Long It Lasts Estimated Time of Recovery Without Treatment
Acute sciatica 2-3 days 1-2 weeks
Sub-acute sciatica 2-3 weeks 6-8 weeks
Chronic sciatica Many years Recurring

Acute and sub-acute cases of sciatica are normally caused by trauma or inflammation of the muscles and tissue surrounding the sciatic nerve, which is why it may recover on its own within relatively short periods.

However, if you’re showing signs of sciatica getting worse and your sciatica isn’t going away within a few weeks, you likely have an underlying condition that needs to be addressed.

So, what are the signs that sciatica is getting worse? The table below lists some of the telltale signs to look out for. 

Signs Sciatica Is Getting Worse
Chronic Pain with Increased Intensity The long-term pain and discomfort associated with sciatica can become chronic and increase significantly in severity. This pain often gets worse at night.
Muscle Weakness and Difficulty Walking Sciatica that is getting worse can cause muscle weakness or, in extreme cases, atrophy in the affected leg, which can make it difficult to perform even simple movements. Numbness in these muscles and a limited range of motion are also common.
Nerve Damage As it worsens, untreated sciatica can cause the sciatic nerve itself to become damaged, which can lead to telltale signs of worsening sciatica, such as impaired reflexes and progressive mobility issues.
Bladder and Bowel Dysfunction In rare cases, sciatica can lead to a condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome, a severe condition affecting the nerve bundles at the base of the spinal cord that can lead to urinary or fecal incontinence and other serious health issues.

The longer sciatica goes untreated, the higher the risk of developing complications from sciatica, and the worse symptoms will likely become. If your symptoms worsen and are left untreated, they could require major surgery, especially if you develop more severe complications, such as Cauda Equina Syndrome. 

However, it’s important to note that more severe complications resulting from untreated sciatica tend to be rare. 

The good news is that sciatica responds well to treatment, especially if caught early. Furthermore, in many cases, there are more conservative, holistic approaches to eliminating sciatica, such as receiving chiropractic care.

Using Chiropractic Care to Treat Sciatica

Chiropractors are musculoskeletal and neuromuscular experts who treat conditions like sciatica holistically. Instead of treating the individual symptoms, chiropractors focus on treating the whole of the person, including underlying conditions that lead to the manifestation of sciatica. 

Some of the most effective chiropractic treatments for sciatica include:

  • Chiropractic adjustment: Chiropractic adjustments involve using the hands or a small device to apply controlled force to every joint in the spine. This technique can improve mobility, reduce inflammation, and alleviate irritation and sciatic nerve pain in the lower back. However, it’s important to note that if the underlying cause of your sciatica is poor postural health or a spinal misalignment, chiropractic adjustments alone may not provide a complete solution, and symptoms may persist.
  • Exercise therapy: For sciatica patients, chiropractors prescribe exercises that help strengthen the muscles in the lower back, abdomen, and legs. Strengthening these muscles provides better support for the spine, reducing the pressure on the sciatic nerve and diminishing symptoms of sciatica.
  • Muscle therapy: Chiropractors may use muscle therapy techniques to address sciatica symptoms. This approach involves various techniques to relax and release muscle tension surrounding the sciatic nerve. When muscles become tight, they can contribute to nerve compression, worsening sciatica symptoms. Muscle therapy can help to relieve this tension, improve blood flow to the affected area, and reduce inflammation.

Identifying the underlying cause of symptoms is crucial for effective, long-term treatment. For instance, spinal misalignments can alter the ideal curvature of the spine, causing excess pressure on the sciatic nerve. Chronic muscle and tissue strain in the lower back and legs can also worsen symptoms. 

To achieve lasting relief, choosing a chiropractor who can accurately diagnose and address the root cause of your sciatica is essential. While chiropractic care can relieve symptoms, long-term relief requires treating the underlying issue.

PostureWorks Brings You Effective Sciatica Relief

If you believe that you have signs that sciatica is getting worse, it could be time to reach out for a better solution. At PostureWorks, we use advanced treatment strategies like Chiropractic BioPhysics® to properly identify the root cause of your sciatica. We begin with an in-depth spinal health analysis and reference your entire medical history to isolate where your sciatica begins. 

With that information, we develop a customized treatment plan designed to treat the cause and the symptoms of your sciatica, providing you with long-term relief so you can get back to enjoying the activities that you love. 

Contact us today to learn more about signs that sciatica is getting worse or schedule your appointment with PostureWorks in San Francisco, CA and Lakewood, CO.

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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