How Long Does Sciatica Last And Why?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on August 4th, 2022

Exact Timeframe: 4 to 8 Weeks

The discomfort that develops along the sciatic nerve is referred to as sciatica. It impacts the lower back, hips, buttocks, and legs. Patients who are impacted only have discomfort on one side of their body.


Sciatica can persist between four and eight weeks. However, in the worst-case scenario, the discomfort might endure for more than a year. The length of pain is determined by whether the ailment is acute or chronic, as well as the underlying reason.

What is the sensation of sciatica?

Because the sciatic nerve extends from the hip to the bottom of the feet, sciatic pain often affects the lower leg, below the knee, and behind the foot.

As a result, many persons with sciatica wrongly believe the pain is from a leg problem rather than a lower back problem.

A slipped, or herniated disk is the most common cause of sciatic nerve discomfort.

Intervertebral disks are soft tissue cushions that sit between the vertebrae of a person’s spine. A disk slip gets somewhat dislodged and pushed out from the spine. This can cause sciatica by putting pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Other conditions, including tumors or infections, can also cause sciatica.

Sciatica: Acute vs. Chronic

The key distinction between an acute and chronic illness is time. As the cause of the discomfort heals, the acute pain decreases. Consider a little burn or a cut on your finger.

Chronic discomfort can last for weeks or months. Chronic pain is often identified after four or sixteen weeks of recurring or continuous discomfort.

The same measure is used to assess sciatica pain. Most patients have flare-ups and pain bouts that last four to six weeks. However, it is predicted that 20 to 30 percent of individuals with sciatica would continue to have sciatic pain for one to two years.

Several causes can contribute to the persistence of sciatica. In some cases, damage to the nerve can produce long-term pain, particularly when the discomfort is neurogenic.

As a result, even if the nerve recovers properly, it may continue to send erroneous pain signals to the brain. In certain circumstances, the source of the pain is chronic and reoccurring.

Damage to the discs between the vertebrae, for example, might cause swelling, putting pressure on the adjacent nerve roots. Furthermore, repeated physical stress might cause swelling or a previously slipped disc to resurface.

Who is at risk of developing sciatica?

Sciatica can affect almost anybody, while certain men and women may be more susceptible to the ailment. Sciatica risk factors frequently include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Physically strenuous job
  • Advanced age

How Long Do Sciatica Symptoms Last?

Sciatica may be classified into several categories based on the length of the symptoms. The first form of sciatica, acute sciatica, lasts 4 to 8 weeks.

Patients may have discomfort and numbness, which normally go away on their own or with self-treatment. Patients with the illness suffer from sciatica a few times a year.

If the underlying reason is severe, acute sciatica may progress to chronic sciatica. Chronic sciatica lasts for more than eight weeks and needs medical attention. If the discomfort persists for more than a year, the patient may require surgical intervention.

Patients suffering from sciatica due to a herniated disc have excruciating symptoms for six months. The soreness usually subsides after six months.

A herniated disc occurs when a piece of the disc nucleus protrudes between the vertebrae. The misplaced disk puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing discomfort.

Another ailment that causes Sciatica is spondylolisthesis. It happens when a vertebra moves forward on the vertebrae next to it. Spondylolisthesis develops in athletes participating in vigorous activities such as weightlifting or gymnastics.

With adequate therapy, most patients recover in three to six months. Each person’s recovery period is unique.

Sciatica caused by degenerative disc degeneration usually heals in three months. Degenerative disc disease is the most prevalent cause of back pain in the elderly population, and it is caused by wear and tear on a spinal disc.

Sciatica pain produced by the sacroiliac joint might go away in a matter of days or months, depending on the severity. Acute SI Sciatica pain resolves in a matter of weeks, while persistent pain can continue for up to three months.

Muscle spasms can also cause sciatica. Spasm-caused sciatica pain disappears in one to two weeks.

Type/Underlying CauseDuration
Acute Sciatica4 to 8 weeks
Chronic Sciaticaover 8 weeks
Sciatica due to a herniated disc6 months
Sciatica due to spondylolisthesis3 to 6 months
Sciatica due to degenerative disc diseaseWithin 3 months
Sciatica due to muscle spasms1 to 2 weeks

What Causes Sciatica to Last So Long?

A pinched sciatic nerve causes sciatica. Two contributing reasons are a herniated disc or an overgrowth of bone, known as a bone spur.

In the afflicted region, this activity generates discomfort and inflammation. The agony is excruciating, and the sufferer may require time to recuperate.

A variety of lifestyle behaviors might lead to acute sciatica. For example, sitting for lengthy periods with poor posture might exacerbate symptoms. Even laying down for extended periods might worsen the issue.

Lifting big things without good technique may aggravate the symptoms as well. Exercise and topical therapies are introduced to patients who have been diagnosed, and these treatments are adequate to alleviate the symptoms in four to eight weeks.

Chronic sciatica can occur due to repetitive strain on the back due to an occupational hazard or obesity. As a result, such people are in pain for more than eight weeks.

Aging is another risk factor that causes wear and strain on the spine. As a result, the individual may have herniated discs or bone spurs that necessitate surgery.

Diabetes is one condition that may contribute to the persistence of sciatica symptoms. The disorder alters how the body utilizes blood sugar, raising the risk of future nerve damage.

How to Deal with Sciatica

Self-care works successfully for many persons with sciatica. Rest for a few days after a flare-up begins, but don’t wait too long before returning to work. Long durations of idleness will aggravate your symptoms.

Temporary comfort may be obtained by applying hot or cold compresses to your lower back. You may also try these six stretches to help alleviate sciatica.

Over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil) may help decrease inflammation, swelling, and discomfort.

If your symptoms are severe and home treatments aren’t alleviating your pain, or if your pain is worsening, consult a doctor. They may prescribe the following drugs to alleviate your symptoms:

Muscle relaxants, if spasms are present tricyclic antidepressants, antiseizure medicines

In extreme situations, narcotics

After your symptoms have improved, your doctor may also recommend physical therapy. By strengthening your core and back muscles, physical therapy can help avoid future flare-ups.

Your doctor may also recommend steroid injections. When administered into the region around the afflicted nerve, Steroids can relieve inflammation and pressure on the nerve.

However, because there is a possibility of serious adverse effects, you can only have a restricted number of steroid injections.

Surgery may be advised as a final resort if various therapies have failed to relieve your discomfort. It may also be a possibility if your sciatica is causing you to lose control of your bowels or bladder.

Sciatica medical therapy

If your sciatica is recent (acute), your doctor will most likely utilize medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing to determine the reason for your symptoms. Typically, the suggested therapy will comprise a mix of:

  • Prescription pain relievers for sciatica
  • Exercise and physical treatment
  • Manipulation by hand
  • Lumbar epidural steroid injections

While surgery is uncommon, it may be recommended for persistent sciatica that does not respond to many weeks of nonsurgical therapy.

Will Sciatica Reappear?

Sciatica can reoccur, especially if the underlying cause is not addressed.

It is also critical to make required lifestyle modifications that might impact the healing process.

These can include but are not limited to dietary and physical activity adjustments.

When Should You See A Doctor?

If home cures aren’t working and your pain worsens, you should consult a doctor.

Consult a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Sciatica persists for more than three months.
  • Sciatica pain is excruciating and interferes with regular activities.
  • Sciatica goes gone and reappears.

Following an examination, discussion of your medical history, and determination of the underlying reason for your sciatica, your doctor will present you with several therapy choices.

Medications such as muscle relaxants and stronger pain relievers are frequently recommended. In some circumstances, the doctor may advise using epidural steroid drugs. They are injected into the region around your spinal cord to relieve inflammation.


Sciatica refers to discomfort on one side of the body. The problem arises when a bone spur or herniated disk pinches the sciatic nerve. Simple home treatments and exercises are adequate to relieve the symptoms of acute sciatica. On the other hand, patients suffering from persistent sciatica must seek medical attention.

Caring for Sciatica is a part of everyday life. To lessen or avoid Sciatica, patients must maintain physical activity and routine workouts and make lifestyle changes.


Editorial Staff

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