Can sciatic pain go away on its own?

Sciatica is a specific type of pain that occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes inflamed or pinched. The pain is distinctive in that it seems to radiate along the nerve’s pathway, which extends from the lower back, down the back of each leg and into the feet. Sciatic pain can come and go. Most episodes resolve on their own within a few weeks, only to return later. Usually, the pain cycle persists until the underlying cause is addressed.

In addition to intermittent leg pain, sciatica can take several other forms. It may show up as numbness, weakness or cramps in the leg muscles. Some people experience burning, tingling, pins-and-needles or electric shock sensations that travel down the back of one leg. The discomfort often worsens with extended sitting, coughing or sneezing. Rarely, sciatica may also include a loss of bowel or bladder control. Unlike other sciatica symptoms, these serious complications warrant emergency medical attention.

How to get through an episode of sciatic pain

When your sciatic pain flares up, you might find some simple home remedies to be helpful. For instance, sciatica often responds well to:

  • A brief period of rest
  • Heat and ice applications
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Gentle stretching and light walking

If your sciatica becomes chronic (lasting longer than a few months), your physician may also recommend a prescription NSAID, epidural steroid injection, nerve block or muscle relaxant to help relieve muscle tension, cramps and spasms in your legs.

Because movement and exercise are usually important components of sciatica rehabilitation, your physician will likely encourage you to begin physical therapy as soon as your pain allows. Physical therapy for sciatica typically includes targeted exercises to help correct posture, improve flexibility and strengthen the lower back and leg muscles.

What to do if your sciatic pain lingers

Surgery is usually reserved for situations in which sciatic nerve compression causes significant muscle weakness, bowel or bladder incontinence or severe pain that does not respond to conservative treatment. If your sciatica does not go away, contact Laser Spine Institute to request a free MRI review.* Our team can help you determine if you are a candidate for a minimally invasive outpatient procedure to address the underlying cause of your sciatica.

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