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Recovering from Sciatica Do’s and Don’ts

Recovering from Sciatica Do’s and Don’ts

Recovering from sciatica

One of the most common questions we hear, which we have written about previously is “How Long Will Sciatica Last?”. Recovering from sciatica seems like a near impossible task when it first strikes, and pain is at its most acute. Just moving left or right or sitting or standing is draining. The good news is the for most people the symptoms improve drastically after a few weeks as discussed in this short review in Harvard Health Publishing. Once the pain reduces people are able to get into the work required to recover and more importantly minimise the risk of return.

Quite often, after treating a patient for back pain and sciatica, we are asked either “Can I still do ………?” or “What can I do to improve my back?

Answers vary depending on the nature of the back injury, the severity and acuteness, the activity they want to pursue, and the status of their recovery. However, we believe that being active is the speediest way to recovering from sciatica and for most injured backs.

So, here are some tried and tested do’s for recovering from sciatica.

The Do’s for Recovering from Sciatica

Walking – As we have said previously, walking is good, but try to avoid difficult terrain and walking down steep hills or stairways. The key here is plan your route.

Low impact activities – You might want to consider aqua aerobics, Tai Chi, yoga or Pilates. They can be relaxing and help to improve balance. When you improve balance, you improve the body’s strength from the inside out. If you do join a class make sure that the teacher is fully aware of the problem you are recovering from, and the golden rule is if it causes pain don’t ignore it.

Stretching – A regular stretching routine can be really helpful. The key here is regular. Little and often is also great for turning it into a regular habit. Start with very simple stretches. Yoga is an excellent activity to undertake but be careful certain stretches while recovering may trigger symptoms. The sphinx, the cobra and greeting the dawn – may trigger sciatica symptoms in some individuals. It is a little trial and error because we are all individuals and have slightly different problems.

Strengthening –  Gentle strengthening exercises are vital for prevention in the future and can work wanders. Using just your body weight or very light weights can do much more than you think.

In summary, be as active as you can be with your recovery but remember to take it easy and be kind to yourself. Where pain is concerned as very wise person once said, “You can knock at the door, but don’t push it open”. As you get further down the line of recovery break yourself gently back into the activities you enjoy.

The Don’ts for Recovering from Sciatica

This next section is for those of us who like to be really active and even throw ourselves around a little! As well as being painful sciatica can be really frustrating when it holds us back and stops us doing what we love to do. There are so many different activities people do we could not possibly cover them all so, when starting along the road to recovery think about kinds of movement rather than specific activities. There are certain things where it is sensible to avoid or at a minimum approach with caution.  This is not forever it is for now. Patience is a virtue

High Impact – Stay away or approach with caution activities that make you have to stop suddenly, change direction quickly or involve being jolted. Things like mountain biking, racquet sports and martial arts.

High Power – Fast and powerful movements. The keen golfer is apt to put themselves at risk for the sport they love but returning too early can be false economy. The action of driving and swinging a golf club puts a lot of strain on the lower back. Athletics, gymnastics, aerobics or any sport that requires vigorous or fast movements.

Lifting – Moving heavy weights/objects or strength activities. The key here is light loads. If you like to go to the gym keep going but find other activities to do that do not require heavy lifting. Say no to heavy objects while training, gardening, doing DIY, etc.

Static positions – Where the back is held in one position for long periods such as in cycling. Shorter periods while in a more comfortable upright position while you recover could be useful.

 

Good luck and a speedy recovery to you all.

22 Comments

  1. Heidi on June 4, 2021 at 10:45 am

    Hi, would an osteopath or chiropractor be better for sciatica? Many thanks..

    • SPRC on June 4, 2021 at 2:44 pm

      Hello Heidi,
      The discipline is less important than the quality of service offered by the practitioner. It’s best to find a therapist that you feel comfortable with and can build a rapport. Best wishes.

  2. Michelle on April 29, 2021 at 9:40 am

    Hi
    I have had previous bulging discs resulting in sciatica down the back of my leg and recovered (eventually) with Pilates. Since then (10 years ago) I have been maintaining Pilates and chiropractor check ups.

    At the start of Feb I have been diagnosed with a bulging disc L3/L4 that is causing immense pain down the front/outside of my thigh and beyond to the calf.

    I was getting to the stage where I was able to walk and do my physio each day, but a flare up 2 weeks ago has left me unable to stand/walk for more than a few minutes. I spend most of the day lying down with my knees bent to take off the pressure interspersed with toilet trips and my physio exercises.
    I have never felt so debilitated and am unsure how far to push my body each day.
    Any suggestions/advice?

    • SPRC on May 1, 2021 at 3:56 pm

      Hello Michelle,
      What you describe sounds like femoral nerve pain. Although very similar to sciatica in nature it is a different nerve and the physiotherpay exercises prescribed may be different. Worth checking out and discussing with your Doctor/physio.
      In an effort to get better it is always a temptation to push ourselves too much. The best thing is to remain comfortably active as practicable and regularly as possible when in the acute phase of symptoms. It’s surprising how effective just being active without pushing yourself too hard can be.
      Take care.

  3. Miranda on April 19, 2021 at 8:06 pm

    I have just had a operation for a prolapsed disc l5/s1 I was in hospital for less than 18 hours in total I was toad my operation was a success but the nerve was very badly compressed I am still in a wheelchair and have been told I don’t need any physiotherapist I am still on a lot of drugs including fentanyl patches, OxyContin and gabapentin as I had a horse riding accident many years ago which I was told permanently bruised my tail bone and but my sacrum out although my recent mris didn’t show any of this. My buttock leg a d ankle pain hasn’t settled at all is it really liable to please or I’m I now like this for ever? I am 53years old. Thank you.

    • SPRC on April 21, 2021 at 8:21 am

      Hello Miranda,
      Sorry to hear about your misfortune. A good physio can be worth their weight in gold so perhaps you can check again whether physio intervention is appropriate or not. Although it is difficult now this does not have to last forever. Just as you are doing now constantly seeking solutions can lead you to a way out from this.
      Take care and best wishes.

  4. JIM CHANT on March 12, 2021 at 1:20 pm

    I’m 74yrs old and very active ( all my life). On 15th Jan. this year I was hospitalised with COVID 19 – but after superb nursing and medication I was released back home 5 days later. During my stay in hospital I walked from my bed to toilet, sat in chairs, etc., – had no signs of any back problems – (I never have suffered from back problems any time during my life.) The very first /maybe 2nd morning I woke up at home however, I found I could not move from my bed and I had excruciating pain in my left buttock and around the outside of my left ankle and knee area, which is (I’m told) classic sciatica. 10 days self isolation, after getting home, the majority of each day bed ridden + 5.5 weeks on still walking about on crutches + with 7 private physio sessions behind me ( I’m still waiting for the NHS physio to call me in) I’m still suffering, but the pain is easing (slowly). I’M CONVINCED COVID HAS HAD AN EFFECT ON MY CURRENT PROBLEM. – Any thoughts or comments ?? – COVID is such an invasive virus but general conception is it attacks major organs rather than muscle groups. I’m not so sure.

    • SPRC on March 12, 2021 at 5:55 pm

      Hello Jim, Nobody knows enough to know what impact Covid is having on many different ailments. Although your back problems and Covid occurred at a similar time they don’t have to be linked, but it cannot be ruled out given that Covid is not well understood. It could be having an indirect impact just by making people generally weaker. There are many people affected so we will come to know in time as more information comes to light. For now you focus on your recovery and well soon. Best wishes.

  5. Raghavan Pattathil, 68 years on January 3, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    I am Raghavan from India. I am suffering from Sciatic pain (?) on the left side for many, many years. It is characterized by constant lower back ache, a spot ache almost at the inner centre of the left buttock, a spot pain on the nerve at the left side of the ‘knee pit’ and finally pain inside the entire ankle joint. Lower back pain disappears as soon as standing up. X-rays & MRI could not clearly establish the same convincingly. Please suggest what I should do to eliminate/ reduce this problem.

    • SPRC on January 3, 2021 at 6:26 pm

      Dear Raghavan,
      Sorry to hear of your discomfort. You are not alone in your struggle to find relief from sciatica symptoms. What you describe certainly sounds like sciatica symptoms. An X-Ray or MRI only is part of the story when coming to a conclusive diagnosis. A full history and physical assessment are the most important to complete the diagnosis. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis of what is the root cause of your symptoms is very important. If you believe you have sciatica due to low back problems then there are many things to try and alleviate your symptoms. Too many to mention in a short reply here. You can read our blogs, as there are many, which can give you ideas of what to try. The most important thing is to not give up. If you keep trying you will find something that can help you. Best wishes

  6. Eugene on December 28, 2020 at 9:43 am

    Can sciatica cause inflammation in your muscle tissue?

    • SPRC on December 28, 2020 at 4:03 pm

      Hi Eugene,
      It is possible for inflammation to travel throughout the body so theoretically inflammation in the sciatic nerve could spread to the surrounding tissues. Inflammation spreading usually occurs when it is prolonged or chronic. It is also worthwhile remembering inflammation is not the same as nerve pain. Inflammation is a natural and required process that only causes problems when it is prolonged and unchecked. An inflamed sciatic nerve will be swollen, which can contribute to increase nerve pain. Pain from inflammation is a sore type of pain. Nerve pain symptoms like sciatica can be very intense and unremitting. Hope that brief explanation helps. Best wishes

  7. Tony barry on December 4, 2020 at 6:04 am

    I have sciatica nerve pain in my left leg will it take to relieve this pain lower back down ,eg and foot I get severe pain in my lower leg as well one minute it could be fine and I go for a walk and then I come back it gets at me again and my big toe as well

    • SPRC on December 4, 2020 at 10:48 pm

      Hello Tony,
      If your symptoms are on and off as you describe then there is a very high probability you will recover from your sciatica symptoms. Try and work out the things that seem to make the symptoms worst and then modify your activities to reduce the amount of symptoms you are getting. Tack care.

  8. Phyllis Black on November 16, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    the most helpful information I have come across. My sciatica has been flaring for the last day . What strtches do you recommend as I have a daily routine and don’t want to aggravate it further. Thanks

    • SPRC on November 16, 2020 at 11:45 pm

      Hi Phyllis,
      Appreciate your comments and feedback. So many stretches you could do so it is hard to suggest without assessing an individual, as there are many different causes of sciatica symptoms. One which we devised that is as safe and easy as we could make it for you to consider trying is here: https://www.sciatic-relief.com/the-easiest-stretch-for-sciatica/.
      Best wishes.

  9. Jean racicit on October 25, 2020 at 1:55 pm

    I have gone to chiropractor for this sciatica nerve pain had two massage sessions how many will it take to relieve this pain lower back down ,eg and foot

    • SPRC on October 25, 2020 at 3:00 pm

      Dear Jean,
      Sorry to hear about your sciatica. If we knew the answer to your question that we would be rich beyond our wildest dreams 🙂 As you can appreciate every person is different, but if you read our blog on how long sciatica lasts you can relate your personal circumstances and use this information as guide as to how long it may last in your case. https://www.sciatic-relief.com/how-long-does-sciatica-last/. We hope you are feeling better soon.

  10. Peter Broom on July 23, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    Good reading,i have been going to a chiropractor for 3 months,but if anything i am worse now so am thinking of taking a different direction.

    • SPRC on July 23, 2020 at 9:29 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the read Peter. Hope you recover soon.

      • Karen Sykes on March 13, 2021 at 8:00 am

        I have classic sciatic nerve pain in my left buttock which is worse on waking and if sat for too long …sometimes it is stabbing and excruitiatingly painful. 7weeks ago a concrete step collapsed and in I hit the deck …xray confirmed a sprained ankle and torn ligaments. I used a crutch to help me get around after 2 weeks rest and now have this pain in my opposute buttock .Could the use of a crutch have caused thisc…I am 55 and been kick boxing regularly for 3 years am uaially very flexible and have a physical job as a dog groomer …non of which I can currently do …Any advice please ?

        • SPRC on March 15, 2021 at 8:52 pm

          Hello Karen,
          Sounds like you’ve been in the wars a bit. Without a full history and physical assessment the cause of your sciatica symptoms would be a pure guess. That is whay it is important to get a healthcare professional to do that assessment. In terms of recovery it sounds like you have a lot going for you. A physically active lifestyle is advantageous for maintaining strength and mobility, which help in the recovery. Listen to your body and recognise the triggers for your symptoms. Sounds like when you have long periods of inactivity your symptoms are exacerbated. Keeping moving without over doing it is always a good idea. For getting up in the morning we have a blog about that, which may help get you off to a better start in the morning. Best wishes

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