Recovering from Sciatica Do’s and Don’ts
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.
Hi I’m Keisha, I’m 27 and I was diagnosed with sciatica 5 days ago. Not going to lie the pain is excruciating…I have n’t been able to walk in the past 5 days because I cannot take the pain. Its in my upper leg and hip. I have tried panadol, ibuprofen, Muscle relaxer(muzle dp) and countless other drugs. Heat, ice and no relief. Only time I got any relief was when they gave me valium and morphine in the hospital…and I STILL COULD N’T WALK. The pain was just bearable so I could get to sleep. I’m considering just going back to the hospital cause I hate lying down in bed. I can’t even do stretches properly because of the pain. I’m starting to think it may not even be sciatica.
Sciatica is a symptom rather than a condition in its own right. You need the healthcare providers to tell you what is causing the sciatica as that can help direct what the most appropriate treatment is. Best wishes.
Hello, I’m writing because for the last month and a half I have been experiencing an extreme pain/spasming in my right hip and hamstring area. Everyone is saying that it is sciatica which it may be. It also feeling like possibly a hamstring injury. I first felt it while building a deck and other work that I do bending and stooping. I am highly concerned and depressed as my work is disrupted from this injury. I understand anyone who feels this way. I am 42 and very active. Never thought I’d experience this. Walking on a soft surface, like a trail seems to help, breathing exercises, and pelvic tilts. I hope everyone heals.
After having my newborn baby, I got sciatica. Its been really bad, tingling in my leg, numbness, my back even got crooked. I havent been able to take care of my newborn because of this. Its been a couple of weeks now & the pain is starting to get a little better. Very slowly but its getting there. My question is when do i know i can go back to carrying my newborn & start caring for him without help & supervision.
Congratulations on the birth of your baby. A happy and momentous time for you. If you are feeling that you are recovering and improving then although pain is not a nice thing to experience it can sometimes be our guide. Talk to your healthcare providers and they hopefully will have some good advice for you based on their experience of other new mothers who have experienced sciatica following childbirth. Best wishes.
I’m 41 and I developed sciatica symptoms right after a chiropractic adjustment. It’s been 3 weeks and even if the pain went down a bit It’s still there and I’m worried it won’t go away.
I would like to exercise but I’m worried it would get worse. I’m regretting going to that chiropractor and for whoever asked about chiroterapy in this chat I definitely don’t recommend it. I was certainly healthier before, in fact I never suffered from sciatica before this treatment. I only used to have pian in the lower back on the right hand side but was totally manageable. Now I’m constantly in pain and on both sides of the lower back plus back of both legs and knees.
I used to love cycling but now that I developed sciatica pain it seems even more difficult to go back doing that. It’s really frustrating. Regarding pain relief the only thing that worked for me was taking baths with dead sea salts, at least it helped a bit. If anyone has any exercises to recommend or anything would be great.
Not everything is for everyone. As individuals we can respond to differently to different approaches. The more important thing is the symptoms you describe have changed significantly so it would be advisable to get a healthcare professional to accurately diagnose your current situation and help you plot a path to recovery. Best wishes.
I’m surprised no one has mentioned water exercise or swimming at the YMCA. There is no pain in the pool for me. Buy a zero gravity chair, also no pain. Mine heats up and vibrates, but there are simpler types. I bought a Puffy Lux mattress. No pain at night now. Sometimes a pillow under knees helps. I take a lumber support pillow wherever I will be sitting. Walking is a challenge right now. I’m trying to keep proper posture, shorter steps, and forward looking style. Prescription Prednisone taken for 5 days is magic, but the pain is sneaky and may return. I have a doctor appointment and plan to be referred to the pain clinic. Maybe a lumbar injection? My adult daughter gets 3 per year for a back injury and says they work.
My sciatic symptoms started straight after a sports massage to loosen up my lower back. The next morning my left foot was numb and the pain in my hamstring was horrendous. I’m 64 and pretty fit walking every day but for the past two months even getting out of bed is just terrible. I am stretching and walking now every day however it takes me much longer to get going mornings (not at all like me) I’ve tried to stop the painkillers as much as I can manage as they make me feel rubbish. I hope yours eases as unless you have suffered with this no one really gets it.
Hi Diane, appreciated reading your post. I too am very active. Would walk daily, play golf 2-3 x per week. Now, when I try to walk it’s hell. Just turned 66 yesterday, and right now doing everything just to remain hopeful and positive. Actually see a healthcare provider tomorrow. I believe my situation was induced by my chiropractor. Very concerned.
I’m sorry to hear you are cycling through chronic pain instead of riding on your bicycle.
Where are you at with your exercises and pain levels? I suffered from debilitating sciatica pain from bulging disc’s from
a car accident. I’m happy to report that I’m pain free and how doing the correct exercises changed my life. Try laying on your back then draw both knees together and to one side. Gently open your arms out to a cross palms open and look the opposite way of your knees. Imagine your core as atheist tie. Breath through the nose and out the mouth. Hold your pose for 30 seconds then back to center and over the other side. I hope this helps you.
Most people seem to suffer sciatic pain in their left side. Is it more common than the right side. My pain is in left buttock round to front of thigh (no hamstring pain) and knee.
Strange you should mention that Peter. Based on our experience we would agree with you although our hunch is not proven scientifically. Hope you’re feeling better soon.
Mine is also on my right side. I’m so tired of the pain and I don’t know what to do
I am suffering like you. I have had pain for 5 weeks now. Been given naproxin and paracetamol plus. I only manage to sleep approx 3 hours a night. The pain is getting worse. Seeing the GP is almost impossible. I have a telephone appointment tomorrow that I’ve waited 2 weeks for. I live alone so every day life is difficult just now. What ever I do the pain is relentless..
Hey, I just wanted to say that I got prescribed naproxen for my sciatica too, today – and it without doubt made it worse, I didn’t think it was possible but when I looked it up it can actually cause inflammation, there was a few studies online – so I’m sticking to normal ibruprofen, paracetamol & after this blog I’m gonna head out for my first “run” in 3 weeks tomorrow! Hope sharing this information helps as there’s a fair bit of negative press regarding that drug & pain relief, or lack there of! All the best.
Almost 57 and a top masters runner. Really been pummeled the last month with scatica symptoms. I also had thoracic outlet type symptoms, right under the collar bone, but have been doing light weights for the last month and those symptoms have gone away. Cross training on cycle is going great but the runs, especially in cold weather, not. Seem to get these flareups once a year in the offseason, but it came very early this year. What a downer. Fall is when I usually get my best running in. Please leave my body soon, sciatica! Spring can’t come soon enough.
Hi I’m day 13 recovering from open inguinal hernia repair non mesh. A week in I developed sciatica type pain in agony and on meds. GP thinks it might be connected to op or could be coincidence. Anyone else had this after hernia op?
I have restless legs now it seems I have to put up with sciatic pain. It all started when I just got off the toilet seat then I couldn’t move and had to dial 999 for an ambulance. They were very helpful and managed to get into bed.
But after seeing a doctor at the hospital I was given so called pain killers. Smarties would have been better. Physio next stop. Tried it thought I was winning but back to physio another piece of paper and new things to do but on doing so my back went into spasm and had to ask hospital what to do and got told take my pills. I did but a waste of time. My back goes into spasms when I move and its hell to even try to make a cup of tea so I’m stuck in my chair again which cuts down the spasms. So keep fit or keep twitching one is supposed to help but does my restless legs join the party. Sorry to go on and I’m 80 years young.
Sometimes hands on work from a massage therapist may help to reduce the spasm you are experiencing. Worth considering. With respect to exercises if you push too hard it can be counterproductive. Only you can judge how how much to push as it is your pain. Once the spasm calms down maybe try the exercises with less intensity. Hope you start feeling better soon.
The only relief I got was from a steroid shot in the spasm (and sciatica) area of the lower back. The Chiropractor I have used for 10 years totally misdiagnosed the sciatica and made it worse.When my back is inflamed with spasms “adjustments don’t work. A good chiropractor will walk away and refer you for a cortisone shot or muscle relaxer. BEWARE those guys that say they can fix sinuses, colds, headaches, etc with a back adjustment, dry needling, or stem shocking.
Hi James just read your post. Has the steroid injection worked? How long before you got relief and have you had to go back for a top up? I’ve just signed up with one of those chiropractor types you discribe at a cost of £1000 I was in so much pain and still am after 8 sessions and now my back is going into spasms. Be grateful for your reply. Kind Regards Samantha
I was diagnosed with sciatica in both my legs in March 2021. It was permanent excruciating pain at first but now over the months, the pain has reduced and there’s only minor pain but it occurs several times a day. I’m 23 years old and all these months of dealing with pandemic and this pain has makes me doubt if it will ever completely heal or if it does what are the chances of reccurence?
You have youth on your side so remain positive that you can and will make a full recovery. In terms of preventing a reoccurrence getting stronger and remaining physically active are key. Best wishes.
I have been suffering with this pain going thru my butt, hip, top of thigh and all around my knee and on down leg and sometimes my foot feels numb. I did a vigorous workout where I was twisting a lot and I had started feeling pain after that but thought maybe I was just extremely sore. I ran the next day and after that started having extreme pain. I knew it was not soreness, it was sharp pain. I went to ER and the doctor said it was sciatica but I have wondered if it’s from lower back or my piriformis muscle. My lower back has not hurt at all and this has went on for almost a month. It’s my right leg and my hip feels like someone is scrapping on the bone from inside and it hurts down to my shin. Sometimes it’s really bad around my knee. It’s hard to walk at times. It’s driving me crazy, I can’t work or do anything and I’m usually pretty active, now I’m scared to do anything for fear of making this worse. It’s the worse pain I’ve ever felt. Any advice for me?
Sciatica is a symptom not a condition. The root cause could be the lower back or in your gluteal area. No pain in the lower back does not necessarily mean that is not the root cause. You sound fit and active so that is really good for your recovery. Unfortunately nerve is the slowest healing tissue in the body so once irritated it takes time to calm down. The fear to do things is understandable. A good physiotherapist will advise you of what you physical activities you need to do. The basic rules are stay active but reduce your load (intensity and volume). It’s a good idea to let pain guide you. Tolerable discomfort is generally OK, but no pushing through pain. Hope you recover soon.
Liz your story is very helpful I know now that I’m not alone and it’s not in my head while riding my Harley motorcycle I encountered some bad road and I hit these bad spots going pretty fast pain shot down my hip in my leg. For a whole month I could not rest for pain in my bones in my calf and my thigh. I couldn’t do anything pills Temporary relief would help me sleep some times but I did not want to deaden in the pain I wanted to feel it so that I would know if it was getting any better but the throbbing the aching wore me down. It’s good to know that given time this time this will heal my legs are weak and my knees buckle walking gate is not normal. How are you doing now?
Hi, would an osteopath or chiropractor be better for sciatica? Many thanks..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes, me too. My sciatic nerve swelled up on the tail end of my covid recovery. I am convinced there is a correlation. It’s been a month, my sciatic pain level is down, but far from gone, and I have an odd scratchy/tickle cough that is triggered when I speak. Covid is BAD.
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.
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
Can sciatica cause inflammation in your muscle tissue?
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
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
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.
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
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/.
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
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.
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.
Glad you enjoyed the read Peter. Hope you recover soon.
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 ?
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