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The 3 stages of sciatica recovery

The 3 stages of sciatica recovery

Sciatica pain is rarely a constant problem for sufferers, rather it comes in bouts. These can be more or less severe, sometimes only causing mild discomfort, other times leading to serious pain and impaired mobility. The road to recovery comes in three stages.

Stage 1: Sitting and lying

When suffering from a debilitating and painful bout of sciatica, advice to ‘keep active’ can seem far-fetched, if you are currently doubled over with back pain only the gentlest of movements are even possible. So you must look instead at your sedentary habits. Many sufferers find that the worst pain comes while seated. It is a good idea to temporarily avoid sofas and soft armchairs at this stage, and replace them with hard, straight-backed chairs. If the mattress you sleep on is very soft, consider replacing it with a firmer one.

Stage 2: Gentle exercise

Sciatica pain almost always subsides after a period of time, especially if the stage 1 advice above is followed. But if you return immediately to your former lifestyle without making any changes, sciatica is very likely to return. So here you must capitalise on this pain-free window by introducing some gentle exercise into your routine. Swimming is a great low-impact all-round exercise but can be a hassle depending on your access to a pool. Walking is also an excellent option and is much more accessible for most people. Whatever form of exercise you choose, there’s no need to overdo it, just moving on a regular basis will suffice for now.

Stage 3: Mobility exercise

Once you are walking, swimming or doing some other form of gentle exercise on a regular basis, this alone helps a lot to prevent the return of sciatica. But since you are doing so well, why not look into something a bit more advanced? Regular training in an activity designed to increase strength and flexibility, if done properly, is your best option for preventing sciatica returning. The options for this type of training are vast, ranging from yoga to weight lifting. Find something you like the sound of, and give it a try!


  1. Linda Smith on February 28, 2020 at 10:09 am

    I have had sciatica since October. Pain in lower back,.buttocks ,thigh and pins and needles in foot. Physio has sorted back but the other pains persist..Can’t sleep due to the pain. Been doing the exercises . Everyone tells me it will start to improve. How long does this take, can’t see an end to it…………………………..

    • SPRC on February 28, 2020 at 12:08 pm

      Dear Linda,
      Your situation is like many others although most people show improvement with sciatica symptoms earlier than 4-5 months. The vast majority of people improve with time so what people are telling you is true. The most significant thing that you have mentioned is the fact it is affecting your sleep. It is really important to get this situation to improve as this will help to speed your recovery. Speak with your Doctor and physio about the sleep issue and see what advice they have for. Also read the blogs we have on sleeping with sciatica. We have a couple. We hope you are feeling better soon.

  2. Dave on August 30, 2019 at 5:55 am

    My left leg has become increasingly debilitated over 2 weeks – pain started in and centralised still in buttock.Sitting and lying down were the only options for me. After going to a chiropractor lying down with straight legs became impossible – sitting is my only relief position.
    Standing more than 10 seconds starts to throb and becomes unbearable within a minute. Pain killers (co-codamil or naproxen) do not seem to help.
    I cannot go into work just now due to this, cannot do anything.
    Any suggestions?

    • SPRC on September 2, 2019 at 12:01 pm

      Sorry to hear this Dave. If the pain has been getting worse over the last two weeks and you are now unable to work then a visit to your Doctors (if you have not already been) is necessary. The positions you adopt seem to affect you a lot so a physiotherapist may be able to give advice on movement patterns that may help. Bringing down the inflammation may help with cold therapy so have a look at our blog on that. Hopefully you will be on the road to recovery very soon. Best wishes.

    • Janet on September 19, 2019 at 10:41 am

      I have this problem also. I try to keep active and as soon as I stand up or walk my leg and my foot god numb. I’ve been docs and she said I have to do little as possible like no hoovering or bending. Im on painkiller s also and i have to have time off work. I keep to my physio excersise I wish it would go away. Got two dogs I want to walk and it’s so frustrating.

      • SPRC on September 20, 2019 at 9:10 am

        Hi Janet,
        We feel your frustration.Stick with the physio exercises and read some of our other blogs for more ideas to get relief. I’m sure it will start to improve soon. Best wishes.

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