Chronic Sciatica – Causes, Factors, Symptoms, Treatment

Chronic Sciatica

Sciatica is a term that describes a shooting pain that originates from the lower back, radiating into the buttock, and moves down to the back of one of the legs. It occurs when the sciatic nerve is applied with pressure due to a herniated disc, a muscle strain, or a bone spur.

With Chronic sciatica, the pain experienced is persistent for more than three months, and the source may be difficult to establish. As a result, one may feel the pain all the time, or it may worsen with certain activities. In some cases, chronic sciatica erupts from acute sciatica. With chronic sciatica, the pain does not go away over time and is usually capable of causing crippling discomfort.

Causes of Chronic Sciatica

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Factors that may contribute to Chronic Sciatica


Before a treatment option is considered, a detailed medical examination should be done. This enables the determination of the cause of the problem. Usually, the diagnosis will entail the conduction of medical history and physical examination. Scans such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs can be done. In addition, to check for muscle strength or reflexes, specific tests are conducted.

Symptoms of Chronic Sciatica

The pain felt will mostly originate from the lower back and buttocks. It then radiates along the back of the thigh, moves past the knee, the calf at times, and the leg or foot. The pain is worse in the leg as opposed to the back.

Chronic sciatica pain may present itself as;

  • A mild to severe pain that some describe as shooting pain
  • A severe burning sensation
  • Numbness of the leg and foot
  • A tingling sensation that feels like “pins and needles” in the leg and foot

Numbness and tingling should not be major causes for alarm unless they occur with foot drop or weakness of the leg muscles.

When one sits, more pain is felt because of the weight put on the intervertebral discs. Activities such as twisting and bending also worsen the pain but lying down will offer relief.  One feels better when they run or walk, unlike when they sit or stand for long periods.

Treatments and Coping with Chronic Sciatica

Medical treatment should always be sought where one experiences the symptoms in extreme measures. There are no single types of treatment that will work for everyone with chronic sciatica, but the following methods can be used to manage the symptoms;

1. Personal or self-care

The pain can be resolved with rest, heat and cold packs, gentle exercises or stretches, and massage. The bed rest should be done for short periods as long periods can cause more harm.

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2. Medication

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) can be bought over the counter to offer pain relief. These include ibuprofen, aspirin, and many more. For muscle spasms, muscle relaxants can be prescribed. For severe pain, an analgesic that is accompanied by an NSAID or relaxant can be administered. Steroids are usually used to reduce nerve inflammation and swelling. They can be taken orally or injected.

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3. Physiotherapy

For most leg pain, a schedule of physical therapy can be maintained to enable one to return to their full activity and prevent re-injury. The therapy aids in physical rehabilitation and maintains health and fitness.

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4. Surgical treatment

For most cases, surgery is rarely needed. However, it can be considered whereby there is a proven disc herniation, muscle weakness, or severe pain that has failed to be resolved, especially after a reasonable period of nonsurgical treatments. A discectomy is a type of herniated disc surgery that removes the portion of the disc that compresses the spinal nerve. In addition, nerve decompression may be conducted for those with stenosis.

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Sciatica will cause a lot of pain, and it becomes worse when it is chronic as the pain is more persistent and lasts for long. Once sciatica symptoms start to manifest, the best option is usually to embark on the simple treatments listed above. However, where the symptoms do not resolve even after these remedies, medical assistance should be sought to avoid the condition becoming chronic.

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