Herniated Disc Sciatica Recovery Time – Everything You Need To Know

Herniated Disc Sciatica Recovery Time

Herniated discs represent the most common reason behind sciatica. In fact, a medical issue with the discs represents the cause of sciatica in three out of four cases. There are more issues associated with this aspect and the lack of education can raise numerous question marks. You might want to know whether or not you can heal without surgery. Then, if possible, you want to know how long it will last.

The truth is every case is different and what works for some people will not work for everyone else. The herniated disc sciatica recovery time will also vary from one individual to another. But before getting into small details, you have to understand how this affection works, what it affects and how you can overcome it.

Spinal and herniated discs explained

A spinal disc – also referred to as an intervertebral disc – sits between bones in your spine. Each disc is shaped like a ring and consists of two different parts. The outer ring is tough and strong, while the inner ring is soft and feels like a jelly. The hard part is responsible for the protection and the soft part provides lubrication and nutrients.

Now, the herniated disc can be referred to as a protruding or slipped disc as well. Practically, no matter how well put together this system is, the soft tissue can escape the strong outer ring. Basically, a simple injury will affect the tough outer layer and let the nucleus out – this is when the disc becomes a herniated disc.

herniated disc
herniated disc

Most people would be able to associate this affection with a certain moment – an injury or an accident. However, there are situations when a herniated disc may appear out of nowhere. Some people have it without even knowing it. They have no symptoms whatsoever – no painful sensations and no discomfort. But if this disc ends up touching a nerve root, sciatica will inevitably kick in.

There are more reasons behind herniated discs and sciatica. Constant stress is one of them. Repetitive small traumas will add up overtime and can lead to a herniated disc. Then, an accident is just as common. A sudden pressure on the disc can cause a tear in the strong tissue, leading to the exact same problem – such as trying to pick something up while twisting.

Genetic factors are pretty common too. Some people are born without too many fibers in the strong tissues of their discs, meaning these parts are quite weak. Some of these factors can be prevented, but others are impossible to work on – such as your genetics. Instead, your stress, lifestyle and diet are the things you can work on to prevent, heal and treat this affection.

Now, what should you know about the herniated disc sciatica recovery time and what kind of treatments work against the affection?

Healing a herniated disc with no surgery

Surgery is the last thing you want to hear when you reach to your doctor. At this point, you probably ask yourself whether or not you can heal yourself without it. The good news is you can. Obviously, a surgery is more common for severe situations, such as harsh accidents and injuries associated with exquisite painful sensations.

The recovery without surgery asks for some lifestyle changes too, such as plenty of rest and no pressure on the affected area. You might need some time off work and lots of rest. Naturally, most people will be able to heal themselves without surgery within three months, assuming they follow a strict lifestyle with no stress whatsoever.

But then, this is not a general rule. What works for some people will not work for everyone else – not to mention different people and different builds or genetics. About 10% of all sufferers will require more than 12 weeks for the herniated disc sciatica recovery time and again, lifestyle factors will have a significant impact.

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Recovery time for herniated disc sciatica without surgery

The so called three month healing period is not a general rule. People are different and the affection could have a different degree of severity. Some people will heal way faster than 12 weeks, while others will require a bit of time after that – consider the necessity of surgery too, which will add time to the recovery period.

What makes it even more difficult to prevent the recovery time is the fact that the severity of sciatica will not always affect the duration of the treatment. For example, some people experience harsh injuries and can recover within four weeks only. Some others are more sensitive and while their herniated discs are light, they may take years to fully recover.

However, the typical individual will require more than just a few weeks and way less than a few years. The first week will bring in lots of pain – walking will be almost impossible. The second week brings in some painkillers. They help, but you will still face severe pains. A couple of weeks later, your lifestyle changes and dietary updates will make things easier.

By the sixth week, the patient will feel way better and can even take a day in work (depending on the job, of course). Too much stress on the back or legs will aggravate the situation. You might be able to get back in work if you have an office job. Three weeks later, the leg still feels a bit stiff, but you feel better. A calm and peaceful lifestyle is still a must – no golf or heavy lifting.

As 12 weeks pass, you will slowly regain normal functionality. You need lots of rest and mild exercises for this specific issue. You might feel ready to get back to everything you did before, but you still have to take it easy. The more cautious you are, the better – you are still fragile and another accident can still occur, so it pays off being cautious.

This is how the average issue goes in most people. As you can tell, it is not the type of medical affection you can overcome in a week. The herniated disc sciatica recovery time is long and will take months. The affection will run your life for weeks – it pays off doing everything by the book to prevent recurrences. But keep in mind that everyone is different and results will vary from one person to another.

What to do after 12 weeks

Caution is still needed after 12 weeks, even if your leg is back to normal and the affection is gone. Some changes in your lifestyle should be kept in place for your wellbeing. But then, this is not always the case. In fact, some people may still struggle, even after 12 weeks pass – at this point, the herniated disc sciatica recovery time obviously needs to be longer.

Make sure you follow every rule in the book and try to make the right lifestyle changes to maximize the recovery speed. The body can normally recover in a natural manner if you take lots of rest, avoid effort and stress on the affected area. Just because you can do a few things every now and then, it does not mean that you should.

The recovery implies the body clearing out the affected area. There is lots of so called debris around the injured area. Luckily, the body has clever cells that will clear this debris through the bloodstream. But then, constant pressure or occasional effort will keep aggravating the situation, hence the necessity to take it easy.

The way the body recovers is fairly simple to understand. As the debris is cleared, the soft area in the disc will slowly return to the disc. The outer ring will also heal itself naturally. While still fragile compared to its state before the affection, it will manage to keep the soft tissue inside and return to a healthy state. Keep in mind that although you might be recovered, you are still vulnerable for up to eight weeks.

In other words, the herniated disc sciatica recovery time can take longer. The vulnerability will remain for weeks once healed. However, this vulnerability is often associated with the subconscious anxiety regarding another injury. From some points of view, this type of fear can be positive, as it forces you to be careful.

When the necessity of a surgery kicks in

There are more reasons wherefore the herniated disc sciatica recovery time may take longer. In other words, the disc fails to heal in a natural way, so the doctor must bring in alternative treatments. Surgery is a last resort, but it could be the one and only option for some patients. The primary role of the surgery is to decompress the nerve root affected by the herniated disc.

Different surgeries come with different requirements. In many cases, a sciatica related injury will imply removing small parts of tissue. Usually, the bone within the spine will need altering. The affected nerve root will require some space to move freely – the main requirement to transmit messages. If the bone obstructs it, small pieces must be removed.

Again, the surgery is the ultimate treatment. It can be referred to by various names and it is only recommended to certain patients. If a healthy lifestyle and plenty of rest show almost no improvement within a significant period of time, surgery becomes the next option. The patient is observed for up to 12 weeks before the actual surgery is recommended.

The recovery time after a surgery varies widely from one individual to another. Some people may get back to normal within six or eight weeks, while others may require up to 12 weeks. In severe and complex cases, the recovery time will be even longer. It depends on how sophisticated the surgery is, as well as the patient’s recovery capabilities.

It is worth noting that taking a surgery will require even more care and attention. Without a surgery, you can slowly get back to normal within weeks – one thing at a time. If you take a surgery, your activities are way more limited, so there is no cheating. Thinking that you can recover faster will lead to other problems – follow the doctor’s advice in the smallest details.

Speeding up the recovery time

Some patients might be able to speed the recovery time, but avoid doing anything without discussing your options with a specialist doctor first. If the doctor recommends full rest and no effort at all, follow the advice. Small lifestyle changes can help if approved by the doctor, but none of them will involve effort or stress.

A few exercises every now and then may also speed up the recovery time. Plus, they will help the tissue get used to its actual environment again. Again, do not attempt anything by yourself. You will see plenty of guides over the Internet, as well as videos and tutorials on how to exercise when you suffer from sciatica.


As a short final conclusion, the herniated disc sciatica recovery time is usually within 12 weeks. This is the optimal time required to get back on your feet. You are still vulnerable for up to eight weeks once done, so caution is mandatory when performing activities that involve too much effort or stress – ideally, you should avoid them.

If you do need to take a surgery, you will most likely get it after already trying to recover naturally. The recovery time after a surgery could be up to 12 weeks too. Therefore, you may need to give this affection 24 weeks altogether in order to get rid of it.​

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