Fortunately, most cases of sciatica caused by disk herniation resolve with conservative treatment and time (usually in 4 to 6 weeks). Initial forms of conservative treatment include the following:
- Placing a cold pack or ice directly on the middle of your back. If you do not have a cold pack, a package of frozen vegetables may be used.
- Avoid bending, lifting, or sitting in a soft, low chair. Any of these activities can actually make the pain worse.
- Try taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprophen to help ease the pain.
- Lie down on your back on a firm mattress. You may want to prop your feet under a pillow to ease the tension on your back. If this position doesn't work, try lying on your side.
- Take it easy. But avoid staying in bed for longer than two days. Too much bed rest can actually be detrimental to your recovery. Also, participate in light activities only. Let pain be your guide to how much you are able to do.
If everything you try fails to relieve your pain within 4 to 6 weeks, consult your physician. X-rays and possibly a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam may be obtained to determine the exact cause of the pain. If a disc herniation is determined to be the cause of the pain and conservative treatment has not helped the symptoms, additional treatment is available, including an epidural lumbar steroid injection and possibly surgery. If your symptoms include severe weakness in the leg(s), loss of bowel and/or bladder control, intractable pain, unexplained significant weight loss, and/or fevers, you should call the doctor immediately or go to the emergency room to be evaluated.