Nine out of 10 cases of sciatica will heal without any specialist treatment - and more than seven out of 10 patients will report improvement within four weeks.

Keeping active is very important, but it may often be necessary to take pain killers to allow you to do this.

You shouldn't be afraid of masking the pain, as keeping active will not do you any more harm.

Your GP practice will be able to recommend activities that will help you keep moving and stop your muscles getting tight and weak.

It's normal to feel some discomfort during recovery - but this is not harmful. However, if the pain persists, your GP practice may refer you to a specialist spinal team to help with your recovery.

In some cases, if sciatica goes on a long time (usually longer than 2-3 months), or is very severe, you may be referred to a specialist team who may offer an MRI scan.

MRI scans are not routinely offered but if you have a nerve that is being pressed upon and not settling as hoped an MRI may be discussed with you.

An MRI scan does not explain where the pain is coming from, in most cases. GPs or Physiotherapists do not need an MRI scan to start actively treating you.

The aim of an MRI is to see if a referral to a consultant surgeon may be useful.

Warning signs

Rarely, the discs in your back can press on part of the spinal cord that is responsible for bowel and bladder function. If you suffer from any of the symptoms below, you should visit your GP or A&E immediately:

  • Loss or decreased sensation around the buttock area.
  • Inability to hold on to your urine or bowels.
  • Inability to pass urine or get an erection.
  • Pain into both legs.
  • Progressive weakness in the legs.

Please read this leaflet for more information.
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