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Sciatica: a few notes about the 'resting cure' SCIATICA: A FEW NOTES ABOUT THE 'RESTING CURE'
Bed rest, although perhaps not seen as a treatment by some, still remains one of the best ways to deal with the symptoms of many kinds of back problems as this gives the body the opportunity to relax and bring its own recuperative abilities into play.
There has been a major change in professional opinion about how long someone with back pain should rest. It used to be that experts thought that a lengthy rest, one of perhaps several weeks, was essential to bring about recovery; nowadays, the general view is that a much shorter resting period - one to three days - is enough to allow the back to recuperate enough in most cases so that the patient should thereafter slowly become more active, although, of course, avoiding those activities known to worsen or trigger off back pain. Other points to note about the 'resting cure':
Unless your doctor tells you so specifically (and you should ask if you have any doubt), do not interpret the word 'rest' as meaning 'bed rest'. Spending several days immobile in bed can at times be the very worst thing for some back sufferers. Rest means taking it easy and avoiding those tasks that involve a great deal of back movement. However, bed rest is more likely to be beneficial for sciatica sufferers than for those who have 'simple' back-ache, and it may be needed for longer, perhaps for a week or two.
Resort to bed rest only if told to do so by your doctor.
While 'resting' do some gentle - very, very gentle - exercises to keep your back moving, stopping these immediately if there's the slightest indication that they may be making things worse. Check carefully with your doctor what exercises will be safe and beneficial for you.
As your symptoms begin to improve, graduate to somewhat more energetic exercising, but still avoid any that place strain upon the back or involve a great deal of bending, lifting, stretching or twisting of the back. Walking at a moderate pace is an excellent form of exercising, as is swimming.
Take any prescribed medication - or use across-the-counter analgesics to keep the pain under control during the first few days. Paracetamol, aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, may help.
Naturally, throughout your recovery period avoid all those activities that are likely to have brought on your problem in the first place
Many ordinary cases of sciatica and lower back pain will respond quite speedily to this regime, the symptoms usually beginning to reduce within a few days and thereafter perhaps taking up to six weeks or so to disappear completely. It's a fact that there is an incredibly high rate of 'spontaneous recovery' with many forms of back troubles, especially when the body is given a fair chance to bring its own self-healing powers into play.
Even sciatica that's due to a prolapsed disc often has a self-limiting course because that part of the disc's centre that protrudes from the outer ring eventually becomes deprived of nourishment and therefore wastes away, so removing the pressure it had been creating on the nerve roots. How long the protruding material takes to wither away - and whether it leaves any residue - will affect how well the nerves recover eventually.
Naturally, should you be in that minority of sciatica and back pain sufferers whose symptoms do not respond sufficiently well to simple remedies, then you should return to see your doctor. At that time, he may suggest that you persevere a little longer with the current treatment, or if the symptoms remain reasonably severe and there is no improvement to speak of, he may well refer you to a specialist clinic at your local hospital for further diagnosis, as well as possible tests and investigations.
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