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Sciatica gets worse throughout the day, is this typical?

ajamiesonaajamieson Posts: 65
I wake up and my left leg feels tingly but not painful. Is the day goes on it goes from tingly to shear pain that almost brings me to tears. Is it typical for sciatica to have this pattern? I may be getting an epidural spinal injection of cortisone. Is this going to help my sciatic pain? Thanks.


  • The simple answer is Yes. But the good news is that there are things you can do to not be by the end of the day in pain.

    1) Stand often and I would say try not to sit more than 30 minutes at any one time.

    2) Do mini-cobras every 1 to 2 hours through out the day and stretching if you have the time.

    3) Lay on the floor and put your legs on a chair and lay there for atleast 5-10 minutes every hour or so.

    4) Keep yourself busy and believe you will get better.

    Also ofcourse meds as diclofenic works well for me but in the end I have now been dealing with this coming on 9mos with 3-4 mos of pain. It will make you go nuts mentally and dive you to tears not jusy physically but mentally. Stay strong mentally...everyday that passes is a day you have to believe you are closer to an end of it.


    Have you had an epidural yet?
  • I just got a shot yesterday for the first time. I felt much better this morning with some pain coming on this afternoon. It sounds like it takes a few days to kick in fully. My back pain is always worse later in the day I'm assuming because my body is getting tired. I'm only 24 hours into the shot but I already think its a good idea I think the important thing is have a doc who does them all the time do it, I used a phsyiatrist.

    Jsirabella always gives out good advice here. I really agree with him on staying strong mentally and believing you will get better. I have been able to get over my pain for long stretches of time and in my case my relapses are my own fault due to improper lifting.

    The first time I hurt my back was aweful physically and mentally I felt very alone and scared and didn't know how to treat it at all. It lasted 6 months mainly because I kept reinjuring myself due to bad advice after bad advice. I never gave up hope though and finally I did some PT and left my back alone to heal and it ultimately got better.

    The mental side is tough. Stay optimistic and keep trying different things that will get you on the right path.
  • I haven't had an epidural yet. I fractured L2-L5 and the doc wants me to wait until the fractures heal before giving me the epidural shot for the sciatic pain. The foreman that the sciatic nerve travels through was crushed. It is so frustrating but I am trying to stay positive. Thank you for your feedback.
  • I'm not sure why the doctor wants to wait on the ESI until the fractures heal. Please let us know the reason if you find out.

    The fact that the foramen is crushed is probably the main reason for your sciatic pain. The spinal nerves that need to pass through that opening have nowhere else to go. They are being compressed at this point and the pain is traveling down the leg from the spine, following the dermatome for that particular nerve. (run a search for dermatome map or chart if curious).

    There are logical, scientific reasons for why sciatic pain increases the more you are putting weight on the leg. My surgeon has explained the process to me several times and I'm afraid I can't repeat it here because I do not remember the specifics -- the more you're on your feet, or the further you walk, there is more blood flowing into the area, and if there is inflammation, it gets worse as the day goes on. Also at night, your spine lengthens out as you are out of gravity's force...the discs have a chance to unload. As the day wears on, the discs compact...and the sciatic pain worsens.

    The things js suggests may work for some cases of sciatic but I don't think you will find them particularly helpful. With the fractured vertebrae I doubt the doctor wants you to do anything that puts your spine in a flexed position. Leaning forward will feel better because it will open up that disc space. Being on your feet will only increase your pain. Keeping busy and being positive may distract your mind but it is not going to do anything for the smashed foramen.

    Did your doc suggest how long it will take for the vertebrae to heal? What does he plan to do to open up that foraminal space? Has he talked about surgery?

    The injection will take down the swelling and hopefully it will help for a bit.

    I'm pretty sure I've asked you this before, but are you seeing a fellowship-trained spinal specialist?

    Have you read the following information?


  • Hi,

    I have Kaiser and my doc is my primary care physician. I have not seen a specialist and I don't know that I will get to. The doc said the cortisone will slow down the bone healing and so he wants to hold off. This pain is horrendous. The doc did say that I will likely need neurosurgery to open a hole for the nerve to travel through. I am beside myself with this thing. It sucks (as you know!). I am trying to be positive but I just keep thinking a year ago I ran a marathon, now I walk with a cane. And I know that I am fortunate I wasn't paralyzed so I get mad at myself for getting so upset about this. I feel like I don't have room to complain and yet I still do.

  • Is there any way you can get in to see a spinal specialist. I don't know that much about vertebral fractures, but I would think there is enough that can go wrong that you should be seeing a specialist. Also, having compressed nerves for a period of time is not the ideal situation...I can't really talk because I lived with my sciatic pain for at least three years before I finally realized I had to have surgery.

    You do still have room to complain, in my book. I know how horrendous sciatic pain is. I was only able to live with mine as long as I did because it was relieved when I saw down. No pain medications or nerve meds touched the pain. Maybe you should try one of the nerve pains like gabapentin or lyrica, if you can get it. Lots of insurance companies are not approving Lyrica now due to the expense.

    I really worry that you will not heal up properly and will be left with nerve pain. Of course I am not a doc and I don't mean to alarm you more than you already are...but I am concerned for you.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,875
    Remember, what we say here is based on our own personal experiences. What I may have gone through might not even come close to your situation. That is why I always stress talking things over with your doctor.

    For me, sciactic is miserable the first thing in the morning. After sleeping a couple of hours in bed or some more hours in a recliner, when I get up, it takes a long time fof this ole body to get moving.
    But now as the day goes on, part of the reason your sciatica can feel worse is that you body is getting tired. The things you would normally do to help with sciatic seem to lose their effectiveness.

    Keep on plugging away. Get to the bottom of why you are having the sciatic pain and try to eliminate it.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Hi ajamieson,

    I agree with gweenie17 and papa ron on all their points but the most important to me is what gweenie17 wrote being that you have alot to not be happy about.

    First now that you explained the cause of your sciatica since I do not have the same condition it will probably not help but to me the first thing a doctor should be concerned about is your QUALITY OF LIFE. I understand that he may feel he can not do a cortizone shot for other reasons but he should be able to do something either through meds or PT. You are now walking with a cane...this should be a huge big red flag in his face. I had the exact same experience in that I came to my ortho office eventually with a cane 2 mos ago. He gave me an EMG test and was stunned that I was in that much pain given my mild herniation. He immediately set me up for an epidural.

    What has your doc done to improve your quality of life?

    I believe in being mentally strong as from all my readings there are no quick fixes to sciatica nor do I believe good thoughts will make it all go away. I do believe though in a plan of action that will improve my quality of life (hopefully back to before the start of pain) which will require me to be mentally strong and sometimes grin and bear it for months. But only with a plan of action. I ask my doc always what is the next step and if I disagree or do not understand I question it. My doc tells me straight that right now you have had 2 epis and you need to do PT and lets meet monthly If conditions from month to month get worse than we talk surgery. I already have a neurosurgeon and spinal othopedist ready. I can pretty much go in there now and tell them I give up...but I am not ready for that yet.

    In the end what is your doc's plan of action? Do you agree with it? Maybe need a second opinion?

    I believe Kaiser is the British healthcase system, correct? So I do not know what options you have.

    In the end too...DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF. You are not to blame as there are many people who run everyday and never experience any issues. It is not your fault. Like I said there is no easy quick fix and you do not need to be carrying this baggage. I was very angry. I mean really angry and my wife and daughter finally sat me down and told me what I was doing. I do not need that baggage and neither do you. Your focus should be only on what it will take to beat this thing.


    On a side note my understanding is that while the walking and putting weight on your legs will eventually generate pain due to the inflammation, you need to keep the blood flow up to heal. That areas gets very little and the epi or meds are to keep down the inflammation so you can continue the PT.
  • I can truly empathize with your pain. I have not suffered with sciatic nerve pain nearly as long as others on this board, but I can tell you that in the two months I have suffered with it since early Sept. it has been horrendous. My pain is caused from a herniated disc and scar tissue from two previous back surgeries, and thankfully I am having a PLIF tomorrow (the 4th) to hopefully ease some of the pain I have been in.

    I know your condition is different than mine, but from my experience I have found that the more I am on my feet, the worse my sciatica gets. The position I find most helpful is to lie on my right side (my left side is my painful side) and put a pillow between my knees and try to lie very still. I am also taking Percocet for the pain (7.5/325mg, two every four hours) which has helped my pain a lot and has enabled me to endure the pain.

    Listen to your body and try not to do too much. If I push myself too much, I pay for it with increased pain.

    I hope and pray that you find relief from your pain. I know that it really can bring you down and it is very draining, but I believe that if you keep pursuing help, you will find relief.

    Lisa :)
  • When I was working and in severe sciatic pain, I used ice packs on my lower back. You can buy the kind that comes with the holder (has elastic bands and velcro to hold the ice pack in place). I found this very helpful -- my theory is that it numbed the L4/L5 area and helped the sciatic pain from feeling so intense.

    Everyone has given you great advice in the above posts so just wanted to chat about ice packs.

    Good luck,

  • My sciatica got MUCH worse as the days progressed.

    I found several ways around it to help lower it some and did my "must do" chores etc around the different levels of pain.

    However by the end of the day no matter what I did, did not do the end result was still a lot more pain then I had in the beginning of the day.....

    I can't remember everything I did ( I typically no longer experience this pain now due to that specific nerve "dieing" off ).....

    I do remember laying on my back and do legs curls much like you would arm curls, about 10 reps, rest 10 more reps etc.... until I could feel the pain going away (some ).

    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
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