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Last Stages of Sciatica: How to Know if Your Sciatica is Getting Better or Worse

Last stages of sciatica

So, you have sciatica

- You know it sucks. 

- You know about the pain shooting down the outside or back of your leg, butt, or lower back

- You’re familiar with the annoying tingling and frequent numbness

BUT–what happens now? Having sciatica can feel totally out of control! And if your sciatica has you feeling: 

- overwhelmed 

 - hopeless

- AND like you’ll never feel normal again

it can help to know what to expect

Did you know that there are 4 stages of sciatica

Just because you have sciatica doesn’t mean you are destined to go through all 4 of these stages. So, before we dive in to the bad stuff, just know that there is hope, especially if you get early help for your sciatica and take care of your muscles! 

BUT when left untreated and left to work through all 4 stages, sciatica can increase the pain and symptoms it causes AND have a lasting impact on your body. 

Today, we’ll start this article with the cringy stuff, so you understand the negative impact of the last stages of sciatica. 

Bad news before good news. 

Then, we’ll address the recovery stages of sciatica and how you can know you’re getting better. 

Today, we’ll cover: 

- Last Stages of Sciatica: Stage #3 - Chronic Sciatica

- Last Stages of Sciatica: Stage #4 - Recovery & Healing

- The Earlier Stages of Sciatica

- What is Sciatica? 

- Sciatica Relief With Trigger Point Massage 


Last Stages of Sciatica: Stage 3 - Chronic Sciatica (12+ Weeks)

I’ll get to the first 2 stages of sciatica in this article, but the last stages of sciatica are: 

Stage #3: Chronic Sciatica 

Stage #4: Recovery & Healing

Unchecked sciatica that progresses into the 3rd stage becomes chronic sciatica. Sciatica is considered to move into the chronic stage once the pain has lasted for 12 weeks or longer

While the symptoms DO tend to get worse in the chronic stage, levels of pain can vary from MILD to SEVERE. 


Last Stages of Sciatica: Common Symptoms

Here are some common symptoms of chronic conditions during the last stages of sciatica: 

Intensifying Pain

The last stages of sciatica are characterized by an intensifying of the pain that was already there! 

This means that the shooting pain, tingling, numbing sensations, and weakness you’ve already experienced in the earlier stages of sciatica could continue to get worse until potentially stopping you from walking or moving. 


Long-term Nerve Compression

When nerves in our body are compressed for long periods of time, the negative symptoms that come from the nerve compression become exaggerated. The same is true for sciatica. 

In the last stages of sciatica, you can expect your: 

- Numbness

- Weakness

- AND tingling 

…to increase and worsen due to the length of time that your nerve has been compromised. 


Sleep Disturbance 

Many times, during the last stages of sciatica, the pain extends into sleep–actually preventing you from getting sleep because of the pain you’re experiencing. 

If your sciatica is stopping you from sleeping, I recommend: 

- Sleeping on your side (never your stomach!)

- Sleeping with a pillow between your legs 

- Sleeping on a firm mattress

For more details about this, check out our article below: 

How to Relieve Sciatica Pain in Bed” 

Last Stages of Sciatica: Severe Symptoms

The next symptoms tend to take place in more severe cases: 

Permanent Nerve Damage 

Perhaps the scariest outcome of allowing your pain to get to the last stages of sciatica is permanent damage to your sciatic nerve. This irreversible damage can have devastating results, and this is why it’s SO important to address sciatica! 


Leg Paralysis

Immobility is another devastating consequence of allowing your sciatica to go on for too long. Along with the paralysis comes loss of sensation in the affected leg. 


Loss of Motor Control 

In more severe cases, people lose the ability to move the affected leg, which decreases their ability to walk and move. 



And lastly, incontinence has been associated with more severe cases during the last stages of sciatica. Since the surrounding area around the nerve becomes immobilized, numb, and weak, incontinence is a natural but unfortunate result. 


Last Stages of Sciatica: Stage 4 - Recovery & Healing

Last Stages of Sciatica: Healing and Recovery

All right. Bad news is over with. 

The good news is: There is a 4th stage of sciatica: recovery & healing

This stage can happen before you EVER have to experience Stage 3: chronic sciatica. This is why early intervention for sciatica is recommended through:

-  Rest

- Ice

Chemical Relaxers

- Massage

- Stretching

- Exercising

- AND physical therapy

Each person's healing journey from sciatica is different, so it’s important to not compare yourself to anyone else but to work with a healthcare provider who can guide you through at your own pace. 

So, here’s what to expect during Stage 4! 


Reduced Pain & Inflammation

You’ve started treatment for your sciatica, and you can already feel the relief!  You’re officially in Stage 4, and these last stages of sciatica are all about healing. 

Initially, you can still expect to feel pain in your leg and hip, BUT this pain and inflammation will begin centralizing–meaning it won’t be spread out as much to your leg or foot. You will most likely feel it centralize into your hips and lower back at this stage. 

Fair warning: Just because you start to feel the pain and inflammation reducing does NOT mean it’s time to jump back into your regular, active lifestyle. 

In fact, you can expect to still feel restrictions when it comes to your movements during the last stages of sciatica–as well as potentially disturbed sleep. 

Once the inflammation is gone, the sciatic nerve actually has the ability to start healing because the compression no longer has your sciatic nerve screaming with pain signals. During this phase, the pain that was centralized earlier will now be reduced significantly, and you might regain mobility in the process! 

But don’t overdo it just yet. Weakness and numbness could very well still be present, and I recommend using them as reminders to take it easy in your recovery journey. 


Sciatic Nerve Healing

All those damaged nerve cells? 

They have a chance to heal if you’re proactive in fixing your sciatica. 

In fact, once that inflammation goes down and your sciatic nerve has some room to breathe, the nerve cells of your sciatic nerve can begin to regenerate. 

And with this comes the mobility you've been craving! 

You can also say bye to the numbness, weakness, and tingling that has been hanging out there for way too long already. With the rejuvenated cells in your sciatic nerve, you can expect all of these symptoms to decrease and go away. 

Nerve Rehabilitation

And you’re there at last. 

Once your nerve cells have had the chance to heal, your sciatic nerve should begin to function normally again! 

You can expect to be able to move at a full range of motion without weakness, numbness, or tingling sensations in your leg, hips, or lower back. 

But you’re not totally off the hook. 

Healing is rarely ever linear, and you may experience the older symptoms coming back at times. Because of this, I recommend continued exercises, stretches, massage, and working with a healthcare provider or physical therapist. 

Early Stages of Sciatica: Stages 1 & 2

Last Stages of Sciatica

Stage 1: Acute Sciatica (1-6 weeks)

This is the type of sciatica you see most often. This happens when your sciatic nerve becomes compressed or under pressure. 

What is the sciatic nerve, you ask? 

Great question. 

Your sciatic nerve starts in your glutes and runs down your leg, and it works to send signals around your back, buttocks, and legs. 

Sciatica happens when the sciatic nerve gets unwanted pressure from a: 

- Bulging Disc 

- Herniated disc

- Spinal stenosis 

- Bone Spur

- Pinched Nerve

- Case of Arthritis 

During Stage 1 of sciatica, you can start to feel pain in your legs, butt, and lower back. People tend to describe it as sharp, shooting, electric shocks of pain. 

 Tingling, numbness, and weakness are also common symptoms. 

Early intervention means getting the help you need as soon as you start to feel these symptoms, so whether that means massage, physical therapy, stretches, or exercises…you find what works for you, and get the help you need! 

Stage 2: Subacute Sciatica (6-12 weeks) 

If your sciatica lasts for more than six weeks, it then goes into Stage 2: Subacute Sciatica. 

If you still have sciatica at this point in your treatment, you may notice the pain starting to lessen, but it could still affect your daily function and activities. 

If you have not received treatment, your pain also could get worse, building towards the late stages of sciatica–particularly chronic sciatica. 


Massage & Trigger Point Therapy for Last Stages of Sciatica

So, how can you experience relief from sciatica? 

First, I recommend checking out our article: “Sciatica Relief in 8 Minutes or Less” where we explore all the best ways to get quick sciatica relief. 

But here…I’ll focus on our specialty: massage

Massaging your piriformis muscle can have a HUGE impact on the amount of inflammation and pain you feel around your sciatic nerve. 

Piriformis muscle can cause sciatica

Your piriformis is a deep glute muscle, and when this muscle gets tight, it puts a TON of pressure on your sciatic nerve. In fact, this is such a common phenomenon, that it’s called Piriformis Syndrome

That’s why I recommend using a massage device specifically to hit your piriformis muscle

But here’s the dilemma….the piriformis muscle is such a specific area. How do you make sure you massage THAT ACTUAL muscle? 

It actually might be a lot easier than it sounds. 

After experiencing huge amounts of back pain himself, our founder, Ben, created the QL Claw

Massage Tool for Sciatica Relief


This one-of-a-kind back massage device hits all 5 muscles responsible for most lower back pain, including the piriformis muscle

And with unique routines and approaches to hit each muscle, The Claw is an easy way to add in an at-home massage routine for your piriformis and for quick sciatica relief! 

To learn how to use The Claw for your Piriformis click HERE

To check out all the details about the QL Claw, click HERE

More Resources On Sciatica 

We pride ourselves in providing THE BEST resources on back pain relief through our many platforms, such as our Blog and YouTube channel

If you’d like to learn more about sciatica, check out our other resources below! 

Articles on Sciatica

Sciatica Massage: How Muscles Can Cause & Relieve Sciatica

Positive Signs of Sciatica Improving

Videos on Sciatica 

3 Great Sciatica Exercises Sitting In A Chair

Is Piriformis Syndrome Causing You Sciatica?”

Pain In Your Butt? It May Be The Piriformis Muscle And Sciatica


Last Stages of Sciatica FAQs

How do you know when sciatica is ending?

You can tell that sciatica is ending once you enter the last stages of sciatica–specifically Stage 4: Healing & Recovery. During this stage, you’ll experience a reduction of pain and inflammation, allowing your sciatic nerve to heal and regenerate nerve cells. You’ll start to feel increased mobility and less tingling and weakness. 

What are the 4 stages of sciatica?

The 4 stages of sciatica are: 

Stage 1: Acute Sciatica: (0-6 weeks) The sciatic nerve initially becomes compressed, and pain is felt in your leg, buttocks, or lower back. 

Stage 2: Subacute Sciatica: (6-12 weeks) The pain may worsen or lessen depending on your specific case and the amount of care and treatment

Stage 3: Chronic Sciatica: (12+ weeks) This is when your sciatica has lasted for 12 weeks or more. You may start to feel increased pain, sleep disturbance, and potentially long-term effects. 

Stage 4: Healing & Recovery: (This Stage can come at any point throughout this process.) In this stage, your pain and inflammation will decrease, allowing your sciatic nerve to heal again. But be careful: Your journey towards healing from sciatica could require a slow process! 

How do I know if my sciatica is severe?

Severe sciatica is characterized by intense numbness, tingling, and weakness. If you begin to lose mobilization in your leg, you have most likely entered the last stages of sciatica. Incontinence is also a symptom of severe sciatica. 

What is the best immediate relief for sciatica?

Trigger point massage is a great way to relieve pain from sciatica. I recommend a massage tool like the QL Claw. 

What relaxes the sciatic nerve?

Myofascial release through massage can help the muscles around your sciatic nerve relax, such as your Piriformis. This, in turn, will help your sciatic nerve feel less pain. 



[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.



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