Permanent Sciatic Nerve Damage
Sciatic nerve damage occurs when pressure on the sciatic nerve is present for a long period of time.
The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and exits from the base of the spine. It's one of the largest nerves in the body, extending from the back all the way to the toes. As it runs through the buttocks and legs, it branches out and sends roots out into the buttocks, the hips, thighs, calves, feet and toes. Pressure on the nerve from an injury or spinal problem can cause pain anywhere along the nerve.
In addition to lower back and leg pain, sciatic nerve damage can cause numbness and tingling anywhere along the nerve. Foot and ankle problems can sometimes be traced to pressure on the sciatic nerve in the lower back.
How Long Does It Last?
Pain from sciatic nerve damage more often than not only lasts a month or two. As the condition causing the pressure heals, the pain slowly fades away. Once the pressure on the nerve is relieved, pain relief usually isn't too far behind.
Patients with chronic back conditions or conditions that won't heal on their own may suffer long-term sciatica pain. This pain can be debilitating and surgery may be required to fix the condition causing the pain. If your pain is severe or you suffer leg weakness or difficulty controlling your bowels or bladder, you should seek immediate medical attention. This is a sign of a serious issue and you shouldn't try to wait it out.
Permanent Sciatic Nerve Damage Is Rare
Most sciatic nerve damage is temporary. The pain comes and goes with the pressure on the nerve, so treating the condition causing the pressure usually treats the pain. Once you've treated the condition, the pain should slowly fade away as the nerve returns to normal.
In rare cases, the damage done to the sciatic nerve is so bad the nerve is unable to return to normal after the pressure is relieved. If you've suffered severe sciatica and have some stubborn effects that just won't go away, you may have permanent damage to your sciatic nerve. Common effects include persistent weakness in the legs, knees and feet, burning, numbness and nagging pain.
Treating a Damaged Sciatic Nerve
The first line of treatment for sciatic nerve damage that appears to be permanent is more often than not attempting to wait it out. Doctors know nerve damage is rarely permanent and it can take years for nerves to return to normal, so they tend to be conservative when it comes to treatment.
Surgery is usually only an option to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve, not to repair the nerve itself. Modern medicine has come a long way in recent years, but there still isn't a way to surgically repair a badly damaged nerve. Once the inside of the nerve is exposed, it's going to stay exposed unless the nerve is able to repair itself.
When nerve damage appears to be permanent, doctors sometimes recommend installation of a spinal cord stimulator or an implanted pain pump. Spinal cord stimulators are implanted near the lower spinal region and emit pulsed electrical signals to help control the pain. Pain pumps are implanted drug delivery devices that deliver pain killers directly to the area surrounding the spine.