Unbearable sciatica pain: Hi all I’m currently... - Pain Concern

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Unbearable sciatica pain

Gem291 profile image

Hi all I’m currently on day 3 of this horrendous pain. I’ve been taking painkillers from a previous flare up only 12 weeks ago.

The pain this time is absolutely unbearable, I can’t walk, I can’t put weight on my leg because it’s so weak, I can’t sit down, the only way I can get any sort of relief is by laying down in bed. So I was bed bound yesterday as I couldn’t move, it’s absolute agony during the night I just can’t get in a comfy position without my whole leg being in pain.

I cried yesterday it was that awful. I’ve had pillows under my knees and they don’t work the painkillers don’t touch the pain at all. I’ve followed exercises and they don’t work, I’ve had massages that have not worked. I’m really struggling as to what to do now I can’t cope with this pain any longer!

27 Replies

Has your GP tried you on muscle relaxants?


Gem291 profile image
Gem291 in reply to Bananas5

No they haven’t, not sure how they’d help with the pain though? I’m waiting on the docs to open and hopefully I can get an appointment

Bananas5 profile image
Bananas5 in reply to Gem291

The muscles protect the injury and tighten which causes pain. By relaxing those muscles it will ease pain.


Whenever I get sciatica, I do severe hamstring stretches. Sit on a table with good leg standing and sciatic leg resting along the tabletop. Gently try to reach your toes on the table with your hand. If you can actually reach your toes, then try to pull them towards your body, at the same time pointing at your toe with your chin. Keep the gentle pull for 20 seconds. You should feel a pull in your lower back . If pain comes - STOP . Try the same on the other side. I'm sure this is shown on YouTube.

If you can do that 3 times a day, it will help a lot.

Chiropractic manipulation is also very helpful, in my experience.


Hi thanks all, I was sent for an emergency X-ray this morning and signed off work for a month. I managed to get some stronger painkillers but no muscle relaxants. Just have to wait and see now what happens.

Bananas5 profile image
Bananas5 in reply to Gem291

What did they give you for pain?


Gem291 profile image
Gem291 in reply to Bananas5

It’s a stronger cocodamol as the one from before was very mild. It can’t say that they’ve worked just yet as I’ve not long since taken some but I guess it can take time to get into my system x

Bananas5 profile image
Bananas5 in reply to Gem291

GP will always start lowest strength but hope you are on 30/500 now.


Gem291 profile image
Gem291 in reply to Bananas5

Yes I am thank you. Hopefully things will start working x

Massages tend not to work in sciatica. Sciatica is referred pain. The trouble with referred pain is the problem is a long way from where the pain registers.

If the pain is as bad as you say. You need to lie on the floor. The bed is too soft.


The above is a useful thing to do.

A chiropractor is the person who can take the pressure off the sciatic nerve. An appointment with a good chiropractor may take some time. You need to do something in the meantime.

Hope this helps.

morphalot profile image
morphalot in reply to johnsmith

I've had severe sciatica, which is not referred pain. If there is a bulging disc it can directly cause pain in the sciatic nerve (which goes right down the leg). Referred pain is, for example, gall bladder pain is often not felt at all in the gall bladder, but is felt in the shoulder - true referred pain. Lying on the floor is the last thing that doctors and physics would recommend these days. Your bed may be perfectly firm enough. If you lie on your back, have a couple of pillows under your knees, and also a rolled up towel in the part of your lower back that curves inwards. If you lie on your side - the foetal position is the best because it opens up the vertebrae, relieving the pressure that has been caused on the sciatic nerve. At the same time put a couple of pillows between your knees (it would be better if you can afford to b buy a knee cushion from a mobility aids shop) as they are firmer than pillows so give you more support. My doctor prescribed Baclofen as a muscle relaxant which was very effective. I had to go to a&e recently with a muscle spasm in my back and was given diazepam. Another medication which is particularly effective for nerve pain down the legs is Pregabelin. Finally, if you get any sort of pins and needles between your legs or the is any change in bladder/bowel activity, ring your doctor immediately. I don't know where you're from but I was lucky enough to live near the best orthopaedic hospital in Europe, so an confident I was given the best advice. Good luck with it, and I hope things settle down soon x

johnsmith profile image
johnsmith in reply to morphalot

Thank you for the reply. You are correct about my referred pain error. This is the problem with language you read what you think you wrote instead of what you actually wrote. Pain and discomfort in Sciatica is referred pain caused by pressure on a nerve which causes pain to be registered by the brain at a site not close to where pressure on the nerve is taking place. The previous sentence is nightmare to get ones head around.

Please look at the website:


Again you are right about lying on the floor. The website gives a bit more detail of what I mean about lying on the floor, The details here changes the meaning of my "lying on the floor" to something else.

You say: "Lying on the floor is the last thing that doctors and physics would recommend these days."

Doctors and physicians have very little knowledge of muscular behaviour. They refer to others who might if you are lucky know something about the body's feedback mechanisms.

Sciatica is not necessarily a simple pressure on the sciatic nerve. There is a feedback mechanism from the reflexes in the neck which can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve by muscle behavioural mechanisms activated by the spinal movement centre in response to neck reflexes .

There are nerves into muscle which cause muscle to contract. There are no nerves into muscle which can cause muscle to un-contract. For uncontraction you must rely on other muscles to lengthen out the contracted muscle. And the springiness in the fascia to lengthen out contracted muscle.

To find out more about fascia google "Thomas Myers". The first international conference on fascia was at Harward medical school in 2007.

You say: "the foetal position is the best because it opens up the vertebrae,..." On the biomechanical front this is correct. However, on the spinal reflex, fascia and muscular front it is in error. You need to take the pressure off nerves and keep it off. This is a not simple issue when small muscles are over contracted.

In Oceanography there is a saying: "A butterfly flapping its wings in New Hampshire will cause a storm in the south of England". The butterfly is not the cause of the storm, but the flapping of its wings will modify a dataset of variables that eventually builds into a storm or not.

Much medical data is based on comparing one variable against another to label a cause for a particular diagnosis. The reality is that the body is an engineering system that is composed of many different sub-systems which interact with each other. This leads to a situation where the cause for the progression of a particular diagnosis is multi variable.

morphalot profile image
morphalot in reply to johnsmith

Sorry but I don't want this to turn into an argument. My extremely good, spine specialist told me about the foetal position in impending cauda equina, so I would go along with his advice. Just in case you feel I have no experience, I was very interested in the Alexander technique and had several sessions with a practitioner.

johnsmith profile image
johnsmith in reply to morphalot

Arguments are a waste of time. Discussions presenting differing opinions are always useful.

Interested how you found the sessions with the Alexander Teacher.

Why dont you try ana make or ask to see a physio who work with the football and rugby teams my sister went to see one and she felt a better keep going love

OMG I have been like that since end of October (sciatic pain started) / Christmas (can’t lay or sit anymore) basically!!! I can sooo empathize 😳😞 It has been one of the most testing experiences of my life (i was also lucky so far)...

So here is what helped me: I went through all the stages of stretching, walking it out, physio, osteopath, mild pain killer, strong pain killer etc. I eventually had to have two spinal injection of steroids and lidocaine.

I am now back to mobile, still not at work though (!) and slowly weaning off the mega painkillers...

— I am on Amytriptiline 30mg at night (as you have neuropathic pain not muscular pain!) — if you have true sciatica then one of your disc has bulged out and is pressing on your sciatic nerve. Hence Nerv pain, which doesn’t respond to normal pain regimes unfortunately. Depending on where it bulged, that’s where your pain then is. Mine was all down my leg on the outside - esp. buttocks and calf with numbness in under foot and toes — that was a bulge at L4/5. A test to check it is truly spine related is to lift your non affected leg - does it still start affecting the other leg? This can only happen if the pain source is where the both legs meet - at the spine.

— than I went from codein low dose to high dose to oral morphin to Oxycodone to higher doses of Oxycodone (which I am currently coming down from)

— 4x1g of Paracetamol and 3x400mg of Ibuprofen was the baseline to everything mention (currently down to 2g Paracetamol and 800g Ibuprofen)

As I am pregnant (!!!) through all of this, I had to wait for the MRI till the second trimester (not an X-ray as that shows bones and not very well the soft tissue which is what would be causing your issue. They need to look for what is pressing on your nerve - the disc, a tumour etc... which will be seen very well on an MRI, but not on standard X-ray). Insist on it - esp if the X-ray shows nothing. MRI is a more expensive procedure so don’t let them fob you off. Read the NICE treatment guidelines for Sciatica and show your GP if they ever don’t want to comply as they HAVE to do what is set out in the NICE guidance.

— they then finally performed the steroid shots (which is standard protocol but took a while for me due to the pregnancy) - as the had to figure out a way to do it without the usually involved image guidance as it carries x-ray load which could harm the baby, so they did it dirst blind and second as an epidural. They also first used half the steroid load. But I needed the full load (ie second injection) to now be able to move almost completely pain free: sitting, walking, laying on side and back (when before I could only do tummy laying and absolutely nothing else). I still have a little pain in my hip / upper buttock appearing upon long sitting and back lying (my trigger positions) so will need to see to get that sorted too).

It’s a truly agonising and lonely experience without sleep and so much pain. If the NHS isn’t helping you quickly then consider going private for this - you can get those shots for under £500 sorted - and outside London probably for less.

If you need anything else - please feel free to message me! I’m soooo happy to be on the other end now and hope it will be the same for you v soon. 🤞🏼🤞🏼🍀🍀

Gem291 profile image
Gem291 in reply to EvaK82

Hi that’s a really detailed reply, thankyou!

I changed doctors just after Christmas and yesterday was the first time I went about my sciatica and they were really understanding and sent for an X-ray and said they’ll send me for an mri once I have the X-ray results back (something to do with he can get me an mri as something as urgent from the X-ray results and it’ll be quicker that way). The only downside to yesterday is the co-codamol he gave me is useless. So I’m still struggling with the pain. I’m currently bed bound as walking and sitting is just horrendous!

I have amitriptyline and they don’t work, just make me more tired if anything which isn’t helpful when I barely sleep.

The pain is my left leg, all through the back of it from my buttock to my toes. The back of my leg is numb and also under my foot. I also feel like my leg and foot are heavy almost like a dead leg so when I walk it feels even more strange.

I’m just juggling between ibuprofen and the 30/500 co-Co-codamol at the moment but having very little affect pain wise. Oh I’m also rubbing voltarol down the back of my leg, I’m not sure it works but when the painkillers aren’t working I don’t know what else to do. I honestly can’t afford to go private or pay for a chiropractor so I’m having to make do until the doctor can find me the best solution.

EvaK82 profile image
EvaK82 in reply to Gem291

I totally understand... the first thing that measurably numbed the pain was the oral morphin but only for 2h when you can only take it every 4h. That’s why my private doc then prescribed me Oxycodone— they might be hesitant to do that but you have to keep insisting that your pain isn’t controlled. They go by protocol and it sais when x fails then try Y. Still having pain and not being able to move classified as not working for you. They don’t know your pain, only you do.

For the Amytriptiline, it can take up to 6 weeks to work in some and I went from 10 to 20 to 30mg but there are higher dosages. Only take it at night to help with sleeping.

But you need to find a position that you can exist in basically... your pain description sounds like a mirror image of mine - I had it on the right side. What helped me was to arch my back, back. Like in the yoga pose cobra. It moved the bulging disc a bit away from the nerve and that’s how o managed to get a bit of sleep. Propped up with pillows and then walking it out in between.

There was a point when the disc was out so much that absolutely no position whatsoever was bearable and that’s when the ambulance brought me into hospital and i got the oral morphin.

Looking back at my journey I think I should have spoken up much earlier about pain relief not working for me and asking to escalate whatever they were doing but I didn’t know...

johnsmith profile image
johnsmith in reply to Gem291

If you are in the UK point out the NICE recommendations on chiropractic. I get chiropractic treatment on the NHS.

Gem291 profile image
Gem291 in reply to johnsmith

Yes and not every area has this on the nhs and unfortunately I don’t and I can’t afford to go private

johnsmith profile image
johnsmith in reply to Gem291

I understand where you are coming from. Workout how much money you are losing by living with the issue. Compare this with the cost of a single treatment.

You can do a lot of temporary cost cutting to meet that cost. Contact local voluntary debt agencies they may be helpful in giving you valuable information.

I had shingles on my sciatic nerve 3 years ago, and it caused a dropped foot, which is still not right. My pain then was, as in sciatica, from my buttock to my foot, and GRADUALLY it has mostly gone, but my thigh is still very sensitive. I have seen every specialist imiaginable, but have just been told that nerves take a long time to heal, which isn't much consolation , and have been given exercises to do. I wear a splint and have to use a walking frame, but even at the age of 81 I would like to think that my foot would be healed in my lifetime ! I am now seeing a physio as I have very acute arthritis in that knee also, so I think I shall have just have to keep on doing the exercises I have been given !

Good luck and keep smiling !!!

You must get your gp to refer you to a pain clinic. They will be able to find the root of the pain and treat it accordingly. Maybe you should ask your doctor for a strong nerve painkiller such as gabapentin. Also there is a stretch you can do, lie flat out on your back, pull whichever leg is good up to about 90' to your hip, then lift the bad leg so as it's ankle is resting/ leaning against the good knee (that is a man's way of crossing the legs while sitting down 🙂) and try to hold it for 20 seconds. I find that when you straighten out it's as if you've received a shot of anisthetic to your nerve. It lasts about a few minutes, gives a bit of relief. I suffer from L5/s1 nerve root damage and suffer sciatica to an unbearable level sometimes. The nerve drug I mentioned fies help and I top it up with NAPROXEN, paracetamol, whisky etc etc. Also if you can keep your leg elevated while sitting I find it helps too. Hope you find improvement. Soon.

Hi there, having had 3 microdiscectomies for horrendous sciatica and numbness due to huge disc herniations I know what you feel like. The only drug that touched it for me was pregabalin. Cocodomol did nothing. To start with dyhidrocodeine did help somewhat too but it did get my stomach somewhat.

An X-ray won’t tell you if you have herniated the disc, for that you will need an mri.

Hi, I feel for you and am so sorry you’re in such extreme pain.

I myself have an appointment with my pain specialist (this week) for S. I. pain, bad knees (former injuries/now arthritis). I don’t have quite as extreme sciatica pain as you’re having, but I do know that it’s bad!!

I truly sympathize. Sciatica pain can be excruciating. It felt like a lightning bolt shooting down my leg! No magic cures here. I think sciatica has to run its course, no matter what. I did find some relief alternating with hot and cold packs. Supposedly, cold is recommended, but I found hot baths to be tremendously relieving. Also, sitting in a straight back chair (as opposed to a cushioned easy chair). I got some relief from Laying down also. I tried to exercise but the pain was too bad. I think walking - even a little- helped in the long run. I was prescribed Gabapentin and Tramadol, but not sure either can be credited with my recovery. Amazingly, one day I just woke up and it was gone!!

Hope you feel better soon.

Hi Gem291,

I've had Sciatica since a 'slipped disc', over 20 years ago! I also have Spina Bifida Oculta with an accompanying spinal curvature, although this never bothered me from birth, but is now causing additional problems as I get older.

I believe my situation was exacerbated by the fact that after getting an MRI which showed the damaged disc (that took about 5 years), it took 13 YEARS before it was operated on!!! By this time a spur of bone had grown from my spine, to try to relieve the pressure on the Sciatic Nerve, causing the operation to become a Laminectomy, rather than a Discectomy. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done, and I've continued to suffer with Sciatica and lumbar spine pain.

My curvature caused me to walk with a slight (unnoticeable) 'tilt' to my left, all my life, but the Sciatica caused me to lean (unnaturally) to the right, putting pressure on that side. This led to Arthritis in my spine, and my right hip which had to have a total replacement 3 years ago. I've had 3 injections into my lumbar spine to try to remove the pressure and pain there, which has accompanied everything else, but they haven't worked for more than a few days each time. But my tilt has now reverted to my left side, so that hip is now suffering severe Arthritis!

Through all these years, the Sciatica has continued to increase in severity, and I've developed Lymphoedema since my hip replacement - the lack of mobility causing my weight to rocket from a size 12-14 (UK), to a 22-24 in the 3 years!!! The pain in my lumbar spine is as bad as ever, along with the more pain from my left hip.

I've been on an increasingly potent cocktail of drugs over the years, currently including Paracetamol (maximum daily), Naproxen, Pregabelin, MSTs (Morphine Sulphate Tablets), Lansoprazole (for the stomach problems caused by the other meds), Oramorph (to be taken 'when necessary') and Laxido (for constipation from the meds).

I've got to the stage, at 65, when I can hardly stand. The pain is excruciating! I went to the doctor two weeks ago, and I was sent for Physiotherapy???? The Physiotherapist I saw this week couldn't examine me because I couldn't get on the table for her to do so, and she immediately referred me to a different Physiotherapist. I'm now waiting for an appointment........

I feel as if I'm just waiting to die, with similar problems to yourself, and have no standard of life? I urge you to get referred to find the root of the problem, and hopefully get it fixed with surgery, if necessary? Don't waste years of your life being fobbed off with useless drugs that only cause further problems!

God bless and good luck.

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