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Sciatica - literally can’t walk more than a few steps


I started having sciatica pain about eight months ago. After a couple months and no resolution I started PT. Only did that for a month. Didn’t seem to help much. Regular pain continued but didn’t completely prevent me from doing things. I just had to cut back on my weekly runs. 

About a week or two ago it seemed to get worse. And then 48 hours ago it for REALLY bad. I’ve spent the last three days on my back. I attempted to go to the doctor but couldn’t make it to the car. After a few steps the pain in my butt and leg is so piercing I have to fall down or climb back in bed. They called in tramadol and a medrol dosepak for me. Tramadol making me comfortable when lying down (a little) but does nothing when I stand. Just started the dosepak this morning. And all this bed rest seems to have made things worse, yet I can’t do anything but stay in bed.

Getting really worried about never walking again. I mean, the pain is a 12/10. I’m completely disabled. When it’s this bad, is there a chance in a week or two I might get better? Is this degree of pain and disability really unusual for sciatica?

They want me to get an MRI but right now even that would be impossible. 




  • Welcome adamjmercer we’re glad you’re here!

    I have had sciatica many times, at times as bad as you describe, the dose pack has worked wonders for me at times but it is usually temporary, at least it will hopefully get you to the point of being able to get the MRI. 

    While you’re waiting for a reply to your first post, please take a few moments to review the Code of Conduct and FAQ section, located under Forum Tools. There you will find important information about posting in the forum and helpful tips for new members.

    Also, you should take a look at the Sciatica Health Center on Spine-health. It has a number of informative articles and videos about common causes and treatment options for sciatica; from first aid tips to stretches you can perform to relieve painful sciatica symptoms. It’s a very helpful resource for those with sciatica.

    Again, welcome to the Veritas Health Forum.


    Veritas Health Forum Moderator

  • Thanks! And yes, the steroids did kick in last night, thank goodness. I am now able to walk a bit and I can sit without pain. Can’t walk for very long without pain but this is much better. 

    Did you end up having to get surgery or anything, or did the sciatica just eventually go away?

    Also, I did notice there is a sciatica forum. Didn’t realize that at first. 

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  • Oh, and I got the MRI this morning. 

  • I did have surgery, I tried everything else first, but it eventually left me with no other choice.

    I hope the MRI gives your doctor the reason for your pain.

    Take care


  • Thanks, Chip. I hope the surgery worked for you. My GP looked at the MRI today and said it appeared that the spondylolisthesis has moved another 4mm and was narrowing the space for the nerve, leading to the pain I’m having. Seemed to think some aggressive PT might work, at least for now. Still need to see the neurosurgeon next week to get his thoughts. Hoping the meds continue to work until then and he doesn’t tell me I need to have surgery soon to avoid nerve damage. Will see.

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  • Surgery did work for me, but like I said, it was the last resort and there are a lot more treatment options now than there was then


  • Well that’s good to hear. I swear that it feels like in the old days back surgery was notoriously ineffective, and often made people worse. These days it seems the success rate is extremely high. I know several people that are much better after surgery. Maybe I was just wrong, or maybe there have been a lot of improvements. But it’s encouraging. My neurosurgeon is apparently very conservative and hopefully he thinks I can get by with just therapy. Thanks again. 

  • I think surgery has come a long way over the years, my first surgery was 33 years ago, at that time I think I was in the hospital for 4 days for a discetomy, I had another one 2 years ago and came home on the same day.


  • Adam did u get results from MRI I am in same boat anf had MRI yesterday results need to be given in person. Dont know how I can make it to appt in so much pain. Had copy sent to my Rheumy so he can share with me. In soooo much pain for last 3 weeks and getting worse. Hope u r better!
  • Hey! So in my case my MRI didn’t show anything too interesting - just the small slippage at the vertebra with the pre-existing pars defect. Doc just said to rest. So after several days (and with pain meds and a steroid pack) I very slowly began improving. And now after a little over a month I can say I’m biking an hour or more at a time, 3-4 times per week. I can also stand for any length of time and not get terribly sore. First time in almost a year I can say that. I’m not 100% yet, but a million times better. I think I just needed a long break from the running and to simply rest for a few weeks. They had me get another MRI because they saw a spot that was either a nerve tumor or an image defect. It’s been over a week and I still haven’t heard back. Need to call tomorrow. But that’s unrelated as it was higher up on my spine. 

    They really should tell you over phone what results are because I can remember that pain and I couldn’t move hardly at all for days. I got lucky with either the meds or rest or combination of the two finally allowing me to leave the house the day of the appointment. Keep us posted. Hope they can tell you exactly what’s causing you this much pain for so long. I had a friend who had a very badly herniated disc that caused him to be bed bound for three plus weeks. He had surgery and is doing great. Another friend - same thing, but in his case it was muscular. So it could be anything.

    Good luck! Whatever it is, it will get better.

  • Thank you Adam! Well I had them send copy tof MRI to my Rheumy and finally HE looked at results yesterday showing pinched nerve AND what looks like several fractures on Sacrum. I nearly died! No wonder I have had stabbing pain in the lower left! Walking around 3 weeks like this. So now I have to wait for appt with back Dr. on Tuesday so he can officially tell me in person. Yes ridiculous he can’t do it over the phone and I fear surgery is the only option he will suggest, yet in reading about it, rest, possible stabilizing device, etc help healing . He is a great surgeon but I’m afraid he will ONLY want to operate. Thank you for getting back to me. I’m so happy all is better with you!

  • Wow, not sure what to say about the fractures. Did anything specifically happen to you? Or maybe they’ve just been slowly accumulating. I guess that’s where a doctor and their medical advice would help. Surprised they won’t do a telehealth type appointment via zoom or something. Anyway, if he really is good he will likely be conservative when it comes to surgery. And I have no clue what kind of surgery would help fractures in the sacrum anyway. It does sound like rest would be the best thing. Hopefully that’s all he recommends and hopefully it does start to get better soon. And it doesn’t sound like the fractures are the problem but instead the pinched nerve. And that should get better with time, though not sure why it hasn’t yet. But these things do sometimes take a few weeks and longer. My actual physical diagnosis was very mild slippage. Any worse and I could definitely see it taking longer to get better. Despite being better I still have some pain that I expect will take a lot longer to resolve. Nerve pain sometimes can be extremely stubborn even when the cause is fixed. Nerves take a long time to quiet down. Hope the appointment goes well.

  • Thanks so much Adam! I was recovering well from a second knee replacement and in my last week of PT for it when my-over- enthusiastic Therapist had me doOlympic level strength training  ( at least to me) because I was doing so great and made it look like all she had me do was a breeze.  I started to feel awful pain in the very tops of my thighs which became worse and started traveling to legs and lower back. Finally the worst pain was a stabbing pain in what felt like my left kidney. It appears there is a nerve impingement at the S1 as well as fractures on left scrum according to mri . My back Dr. Insists on seeing patients for results which concerns me as he was a huge advocate here for continuing surgery during last round of Covid when hospital deemed unnecessary surgery would need to be delayed. I appreciate your advise and glad to know it takes time. Just worried nerve to “ caught” between whatever is trapping it that it will not be able to “ come loose” on its own. Well I will post after I see him. Thank u again!

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