You've likely heard advice for both approaches if you have had any form of sciatic pain; stay in bed, rest, and it will get better, or get up, go for a walk, do moderate stretch, and it will get better. No doubt every person you talk to will have different advice, as does each general practitioner you will see. Everyone thinks they have the best hints and tips for you to get rid of your sciatica, and everyone's advice is usually different.
There are two theories on the best way to act upon sciatic pain once you know that is what you have. A lot of people will be told to take it easy, take time off work, rest, relax, and the pain should dissipate when you are lying down. The common advice from your general practitioner would be to try and move as little as possible, and stay in bed, only moving when necessary for bathroom breaks or when you need to eat. The immobility would help take the strain off your nerve and help to heal the pain of sciatica.
Just as often, however, the advice is to get some moderate exercise, light stretching, and return to work for light duties if they are capable. Moderate exercises, some forms of physiotherapy, and targeted stretch may be advised in order to keep the muscles functioning and the affected areas from tightening up or even suffering light atrophy. The advice to continue to walk and remain active during your bout of sciatica is given as much or even more so in the last few years by general practitioners.
So, which one works best?
The common advice for years was to take it easy, rest, stay off work, etc. The switch in the late 1990's to activity, stretching, and moderate exercise leads to more people recommending that approach.
What seems to work best for sciatica?
The unfortunate thing is, according to a review on what approach is better, either seems to help or hinder the amount of pain or rate of healing any differently than the other. So while some of your best friends, dear family members, or even your GP are urging you to take time off work, stay in bed and take it easy, and the others are saying the opposite and suggesting exercise, stretching, an staying active, in the end you should do what you feel is most comfortable for your own recovery and well being.