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Sciatica

Sciatica is pain caused by an irritated nerve. It usually affects one side, starting from the lower back or bottom and spreading down one leg.

Symptoms of sciatica include shooting pain that starts in your lower back or bottom and runs down the back of your leg, often to your foot and toes.

Treatment for sciatica includes exercise, stretches and painkillers.

You get sciatica when something presses or rubs on the sciatic nerve. The most common cause is a slipped disc in your spine.

Read more on the NHS website.

Symptoms of sciatica include shooting pain that starts in your lower back or bottom and runs down the back of your leg, often to your foot and toes.

Check if you have sciatica

If you have sciatica, your:

may feel:

Your symptoms may be worse when moving, sneezing or coughing.

You may also have back pain, but it's not usually as bad as the pain in your bottom, leg or foot.

You probably do not have sciatica if you only have back pain.

Read more on the NHS website.

Treatment for sciatica includes exercise, stretches and painkillers.

Self-care

Sciatica usually gets better in 4 to 6 weeks, but it can sometimes last longer.

To help relieve your pain and speed up recovery:


Do

  • carry on with your normal activities as much as possible

  • regular exercises for sciatica

  • start gentle exercise as soon as you can – anything that gets you moving can help

  • hold heat packs to the painful areas – you can buy these from pharmacies

  • ask your pharmacist about painkillers – NSAIDs like ibuprofen are often recommended – paracetamol on its own is unlikely to relieve your pain

  • put a small, firm cushion between your knees when sleeping on your side, or several firm pillows underneath your knees when lying on your back


Don't

  • do not sit or lie down for long periods – even if moving hurts, it's not harmful and can help you get better faster

  • do not use hot water bottles to ease the pain – you could scald yourself if your skin is numb

Medical treatments

If you have sciatica, the GP may:

  • suggest exercises and stretches
  • prescribe painkillers that help with nerve pain like sciatica

They might also refer you for:

  • physiotherapy – including exercise advice and techniques like massage (manual therapy)
  • psychological support – to help you cope with the pain

Physiotherapy is free of charge on the NHS throughout the UK, but waiting times can be long. You can also get it privately.

Read more about accessing physiotherapy

Read more on the NHS website.

You get sciatica when something presses or rubs on the sciatic nerve. The most common cause is a slipped disc in your spine.

Read more on the NHS website.