All About Sciatica

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is when the sciatic nerve, which runs from your hips to your feet, is irritated. It usually gets better in 4 to 6 weeks but can last longer.

Sciatica is a common condition and can also be known as nerve root or radicular pain. Sciatica is a term used to describe pain felt in the leg but which often comes from the lower back.

The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and goes all the way down the back of the leg into the foot. Symptoms can be experienced along any part of the nerve. They can have a sudden or slow onset and can vary from mild to severe1.

The pain can vary between a mild ache, to a sharp burning pain. Sometimes it can feel like a jolt or electric shock2.

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica is caused by irritation of the root(s) of the lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine. This can be from inflammation around the nerves and in some cases from pressure, usually from a disc-related change1. The pain can be mild or severe.

How do I know if I have sciatica?

If you aren’t sure whether your pain is caused by sciatica, the NHS make it easier to check by following these tips:

If you have sciatica, your:

  • bottom
  • backs of your legs
  • feet and toes

may feel:

  • painful – the pain may be stabbing, burning or shooting
  • tingling – like pins and needles
  • numb
  • weak

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

You may also have back pain, but this is not usually as bad as the pain in your bottom, legs or feet.

How can I treat my sciatica?

Sciatica can be horrible and debilitating. It can make it hard to want to get up and moving. However, Dr. Mark Kovacs, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, said that the best way to alleviate most sciatica pain is to do “any stretch that can externally rotate the hip to provide some relief.”(Mark Kovacs is not endorsing Flarin or any other medicinal products.)

  1. Look up exercises for sciatica relief
  2. Start gentle exercise as soon as you can, anything that gets you moving will help
  3. Ask your pharmacist about painkillers
  4. Carry on with your normal activities as much as possible
  5. Try not to sit or lie down for long periods, even if moving hurts, it’s not harmful and can help you to get better
  6. Ice and heat can help to relieve the pain caused by sciatica. Apply heat or ice for roughly 20 minutes every 2 hours3.
  7. If your sciatica is particularly severe, your doctor may recommend injecting steroids into the spine area to reduce the inflammation3.

You may also have back pain, but this is not usually as bad as the pain in your bottom, legs or feet.

Is it back pain or sciatica?

While most people will experience some type of back pain during their lives, it doesn’t always involve the sciatic nerve.

What usually sets sciatica apart from back pain is that the pain radiates down the leg and into the foot. This pain can last for days3.

How can I prevent sciatica?

If you’ve had sciatica before, there’s a chance you will get it again. To help avoid this you can2,3:

  • Exercise regularly – To keep your back strong, you need to work the core muscles. Your core muscles help you maintain a good posture and alignment.
  • Maintain a good posture – When choosing a seat, pick one with good lower back support, armrests and a swivel base. For better low back support, place a pillow at the small of your back to keep its normal curve. Keep your knees and hips level.
  • Bend your knees when lifting heavy objects.