Sciatica is the name given to any sort of pain that is caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from the back of your pelvis, through your buttocks, and all the way down both legs, ending at your feet.
When the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated, it can cause pain, numbness and a tingling sensation that radiates from your lower back and travels down one of your legs to your foot and toes. The pain can range from being mild to very painful, and may be made worse by sneezing, coughing, or sitting for a long period of time. Some people with sciatica may also experience muscle weakness in the affected leg.
Treatment for sciatica is not always necessary, as the condition often improves naturally within around six weeks. However, if your symptoms are severe or persistent, a number of treatments are available. These usually include self-help and conservative treatments, such as medication and physiotherapy. In a small number of cases, surgery may be recommended to correct the problem in your spine that is thought to be causing your symptoms.
There are a number of things you can do yourself to help reduce troublesome sciatica symptoms. These include remaining as active as possible, using hot or cold compresses, and taking simple painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
If you have sciatica, it’s important for you to remain as physically active as possible. Simple exercises, such as walking and gentle stretching, can help reduce the severity of your symptoms and strengthen the muscles that support your back.