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Sciatica Symptoms

Sciatica pain is a severe pain in the buttock and down the leg most commonly related to a disc prolapse. It is a relatively uncommon event with only 5% of back pain sufferers developing sciatica.

Lower back pain or lumbago may be present at the time or have been for many years previously, or the leg pain might start by itself without other pains having been present. Onset can be very rapid with immediate onset of severe leg pain on performing an activity such as lifting, twisting or pulling a shrub out of the ground. Slower onset is also possible over some days or weeks until the pain is at its worst.

Referred pain from the back into the leg is very common and is not sciatica pain. This pain tends to be difficult to define and achey in nature, often not extending below the knee. Sciatica pain is clearly described in a specific part of the leg, is severe and surging in nature and is often worst below the knee and in the foot. Sharp shooting pains may occur like electric shocks when the person does something aggravating.

As sciatica is due to nerve compression you can get a number of symptoms related to the fact that the transmission in the nerve is impaired. This can mean pins and needles or numbness, loss of reflexes (only noted on testing) and loss of muscle power in the foot. Any disturbance of feeling around the groin or difficulty with bladder and bowel function should be reported at once to your doctor.

Sciatica treatment is a question of doing the right things (or not doing the wrong things) until the nerve settles down of its own accord. A sciatica cure can be delivered in some cases by a nerve root block (spinal injection) or a discectomy operation, but this is in the minority of cases. Most people's pain settles down over a period of weeks and they return to normal.

Physiotherapy may be helpful for advice, positioning and sciatica exercises to ease the leg pain of sciatica, but sciatica stretches as such are a poor description of a treatment as this is likely to make the pain worse. Your physio will guide you with the right movements at the right time.

As sciatica is relatively more common in later pregnancy, your women's health physio can help you with managing sciatica-pregnancy and your early childcare period.

Sciatica (emedicine) may help you with further information about this condition available on the web, with more resources at NHS Choices and


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