Sciatica - Symptoms 

Symptoms of sciatica 

Sciatic pain can range from being mild to very painful and may last just a few days or for months. If it lasts for more than six weeks, it is considered to be persistent (chronic) sciatica.

Sciatica is different to general back pain. The pain of sciatica hardly affects the back at all but radiates out from the lower back, down the buttocks and into one or both of the legs, right down to the calf.

The pain often gets worse over time and may also be made worse by:

  • sneezing, coughing or laughing (impulse pain)
  • standing or sitting for a long period of time
  • bending backwards

Other symptoms

If you have sciatica, you may also experience the following symptoms around your legs and feet:

  • numbness
  • tingling
  • muscle weakness 
  • loss of tendon reflexes

When to seek emergency help

Seek immediate medical help by calling 999 for an ambulance if you experience the following symptoms:

  • numbness in your bottom, lower back and leg
  • loss of bladder and/or bowel control
  • feeling of weakness in your leg and foot

These symptoms may be signs of a rare condition known as cauda equina syndrome.

Read more information about how sciatica is diagnosed.


Page last reviewed: 15/08/2012

Next review due: 15/08/2014

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

amanda76 said on 05 March 2014

I first suffered nerve pains in my wrists & arms when pregnant 3 & 1/2 yrs ago, then migraines for 3 months and once had my son ive suffered from sciatica that's progressively got worse. Im now wondering if any of its related and im not just incredibly unlucky to get one thing after another since the wrist pain? My sciatica after having my son started in bum, lower leg, ankle and foot. Mri showing slipped disc and compressed s1 . I am now in alot of pain in whole upper body, front & back now. Nerve pains in both arms & legs, groin, neck, and I get shsrp chest pains and sharp pains in my temples. My refferral appoint wasnt meant to be till end of april (5 months from scan) but my doc going to try push them asim on my own with a 2 yr old and life can get qquite difficult. I wish I could go private. Last summer I couldn't walk for 3 months untill I kept pushing for medication to be changed and stronger. Im on gabepentin that's just been upped again.im thankfull I can walk again but im scared now its all my body and what state im going to end up in. Sick of waiting 4 months between appointment. Ive had this for yrs now, not months but obc not urgent enough for them to do anything

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