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