Symptoms of sciatica

When the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated, it can cause:

  • pain
  • numbness
  • a tingling sensation that radiates from your lower back and travels down one of your legs to your foot and toes
  • weakness in the calf muscles or the muscles that move the foot and ankle

The pain can range from being mild to very painful, and may bemade worse by sneezing, coughing or sitting for a long period of time.

While people with sciaticacan also have general back pain, the pain associated with sciatica usually affects the buttocks and legs much more than the back.

When to seek medical advice

See your GP if your symptoms are severe, persistent or getting worse over time.

Your GP can usually confirm a diagnosis of sciatica based on your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment.

A simple test known as the passive straight leg raise test can alsohelp your GP identify whether you have sciatica.

This test involves lying flat on your back with your legs straight, and lifting one leg at a time. If lifting one of your legs causes pain or makes yoursymptoms worse, this usually suggests sciatica.

You should immediately call the emergency number for an ambulance if you experience all of the following:

  • tingling or numbness between your legs and around your buttocks
  • recent loss of bladder or bowel control, or both
  • sciatica in both of your legs

Although it's rare, these symptoms can bea sign of a serious condition called cauda equina syndrome.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 23 Sep 2018