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What is sciatica and why might you be getting sciatic pain?

Sciatica causes pain to radiate from the lower spine, through the buttocks and down the legs. In some cases the pain can be mild whereas other people will experience excruciating debilitating pain. The medical term for sciatica is lumbar radiculopathy. It is a very common condition - around 80-90% of people will experience back pain in their life time, 2-3% of these cases will go on to be sciatica.



Sciatic pain is due to the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, running from the lower spine, through the buttocks and into the back of the thighs then down to the feet. The sciatic nerve connects the spinal cord with the leg and foot muscles.


What are the symptoms of sciatica?

  • Very different from general back pain

  • Often described by patients as one of the worst pains imaginable

  • Finding it hard to get comfortable in a position

  • Pain radiating from the lower back running down the back or front of the legs

  • Tingling or numbness

  • Pain in both legs, weakness in legs or feet or a change in bladder and bowel function they should seek urgent neurosurgical opinion


What causes sciatica?

  • Compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve

  • Often occurs when a slipped disc presses on the sciatic nerve


How can it be treated?

Conservative methods of treatment will be used first

  • pain killers

  • good posture

  • healthy weight

  • regular exercise

If your symptoms are persistent, surgical intervention may be the next treatment option for you. During the surgery the offending disc will be removed to release the pressure.

studies have shown that around 75-80% of patients will no longer experience leg pain after surgery and 65-70% of patient will remain pain free for 5 years after surgery. Surgery can also help to improve the tingling and numbness sensation that patients get, but it is unlikely that it will be fully resolved.


IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT PATIENTS WITH PAIN IN BOTH LEGS OR CHANGE IN BLADDER, BOWEL OR ERECTILE FUNCTION MUST SEEK URGENT MEDICAL OPINION. THIS COULD MEAN THAT YOU NEED URGENT SURGERY.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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