Sciatica is when the sciatic nerve, which runs from your hips to your feet, is irritated. It usually gets better in 4 to 6 weeks but can last longer.

Check if you have sciatica

If you have sciatica, your:

  • bottom
  • backs of your legs
  • feet and toes

may feel:

  • painful – the pain may be stabbing, burning or shooting
  • tingling – like pins and needles
  • numb
  • weak

Your symptoms may be worse when moving, sneezing or coughing.

You may also have back pain, but this isn’t usually as bad as the pain in your bottom, legs or feet.

How you can ease the pain yourself

Sciatica usually gets better in 4 to 6 weeks but can sometimes last longer.

To help relieve your pain and speed up your recovery:

See a GP if the pain:

  • hasn’t improved after trying home treatments for a few weeks
  • is getting worse
  • is stopping you doing your normal activities

Treatments from a GP

Your GP may:

  • suggest exercises and stretches
  • prescribe painkillers that help with nerve pain like sciatica

They might also refer you for:

  • physiotherapy – including exercise advice and techniques like massage (manual therapy)
  • psychological support – to help you cope with the pain

Physiotherapy from the NHS may not be available everywhere and waiting times can be long. You can also get it privately.

How to stop sciatica coming back

To reduce the chances of getting sciatica again:

Causes of sciatica

Sciatica is due to something pressing or rubbing on the sciatic nerve.

Causes include:

  • a slipped disc (the most common cause) – when a soft cushion of tissue between the bones in your spine pushes out
  • spinal stenosis – narrowing of the part of your spine where nerves pass through
  • spondylolisthesis – when one of the bones in your spine slips out of position
  • a back injury