Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or irritated. Sciatic nerve pain usually improves within a few weeks but often it can take longer.
The sciatic nerve is one of the largest nerves in your body. It connects several nerve roots from the lower back all the way to your feet.
In this guide we go through all of your options for managing sciatica.
Sciatica is a common condition and many people will experience sciatic pain at some point in their life. Sciatica is nerve pain or nerve damage from an injury or irritation to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the biggest nerve in the body. It goes from your lower back, through the hips and buttock, and down the back of the thigh to the foot.
The most common causes of sciatica are:
Sciatica causes inflammation, pain and sometimes numbness in the leg. It usually affects one leg at a time. The symptoms of sciatica can vary from a mild ache to a burning sensation or severe pain. Moving, sneezing or coughing can make the symptoms worse.
Common symptoms of sciatica affecting the bottom, leg and foot include:
If you have more serious symptoms, contact your GP immediately. Serious symptoms include:
Some symptoms of sciatica can highlight a serious, underlying medical condition. These include cauda equina syndrome or spinal tumours.
A risk factor is something that can increase your chances of getting sciatica.
These risk factors include:
Sciatica often improves after 4-6 weeks but it can last longer. It affects every person differently. Here are some self-care suggestions on how to relieve sciatica pain and speed up your recovery:
You can also use hot or cold packs to help with sciatica pain. Remember that cold packs or ice packs should only be used on short term injuries, like a strain or a sprain. Heat packs can be applied if you have a long-standing injury.
A physical therapist can recommend specific exercises for how to help sciatica pain by reducing the pressure on the nerve. Physiotherapists can also massage the bones and joints in painful areas to reduce inflammation.
Chronic pain is difficult to deal with, so it’s understandable if you feel sad or depressed. It’s important to get help for your mental wellbeing as a negative outlook can impact the pain you feel in your body. A positive attitude will help bring down the intensity of pain you feel.
If your pain doesn’t improve, your GP will refer you to a healthcare professional to discuss other treatment options. You may need an X-ray or CT scan to identify the cause of pain. Other treatments may involve a muscle relaxant, steroid injections or spinal decompression surgery. If these are unsuccessful or unsuitable for you, then you may be eligible for medical cannabis from a doctor that is a specialist prescriber.
You can take over the counter pain killers to manage sciatica. Pain relief won’t cure sciatica in the long term, but it can make it easier for you to do your daily activities.
Pain relief can be bought from any pharmacy. These include:
You can use paracetamol for pain relief but it’s unlikely to help treat sciatica pain on its own.
Medical cannabis may be an option for chronic pain when first line therapies have not helped control pain symptoms.
Research into the effect of medicinal cannabis on pain associated with sciatica is limited. However, following the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes in 2018, there has been a rise in people looking towards medical cannabis. When first-line therapies have not proved effective at reducing symptoms, medical cannabis may be considered an option for sciatica. For further information and to find out more about medical cannabis, click here to discover more about our multi-award-winning Sapphire Access Scheme. Alternatively, complete an eligibility assessment now. Once complete, one of our clinicians will review your application and advise whether you are eligible for progression to an appointment.
If you are a patient or carer seeking an appointment to discuss treatment with medical cannabis, you can complete this form and we can assist you with this.
Eligible patients can provide us with their healthcare records or we can obtain these through your GP. This is to confirm that a patient’s condition has been fully assessed and all other treatment options have been attempted. We will ensure that the primary care provider receives all treatment communication to maintain the highest level of clinical governance.
We also accept referrals from healthcare professionals.
To refer a patient to us, please click here to fill and securely submit a referral form.