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Pain in my back and leg – could it be sciatica?

I have recently been suffering from fairly severe pain in my right leg and my lower back at night but when I’m up and about during the day the pain disappears. Could this be sciatica?

What is Sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and runs from the lower back though the buttocks and down both legs to the feet.  Sciatica is the name given to the pain that radiates when the nerve is compressed or when one of the vertebral discs bursts and leaks onto the nerve.

The good news with sciatica is that it usually gets better without medical treatment but occasionally does require more complex pain management.

Symptoms of sciatica

The symptoms to watch out for are:

  • A sharp pain that goes from the lower back, into the buttock, thigh and sometimes along the whole length of the nerve into the foot
  • Sciatica affects only one leg
  • It can result in weakness in the affected leg or foot
  • More often than not pressure, numbness and a tingling or burning sensation can be felt.

What can I do to help myself?

Tips to provide relief are:

  • Use hot or cold packs on your lower back
  • Take over the counter pain killers such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen
  • Keep moving and perhaps see a physiotherapist who will be able to help you to strengthen the area
  • Take a look at our article on exercises for a healthy back

How to relieve pain at night

Consider how you are sleeping:

  • It is worth investing in a good firm mattress that supports your spine
  • Use a good pillow that keeps the alignment of your spine when lying down
  • Putting a pillow between the legs to help maintain the alignment of the hip joint may also help.

If within 2 weeks there is no improvement then we advise that you contact your GP for further investigation or pain management if appropriate.

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