Sciatica is felt as nerve pain radiating from the buttock down the back of the leg, often when sitting, sneezing, coughing or going to the toilet. You may also feel lower back pain, and/or tingling, pins and needles, numbness or weakness in your leg.
Most people find their symptoms improve within four weeks. As sciatica is seen as a more serious low back condition it’s advisable to see your doctor within the first few days of getting the symptoms. To diagnose sciatica, the doctor will take a medical history and examine your spine and legs.
You should seek medical attention immediately if you have problems controlling your bladder or bowels, or have severe pain, weakness or numbness.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists recommends that an X-ray in response to low back pain is only needed if you have other significant symptoms as mentioned above. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
Last reviewed: October 2016