Back pain happens for a lot of different reasons. This can be down to injuries, strains and problems with your back's discs and nerves. If you've never had bad back pain before, then you may not know where the pain is coming from or how to treat it.
When you describe your symptoms to a friend, they may tell you that you may have sciatica. How do you know if they are right?
Where Is the Pain?
The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back down to your feet. The location of the nerve itself may give you a clue as to whether your back pain is sciatic or not.
For example, if you have sciatic back pain, then your problems may not be restricted to just one area on your back. You may have some pain in other areas. The pain may spread from your lower back down through your bottom, hips, the backs of your legs and even your feet. Basically, sciatica can happen anywhere along the nerve's path; it often covers multiple areas at once. You can have sciatic problems on one or both sides of your body.
What Does the Pain Feel Like?
Sciatic back pain may feel like regular back pain in your lower back. However, if the pain extends down through your legs then it may feel a little different.
For example, you may feel a painful tingling sensation. Parts of your lower body like your legs or feet may feel a bit numb. This may happen if the nerve itself is trapped or squashed in some way.
What Makes the Pain Worse?
Simple but sudden movements, like coughing or sneezing, often increase sciatic pain. If your pain gets worse if you cough or sneeze, then this may be a sign that you have a problem with this nerve.
You may also find that sitting down makes things feel worse -- especially if you sit in a chair that doesn't fully support your back. Sitting can put pressure on the sciatic nerve and compress it even more.
If you think your back pain may be sciatica, then you may need to see your doctor if it doesn't start to ease in a day or two. It's best not to try to fix the pain yourself until you have a diagnosis. You could make things worse if you do the wrong things to try to make your back feel better.