Sciatica getting worse?

My GP diagnosed me with sciatica in December after I complained of back pain. All she did was tell me to stand so that she could feel the area and that was it.

I'd been having quite severe lower back pain all throughout the year (maybe once a month at most) and it became more frequent, causing a pain in my lower left back that extended down my thigh and sometimes into my knee, calf and ankle. Over the past few months, I've been getting the same type of pain on my right side, but less intense than the pain I feel on my left side.

I should mention that this doesn't feel like a muscular pain, it feels like my bones are aching. The only way I can describe it is like... growing pains x 100.

I went out today, basic food shopping, and the pain kicked in and I kept having to stop what I was doing and sit down or stretch in a weird way to try and relieve it. It's been about 16 hours since it started and it's still very present in my lower back, but starting to ease up on the leg.

Is this at all common among people my age (20) or should I be going back to my GP for further examination/testing?

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37 Replies

  • We aren't doctors so really aren't able to tell you what the source of the problem is. Only the doctors can do that after a few tests. Sciatica and muscle spasms are generally a symptom of something else, like prolapsed discs, rather than the diagnosis itself though. Please make an appointment with your gp to request a referral and exploratory xrays. Usually a decent first step.

    Good luck


  • Does sound like sciatica. This is how mine started and had an op in 1999 which lasted 5 years. Been having nerve root blockers since. Off for one today. When they work they are fantastic but they don't always. Make doc give a referral to a back specialist and insist on mri

  • Seems you should have more tests to confirm diagnosis! Eg MRI.

    You mention stretching helps. I have found doing some stretching exercises in a swimming pool has helped me significantly! I got exercises off the internet but take care not to overdo it! First couple of sessions really hurt afterwards but I continued and am now pain free a lot of the time.

  • Not common at your age. Perhaps it's time to be referred for an specialist opinion

    Hope it gets sorted.


  • Though a 5000iu Vitamin D3 daily dose cured my sciatica and other symptoms, even my tailbone pain my doctor diagnosed and said I would never cure. :)

    Doctors rarely tell you about vitamins and minerals.

  • Sometimes just changing positions helps!

  • I don't know if sciatica is common in young people but I have had sciatica since I was 17 :-P

    Good luck :-)

  • Try taking some vitamin D3, it can help some people's sciatica, back pain, hip, bones, stiffness, restless legs, knees, adult rickets and more.

    www.vitamindcouncil for safe up to date doses.

    I take 5000iu daily and it has helped me.

    85%+ of us here in Uk are either low or deficient in vitamin D and most do not know.

  • The only real way of finding out what is wrong is to find a GP who will send you for an MRI as x Ray's won't always show problems. If your GP won't the get second opinion. There is no way anyone can tell by touching the area if there is a deeper lying issue.

  • That's why I was confused as to why my previous GP was so quick to diagnose it as sciatica. I went home and read that they need to do further tests (possibly an MRI) to diagnose it so it seemed weird that all she did was feel the bottom of my back and tell me to go and see a physiotherapist.

  • Any consolation I was in the same boat. Was dismissed as sciatica for over a year. Eventually got sent to neurosciences dept and MRI. Unfortunately the time they took to "analyse" I ended up being rushed in for decompression and micro disectomy. Keep banging on those doors till someone takes you seriously.

  • Thank you, I will!

  • Just wondered how you are doing and if you have been referred yet?

  • Hi, I haven't been able to get an appointment with my GP. I phone almost every morning, the second they open, to try and get any possible cancellations and they always say there's none.

  • hi there i know what your going through ive got trapped sciatica nerve damage and it horrible with pain. see if you doctor with put you on nefopam that's what i'm on. hope this helps take care Alan

  • I have sciatica & nerve pain from collapsed discs which press on a nerve, caused by multi joint osteoarthritis & narrowing of my spine. I had Mir scans last year after going back to the doctor when the sciatica & additinal pain I get by my tail bone started getting worse again & got referred to a clinical Orthopedic specialist then Physio as a result.

    If you go back to the doctor & ask for a lumbar & sacral MRI scan you would be able to get it cleared up what the exact cause is.

    I have osteo arthritis in both knees & the lower collapsed discs causing the sciatica happened whilst kneeling.

    On the arthritis research web page there is info explaining the different types of sciatica. The Physio explained it is a broad term for anything lower back & downwards area.

    I get very similar symptons & the left hip leg, down to my toes can go numb & either pain or numbness can spread across to the right side. Also pins & needles.

    Does the pain wake you up at night?

    I have been prescribed various things - I didn't take painkillers much before & had to work up from paracetamol . I have been prescribed naproxen & gabapentin as well - they help but do have side effects!

    I know what you mean by growing pains in your legs/leg ache, I both muscle, nerve & bone pain

    The muscles up my back are very tight due to discs that have bulged right along it & a Physio showed me various massage things & gentle exercises to do.

    I used to be in more pain walking but am now in more pain sitting,

    I have wished a few times I went to the doctor sooner, I slipped down the stairs where I lived & really hurt my lower back & tail bone & didn't go to the doctor

    I hope you get some help from your doctor - you could also ask for a pain management referral

  • I wouldn't say it wakes me up at night, but it makes it impossible to sleep if I'm already awake when the pain starts.

  • Yes, it's very hard to get comfortable isn't it? Once you find some suitable medication this can really help get to sleep without as much pain. Ibuprofen topical gel can help too.

  • I will try that and see how it goes. Thank you!

  • I too have sciatica at the moment in my right side/leg which is extremely unusual as I have had left sided trouble for nearly 20 years. Your sciatica could be caused by one of thr following:

    Piriformis syndrome which is spasm in the prirformis muscle in your buttock causing the sciatic nerve racking that runs through this muscle to be squeezed and irritated,The pain is excruciating because I have had it and there are certain exercises you can do to stretch the muscle .You could also get someone to do deep massage on your buttock to get at the muscle and release the spasm.

    You may have a bulging disc(s) in your lower lumbar spine which are pressing on one or more of the sciatic nerve roots causing pain. A chiropracter might be able to help

    You may have narrowing of the openings in the vertebrae where the sciatic nerve exits ans that too would irritate the nerve and cause pain.

    In both of thr latter two possibilities you need at least and X-ray and better an MRI scan to determine if this is the problem.

    But your age is against you as they will be unwilling to operate on someone so young. However I would persist in asking for an X-ray or MRI because that will tell you the cause and then the right treatment can be given. They may give you medication or even an injection to calm the nerve.

    one thing you could do is to take up yoga and lean the poses that ease back pain as there are many.

    I hope you find relief X

  • Hello brietleyfox

    I hope you don't mind my asking but I read your reply about sciatica and you mentioned having Piriformis syndrome. Have you helped /cured it by stretching exercises?. What painkillers do you take?. I'm battling with it and so agree how painful it is. I'm doing stretching exercises from seeing a Pain Physio at the moment and not making a lot of progress. Would be interested in your story . X

  • Go back and say you would like an mri. It's the only way you will know what is actually going on. I had a hideous bout of Sciatica a few months ago. It seems you have to tell a lot of Drs what you want now! If that one doesn't help you, go to the next one. Good luck. X

  • So sorry to hear about your pain. As others have mentioned you do need investigations to find the exact cause. MRI is a good one to start with. Mine showed a bulging disc which the pain specialist explained the disc contents cause inflammation round the nerves and nerve roots. This causes severe pain, I went on to have the area injected with steroid solution. It worked very well for me. My pain was on both sides but worse on the right. A low dose of diazepam relaxed the muscle. Good luck.

  • Go back! Get referral to Ortho or a chirpractor

  • If it is sciatica - then also look into getting a "pulsed radio-frequency denervation" - which is what I am awaiting for a long term problem started last July. It avoids a serious back operation under anesthetic, so may be worth your asking about this as an alternate.

  • I have sciatica pain down my left leg back of knee and into heel it is so debilitating I have been referred but still waiting for an appointment been waiting for about a month now I need a scan to diagnose the cause of this excruciating pain which makes it hard to walk but not sure if GP should be sending me for one or the hospital will once I get to see them?

  • Hi Fern,

    your Referral for MRi Scans or X-rays or seeing Any Specialist or Consultants have to be Requested by your GP, or sometimes the Consultant. It's just the initial investigation to determine 'What is Wrong' and 'How Bad' your condition is.

    This generates where You appear on Consultants Lists -which means When (the Date) you need to be 'Seen By'.

    Best advice is to Keep On at your GP. Make Appointments to see them and get Telephone Appointments (if your Surgery does it) .

    Read up and use print-outs to back your case. And Don't be Fobbed Off with 300mg of Paracetamol -

    take 2 x 4 times/daily !

    YOU can buy them cheaper in a Supermarket and stronger (500mg) in a Chemist shop.

    Just be careful not to go over the stated dosage or take with alcohol.

    As almost Everyone here will tell you; Any Chronic Disease should be taken seriously and as the New Regime you live your life by.

    Sorry if all that sounds a bit bleak, but I have 2 sisters who have both had operations on their Backs. Both still work hard, with my younger sister getting a new £500 Office Chair from her bosses to enable her to work every day (tho she also has days when she works from home)

    My older sister had her hours changed in the supermarket she works in on Checkouts, to enable her to get up and walk around to keep stretched and keep agility in her workplace - oh, and she also got a New Orthopaedic seat for work - not £500, but a lot more than they normally pay !

    Anyway, You take good care of YOU ! And know that everyone here is rooting for You and we're all just an e-mail away.

    Best Wishes.


  • Oh PoG15,

    You have no idea just how much I appreciate your reply! Constant pain makes you feel feeble so when you talk to doctors you just accept what they say. I have an appointment to see my GP on the 1st March I will ask for an MRI to get a diagnoses hopefully and Xrays at least I can then go to see Chiropractors or Osteopaths etc or anyone who can help me and they will know what they are dealing with. I am finding it hard to walk although I force myself to take my dog out daily and walk a mile at least so that my muscles don't stop working properly but the pain is so bad I find myself looking for benches! Thanks again I feel more positive now !

  • I have just got my appointment with the hospital for this awful Sciatica pain on the 30thMarch. So at least something is happening now.

  • I don't think you can honestly tell anything by feeling from the outside! I can't believe the doc didn't do the leg raise test, it's so simple to do. The doc did this test...he lifted my right leg, straight up, no problems, the left one - owwwwwwwwww, instant pain (see the link below). I got my physio and MRI on the strength of the persisting pain from the spine radiating down only the left leg, getting worse over the months, and the leg raise test. Defo go back to the doc about it. In the meantime, if you experience any loss of bladder or bowel control then it's an urgent matter, go to A & E. Someone here mentioned decompression surgery...that's usually what is needed, and quickly, if you do experience any loss of control. Good luck, sometimes things resolve themselves, maybe that's what your doc was hoping for, but if it's getting worse, it's obvious something more needs to be done and you should get a referral. A physio can show you the right exercises you can safely do to stretch things out, while monitoring how you are progressing and whether there is cause for concern, and an MRI can show if there's a herniated disc pressing on or at least irritating the nerve etc. Good luck, that pain is draining day and night - don't let it reach the stage where you are never out of pain, push the doc for action. xx

  • Strangely enough, bladder control was a slight issue today. Think it might have been that I coughed, though.

  • Might well be just that...coughing and sneezing can sometimes surprise us in that way! Things have never been quite the same for me since I had my son - a hefty sneeze or cough can prompt small issues. Just keep a close eye on it, if it is something unusual for you and you start to have accidents with no apparent reason I'd give the NHS helpline a call (111) and ask for their advice just to be safe.

  • Hi KCxo,

    I'm sorry to read of your problem and pain.

    I use Wikipanion a lot for my own initial research into things - NB: I'm not involved in any medical profession - I like Human Biology as a subject but have a few of my own health issues.

    So I wiki'd Sciatica (my Step-mum suffered from it once) - and the below is part of the information relating to it -

    "Pain caused by a compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve by a problem in the lower back is called sciatica. Common causes of sciatica include the following lower back and hip conditions: spinal disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, lumbar spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and piriformis syndrome.[3] Other acute causes of sciatica include coughing, muscular hypertension, and sneezing."

    If you haven't already researched yourself, may I suggest you go Wikipanion yourself, just type in Sciatica in their search box and see if, from your reading you can isolate what may have caused it to happen in the 1st place - if the pain started a year ago, that's when you need to think back to for a possible cause - I was already aware of the sciatic nerve, but didn't know till just now that it is the largest nerve in the body!

    I've had 3 ops on my right foot and have metal in it, the wiki article explained a lot to me about some of the sensations/problems I've had over the years with my foot!

    I wish you luck with your research, you may find some answers/solutions you can print out, backed up bŷ your health record, to take to your doctor and which may help resolve your problem.

    I also use DRUGS.COM to check out any meds before I take them.

    (Mind you I've stopped taking all, except Levothyroxine for my Hypothyroidism).

    PLUS - Labtestonline if you have to have a blood blood tests for anything.

    I'm sorry I can't help you stop the pain - but you may be able to get to the root cause of it and help yourself that way.

  • GP will only give you more of the same. See a chiropractor then go back to the GP armed with what the chiropractor has told you.

    Hope this helps.

  • Yes, definitely go back to your doctor. Chronic back pain in a young person should get you referred to a rheumatologist for investigation to rule out inflammatory back pain. Check out the signs of inflammatory back pain on the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society website.. If you have any kind of family history of autoimmune disorders, or inflammatory arthritis, then definitely tell your doctor that too.

  • go back to your gp i have had it for over 14 years due to me being a plasterer have had decopresion at l4 and can not work so at your age get it sorted out dougie

  • It is Sciatica I have all of your symptoms and I've seen back specialist and Physio I'm taking Pregabelin and Tramadol and Paracetamol. I've had an MRI which showed 3 discs bulging one of which is pressing on Sciatic nerve so now waiting for Pain clinic appointment . My meds only help me carry on and on top of those I rub Ibuprofen gel into my back knees and legs. Mine started with Aching lower back over a year after falling downstairs then one day I reached down to pick something up of the floor and sudden pain down my side and lower back followed by awful pain down my left leg it is also down right leg at times I am very stiff in hip area too. I was given an excercise by Physio which helps. I lay down on my tummy relax then after 10 come up onto elbows stretching back so bulges can be pushed back where they should be count to 10 return to first position and repeat.

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