A lower back problem that often manifests in the leg, sciatica is caused by irritation of the main nerve into the leg, the sciatic nerve.
In saciaitca, the nerves are compromised as they pass through and emerge from the lower bones of the spine, causing pain which travels down into the leg, often below the knee, even down to the foot. There may also be associted numbness and weakness of the lower leg muscles.
The most common cause of sciatica is a prolapsed (slipped) disc. This presses on the nerve, causing it to malfunction - this leads to pain, numbness, pins and needles, or problems in muscle function.
Age is a major contributing factor in prolapsed discs - as we age these discs lose their elasticity, becoming more rigid, and when they are stressed, for example when we twist the spine suddenly, or lift a heavy object, they can squeeze out from between the vertebrae.
This is a condition that suually resolves fairly quickly - treatment recommendations therefore include a return to normal activity as quickly as possible, and moderate use of pain killers.
If symptoms do persist past a few weeks, then your doctor may send you for a a CT (Computerised Tomography) or MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan.