Not everyone who has sciatica needs medical care. If your symptoms are severe or persist for more than a month, though, make an appointment with your primary doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you've been having and for how long.
- Make a list of your key medical information, including any other conditions for which you're being treated and the names of any medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking.
- Note any recent accidents or injuries that may have damaged your back.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor. Creating your list of questions in advance can help you make the most of your time with your doctor.
For radiating low back pain, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is the most likely cause of my back pain?
- Are there any other possible causes?
- Do I need any diagnostic tests?
- What treatment approach do you recommend?
- If you're recommending medications, what are the possible side effects?
- For how long will I need to take medication?
- Am I a candidate for surgery? Why or why not?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- What self-care measures should I be taking?
- Is there anything else I can do to help prevent a recurrence of these symptoms?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions that arise during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:
Sept. 19, 2012
- Do your symptoms include any numbness or weakness in your legs?
- Do any body positions or activities make your pain better or worse?
- How much is your pain limiting your ability to function?
- Does your work or recreational activities involve any heavy physical work?
- Do you exercise regularly? If yes, with what types of activities?
- What treatments or self-care measures have you tried so far? Has anything helped?
- Bradley WG, et al. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Butterworth-Heinemann Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-7506-7525-3..X5001-8--TOP&isbn=978-0-7506-7525-3&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Aug. 2, 2012.
- Frontera WR, et al. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1678/0.html. Accessed Aug. 2, 2012.
- Hsu PS, et al. Lumbosacral radiculopathy: Pathophysiology, clinical features and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Aug. 2, 2012.
- Levin K, et al. Acute lumbosacral radiculopathy: Prognosis and treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Aug. 2, 2012.
- Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05472-0..X0001-1--TOP&isbn=978-0-323-05472-0&uniqId=230100505-57. Accessed Aug. 2, 2012.
- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Radiculopathy. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2003.
- Knight CL, et al. Treatment of acute low back pain. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Aug. 9, 2012.
- Acupuncture for pain. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/acupuncture/acupuncture-for-pain.htm. Accessed Aug. 9, 2012.
- Shekelle P. Spinal manipulation in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Aug. 9, 2012.
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