Navigating Sciatica: When It’s Time to Consult a Doctor

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Finding Relief from Sciatica: Knowing When to Consult a Doctor

Here at Kaly, we understand that sciatica nerve pain can be extremely uncomfortable. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes irritated or compressed, causing shooting pain down the leg. While self-care can often provide relief, it’s important to know when to seek medical attention for sciatica. Our experts have put together this guide on identifying sciatica and knowing when to see a doctor.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica refers to pain radiating from your lower back down your leg along the path of the sciatic nerve. This large nerve extends from your lower spine through your hip and butt and down each leg. Sciatic pain varies from mild tingling to sharp, burning sensations. Typically only one side of your body is affected. It may be triggered by a spinal disc herniation pressing on the nerve root. Symptoms may also result from inflammation, muscle strain, bone spurs, or other causes.

When Should You See a Doctor for Sciatica?

See your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Numbness around your genitals, buttocks or back of thigh
  • Weakness making it difficult to move your leg or foot
  • Sharp shooting pain or burning down your leg that won’t go away
  • Persistent tingling, weakness or numbness in your leg
  • Sciatica pain not improving after a week or two of self-care

You should also see your doctor if you experience any of the Cauda Equina Syndrome symptoms below, and seek emergency care immediately if you notice loss of bladder control, bowel movement issues, or saddle anesthesia:

  • Weakness or numbness in both legs
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Sexual dysfunction like reduced sensation
  • Severe or progressive neurological deficits in the lower body

What Will the Doctor Do?

doctor consultation on sciatica pain

During your appointment, the doctor will examine your back and ask about your symptoms. Describe exactly where you feel pain, numbness or tingling. Let them know when the problem started, what makes it better or worse, and how it impacts your daily activities.

They may order medical imaging like an X-ray, MRI or CT scan to evaluate your back and look for causes of nerve compression. Your doctor can also perform neurological tests to assess nerve function. Based on the exam and test findings, they will determine an appropriate treatment plan.

Sciatica Treatment Options

a woman taking pill for sciatica

For mild sciatica pain, your doctor may recommend conservative treatments like rest, ice/heat application, OTC pain relievers, and physical therapy exercises to reduce inflammation. If pain persists, they may consider steroid injections or medications for neuropathy. Surgery is usually only recommended for severe sciatica that doesn’t improve with other treatments.

At Kaly, we make it easy to find the right sciatica specialist for your needs. Our trusted providers have extensive training and experience caring for patients with back and nerve issues. Feel confident you’ll receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.

Don’t delay seeking help for new or worsening sciatica symptoms. Book an appointment with one of our credentialed sciatica doctors today. We look forward to helping you find relief!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of sciatica I should look out for?

Some key symptoms include shooting pain down your leg, numbness or tingling, and weakness making it hard to move your leg or foot. Seek medical care if you experience loss of bladder/bowel control or severe neurological symptoms.

How soon should I see a doctor for sciatica pain?

You should see a doctor right away if you have any Cauda Equina Syndrome symptoms. Otherwise, make an appointment if significant pain lasts over 1-2 weeks despite self-care. Don’t delay seeking help.

Who is the best type of doctor to see for sciatica?

Orthopedic spine specialists, neurologists, physical medicine doctors, and pain management physicians commonly treat sciatica. At Kaly, we connect you with the right provider for your needs.

What tests are done to diagnose sciatica?

Doctors often order medical imaging like X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs to evaluate the back for causes of nerve compression. They may also conduct neurological exams and tests to assess nerve function.

How is sciatica treated?

Mild sciatica may improve with rest, heat/ice, OTC pain meds, and physical therapy exercises. If conservative treatment fails, a doctor may consider steroid injections, prescription neuropathy medications, or surgery for severe cases.

How can I manage sciatica pain at home?

Apply heat or ice packs, try OTC pain relievers, do light stretches, and modify activities to avoid aggravating symptoms. Don’t stay immobile for too long. Gentle exercise can help reduce inflammation.

When should I go to the emergency room for sciatica?

Seek emergency care if you experience loss of bladder or bowel control or sudden severe numbness or weakness that prevents you from controlling your legs. These require urgent medical attention.

Can sciatica cause permanent damage?

In most cases, sciatica pain is temporary and the compressed nerve recovers fully. But prompt treatment is key to prevent long-term damage. Severe, prolonged compression could potentially cause permanent sciatic nerve injury.

How long does sciatica pain usually last?

The duration varies greatly. Mild cases may resolve in a few weeks with conservative treatment. More stubborn sciatica can last for months. See your doctor if significant pain persists beyond 2-3 weeks.

What exercises are good for sciatica pain?

Some beneficial stretches and exercises for sciatica include knee-to-chest, lumbar rotation, cat-cow pose, bridging, and walking. Check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting an exercise program.

The Right Specialist for the Job

Who should you call when sciatica comes knocking? Orthopedic spine specialists, neurologists, physical medicine doctors, and pain management physicians are the experts in this field. At Kaly, they’ve got your back (literally) and will connect you with the perfect provider for your needs.