What should I do if I think I have sciatica?

When asked, “What should I do if I think I have sciatica?” the recommendation from a doctor should be to schedule an office visit. During this visit, a thorough medical assessment will be conducted to diagnose the spinal condition that is causing the sciatic nerve to become compressed and to determine the proper course of treatment.

Before contacting a medical professional, those who think they have sciatica may first want to familiarize themselves with the symptoms that are typically associated with this spinal condition.


Though the symptoms of sciatica can vary considerably, most patients experience the following in the lower back, hips, buttocks, legs and feet:

  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Tingling
  • Burning pain or shooting pain
  • Dull or sharp pains in the thigh
  • Difficulty walking, standing or sitting

Most patients experience these symptoms gradually and find that they only affect one side of the body, although it is possible for sciatica to occur on both sides.

Diagnosing sciatica

Those who are experiencing the above symptoms should contact a physician or back specialist to confirm a positive diagnosis for this condition. Most physicians will begin the office visit with a series of questions to assess the duration and severity of patient’s symptoms. A physical exam, which usually includes a straight leg raise test for sciatica, may also be performed to test for reflexes and range of motion. In some cases a CT scan, X-ray or MRI may be ordered if there is a need to find the location of nerve compression.


Once a diagnosis for sciatica has been confirmed, most patients will be prescribed a conservative course of treatment, which may include over-the-counter or prescription pain medications, exercise and physical therapy. While many patients are able to find lasting relief through these and other measures, for others, weeks and months can go by without finding enough relief to return to normal activity.

In these situations, doctors may recommend open back surgery to treat the spinal condition, such as a herniated disc, that is compressing the sciatic nerve. Before committing to the complications and risks that can be associated with minimally invasive surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery. By using a muscle-sparing less than 1-inch incision to access the spine and decompress nerves, our board-certified surgeons+ can treat sciatica with an outpatient procedure that offers a lower risk of complication compared to traditional open spine surgery.

To learn more, contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a potential candidate for one of our procedures.

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