If you’ve experienced pain in your calf that starts in the hip or lower back, you likely have sciatica. You are also not alone, as 40% of people will experience sciatic pain sometime in their lives. A visit to a sciatica doctor may result in a diagnosis of something other than what you’d expect. The reason is that sciatica is a set of symptoms, not a diagnosis.
Sciatica is a term that describes pain frequently felt in the lower back, through the buttock or hip, radiating down the leg to the calf. The pain may come on suddenly after an accident or sudden movement or develop gradually over time. Eventually, sufferers may end up in constant pain.
Sciatica pain is almost always felt on only one side of the body. Pain varies from person to person and may be sharp, burning, dull ache, or feel like electric shocks. Sitting, coughing, or sneezing can worsen the symptoms.
The pain is caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, the largest and longest nerve in the body. It runs from the nerve roots in the lower back, through the buttock, and down the back of the leg. The source of the irritation is often a herniated disc, a bone spur, or a narrowing of the spinal channel – called lumbar spinal stenosis. Though rare, a tumor or degenerative disc disease may be the cause.
A sciatica doctor looks for the following characteristics:
Discomfort can feel like a shooting, shocking, or persistent burning pain that radiates from the lower back into the thigh, lower leg, or feet.
Weakness, numbness, or tingling may occur in the back of the leg, calf, or feet.
Heaviness or pain on one side of the body is characteristic of sciatica, although rarely it may occur in both legs.
Most people with sciatica experience worsening pain after sitting for long periods or upon standing, bending forward, or twisting. It may also worsen after coughing, sneezing, or lying down.
Though no prevention guarantees your sciatica won’t reoccur, there are steps you can take to protect your back health:
Increased weight can cause stress on the back, potentially triggering sciatica. Extra bulk around the middle can pull the spine forward to counterbalance the weight. That’s one reason why pregnant women may often experience bouts of sciatica.
Any exercise you do regularly will help. However, core exercises are beneficial for back health as the muscles in the lower back and abdomen keep your spine in proper alignment.
When sitting, make sure you have good lower back support with properly aligned armrests. If your chair doesn’t have lower back support, you can use a small pillow or rolled towel to maintain the curve. Keep hips and legs level.
If you must lift, use your legs, hold the package close to the body, keep back straight, bend at the knees, and move straight up and down. Perform lifting and twisting motions independently.
If you have been wondering what doctor to see for sciatica, you should know that there are several ways to treat it using different techniques. The best doctor for sciatic nerve pain is one that can effectively treat and manage your pain.
Though your first stop maybe your doctor, relief may come from a doctor of chiropractic, an acupuncturist, or physical therapist. At Bayside Physical Therapy, our practitioners have extensive training, education, and experience in their respective disciplines.
Though mild sciatica usually abates on its own, there are some signs to watch for. See a sciatica doctor if your pain is severe, lasts more than a week, or gets continually worse over time.
Get immediate help if you notice any of the following symptoms:
Whether a sciatica doctor has referred you or you are looking for sciatica treatment for your pain, Bayside Physical Therapy is here to help. Our physical therapists, acupuncturists, and chiropractic practitioners are highly experienced in treating conditions that result in sciatica pain. Contact our office today and discuss your needs with our friendly patient coordinator or set up an appointment.