Sciatica refers to pressure on the nerves in the low back which form the sciatic nerve. This causes pain to run down the lower extremity to the thigh, calf and ankle. This can cause numbness, tingling or weakness in the lower extremity as well. Pressure on the nerves that form the sciatic nerve is usually caused by a ruptured disc or bone spurs.
The diagnosis of sciatica is made by listening to the patient’s complaints and combining this with the findings upon examining the patient. The final step in confirming the diagnosis is by obtaining an MRI of the lumbar spine. An MRI is a special study using a magnetic field that shows a detailed image of the spine and allows the physician to see pressure on the nerves that form the sciatic nerve.
Tim E. Budorick, M.D. FAAOS, Abbott Byrd III, M.D. FAAOS, FACS and David M. Clifford, M.D. FAAOS practice at the Virginia Spine and Scoliosis Center which is a division of Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists with offices in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, Virginia.