Once you’ve made an appointment to see your doctor, it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes beforehand jotting some down quick notes about how your symptoms developed, so as to have the answer to any questions you may asked readily at hand. For example, try to recall when you first noticed any symptoms. Was the onset sudden or gradual? Did the pain go after a while, then keep coming back? Can you remember any particular incident that may have triggered its start? Are there some activities that you know will bring on the pain? What about things that make it worse or better? Also try to be clear in your mind about the exact site or sites of the pain, the path it may follow, and whether what you experience is best described as an aching, burning, searing, or tingling sensation. Naturally, if you also have back pain of any kind, then make similar notes about that as well.
During your consultation, your doctor – after having heard your account of your symptoms – will examine you. Just how thorough that first examination will be depends greatly upon whether the diagnosis in your case is a fairly obvious one. In most instances of simple sciatica, the doctor will quickly form a pretty accurate impression of what the cause of the trouble is, and, unless the symptoms are very severe, probably recommend that the first approach to be tried is a few days of rest, together with analgesics to control the pain. It is a standard principle of medicine that when several different treatments are possible, the first thing to try is the least invasive one. There are several good reasons for this:
If the simple approach does the trick, all’s well and good, and the patient will have been spared the risk of possible side-effects that more energetic approaches frequently entail; and
As explained in greater detail farther below, many instances of sciatica and back pain are essentially self-limiting; and
Even tests and investigations can carry their own risks of side-effects.