I've been having sciatic pain for quite some time now. Would there be any benefit to getting an MRI to find out what's going on?
Sciatica is another term for low back and leg pain caused by spinal nerve irritation. Five nerve roots (L4, L5, S1, S2, S3) that come off the spinal cord are branches that form the sciatic nerve.
Anytime one or more of these nerve roots is pressed against or irritated, pain can occur. The pain is located in the low back, buttock, and/or leg going down to the foot. There can be other symptoms besides pain such as numbness, tingling, weakness, and trouble using the leg.
Sciatica is actually a symptom. It doesn't tell us what's wrong with the leg.
Treatment for the problem depends on finding out what's causing the sciatica. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be a good idea. Studies show that MRIs are reliable in detecting problems with the nerve tissue.
You should keep in mind, however, that many people have a positive MRI but no symptoms and vice versa. In other words, it's possible to have a bulging disc seen on MRI and have no symptoms. It's also possible to have symptoms that suggest a bulging disc but the discs look fine.
Test results are always combined with other tests, your history, and your risk factors. It sounds like you've had this pain for quite some time. If you have tried various treatments without help, it may be time for further testing. MRI might be a good next step. Consult with your physician and see what is the next step.
Alon Rabin, DPT, MS, et al. The Sensitivity of the Seated Straight-Leg Raise Test Compared with the Supine Straight-Leg Raise Test in Patients Presenting with Magnetic Resonance Imaging Evidence of Lumbar Nerve Root Compression. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. July 2007. Vol. 88. No. 7. Pp. 840-843.
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