Sciatica is a very common condition where a person experiences pain along the sciatic nerve. This pain can radiate from the lower back into the hips, buttocks, and legs. It is usually caused by a bone spur or herniated disc, and typically only affects one side of the body. For many, the pain from sciatica can be debilitating.
Imaging studies are usually needed to diagnose the cause of sciatic nerve pain. An MRI of the lumbar spine will show many causes of low back pain and sciatica, including disc herniations, facet arthritis, and lumbar spinal stenosis. Digital x-rays and CT scans may also be used to diagnose the cause of sciatica. Once the cause of the pain is identified, treatment options can be explored by your physician..
What Is An MRI?
An MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging, is an imaging test that provides detailed pictures of the inside of your body. One of the safest and least invasive imaging tests, an MRI does not use radiation like CT scans and x-rays do. The MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to provide detailed pictures of your tissues, bones, and organs. An MRI can be used to scan any area of the body, and the images produced are both detailed and precise.
The cause of sciatic nerve pain is usually diagnosed using an MRI. Patients are not exposed to radiation. In addition, this procedure causes no pain and requires no recovery time.
X-Rays And CT Scans
Occasionally, the cause of sciatica will need to be identified using digital x-rays or CT scans. Unlike an MRI procedure, both CT scans and x-rays use relatively low dose electromagnetic radiation to produce images of the body. A CT scan is a powerful and sophisticated x-ray technique that provides high-quality images of internal organs and bones. Conventional x-rays also provide pictures of the inside of the body, but these images are less detailed than those produced by a CT scan. X-rays can only be used to identify bone abnormalities. Damaged nerves cannot be detected using a digital x-ray and are best seen with MRI.
The Importance of Diagnosing Sciatica
Sciatica and lower back pain can be severe, and sufferers may find that the pain interferes with daily activities. The cause of the pain needs to be identified so that the proper treatment can be administered. Treatment is also important as sciatica symptoms can progressively get worse with time. In addition, sciatic nerve pain can occasionally be caused by both benign and malignant spinal tumors.
The Radiology Clinic provides the detailed high quality imaging tests needed to diagnose the cause of sciatica. Once diagnosed, treatment options often include medications, steroid injections, supportive care, and physical therapy. Occasionally, surgery may need to be performed to relieve symptoms, especially if the sciatica is caused by a lumbar disc herniation that causes weakness. Promptly treating sciatic nerve pain will help you get back into your daily activities and will greatly improve your quality of life.
If you and your doctor decide that imaging is necessary, please call The Radiology Clinic at 301-217-0500 to make an appointment for MRI, CT, or Xray. The fellowship trained spine imaging specialist radiologists at The Radiology Clinic will make prompt, accurate, and detailed diagnoses to help you and your doctor get you feeling better as soon as possible.