Preparing first visit to a doctor


1. Write down your symptom(s) history to save time during the appointment.

Writing your symptoms down helps to avoid missing important symptoms or factors that can be crucial in your diagnosis. Symptom-related questions your doctor is likely to ask you are:

  • How would you describe your symptoms—is the pain throbbing, searing, electric-like, or dull and localized?
  • Do your symptoms extend below the knee?
  • How long have you had these symptoms?
  • Are they getting worse or staying the same?
  • What causes a flareup in your symptoms (activities, sports, inactivity, sitting for prolonged periods, etc.)
  • Do you have neurological symptoms, such as difficulty in lifting your foot (foot drop), numbness, or weakness?
  • Does a specific position offer temporary relief or aggravate the pain further? For example, does bending forward make your symptoms better (maybe for people with spinal stenosis) or worse (maybe for people with a herniated disc)?

2. Understand medical vocabulary in advance.

Commonly used medical terms are:

  • Nerve root. Several spinal nerves branch off your spinal cord at different levels. A nerve root is the part of the spinal nerve that leaves the spinal cord, passes through a bony opening, and exits the spinal canal.
  • Radicular pain. This pain originates from the spinal nerve roots. In sciatica, radicular pain may occur when one or more nerve roots from L4 to S3 are inflamed, irritated, or compressed.
  • Lumbar/lumbosacral radiculopathy. This term refers to neurological deficits, such as numbness or weakness that typically accompanies radicular pain in sciatica.

3. Find a doctor with extended appointments.

Certain doctors offer special, extended appointment times, sometimes as long as 1 hour or weekend appointments.

4. Bring a friend to your sciatica appointment.

If your sciatic pain is severe, it may be difficult to concentrate. Bringing a friend or family member to your appointment to take notes can allow you to focus on the conversation with your doctor without having to worry about forgetting something later.

5. Ask about specific red-flag symptoms.

While rare, certain types of sciatic nerve pain may indicate a medical emergency and require immediate treatment. Ask your doctor if there are specific red-flag symptoms that you need to look out for. Understanding these symptoms can help you make a timely visit to the doctor and prevent serious complications.

6. Bring your list of medications and previous medical records.

Provide an accurate history of your medical and surgical treatments and bring all your test results or relevant documents that you may have received from previous doctors. These details are crucial in deciding your course of treatment and also saves the time and effort to conduct new tests.


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