Sciatica features pain that runs from the lower back or buttocks down the back of the leg. Caused by compression on the sciatic nerve, which runs from the center of the lower back down the back of the leg to the calf muscle, the pain can be intense and long-lasting. Fortunately, many different kinds of doctors can treat sciatica.
For most cases of sciatica, which are simple compressions of the sciatic nerve by either lower back muscles or disks in the back, a family doctor can treat the problem. Most general cases of sciatica resolve themselves on their own; doctors will occasionally prescribe exercise and anti-inflammatory medications to help with the pain. A family doctor is a good place to start regardless of how serious the sciatica is, because if it is a complicated case, he or she will be able to refer a patient to a specialist.
Orthopedic surgeons are a popular choice for treatment of sciatica, mostly because they regularly treat lower back pain and problems of the spine. For cases of sciatica that do not resolve quickly on their own, or cases that do not respond to exercise and mild pain medicine, an orthopedic surgeon is a good option. He will have expertise in management of the pain and in handling the lower back issues that may be causing the sciatica.
Patients with complicated cases of sciatica that feature compression because of nerve problems seek treatment from a neurologist, or a specialist in the nervous system. Neurologists have specialized training in problems affecting the body's nerves, so complex cases of sciatica--frequently ones that do not relate to lower back pain--frequently get referred to them for treatment.
Sciatica that does not respond to non-surgical treatment, or cases of sciatica that stem from complicated problems, such as rare circumstances when the sciatic nerve threads through the pelvis the wrong way, are good cases to take to a neurosurgeon. Like orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons receive specialized training in surgical techniques to solve problems. Whereas orthopedic surgeons focus on problems of the musculoskeletal system (such as the lower back), neurosurgeons train to solve problems of the brain, spine and nervous system with surgical procedures.
Another option for treatment of sciatica is to visit a chiropractor. Although not a medical doctor, chiropractors receive special training in the manipulation of the back and spine in order to manage or treat back pain. Since most cases of sciatica result from compression in the lower back, a chiropractor is another option for non-surgical treatment.