The thirtysomething woman who hobbled into my clinic last week was wretched with pain. It had started a month or so ago with a bit of irritation and numbness in her lower back at the end of the day. Then she started experiencing white-hot flashes in the backs of her legs, first around the knees and then in the calves.
Within weeks the jolts had intensified, coming on whenever she tried to walk or when sitting for long periods. Incredibly, she had soldiered on, taking handfuls of painkillers that her GP had recommended, until finally not even those would quell the agony.
I asked her to raise her legs while lying on her back and then pull her toes to her knees. She could not manage more than a 40-degree angle before yelping. I ruled out any serious underlying illness as she had no other symptoms, such as night sweats or sudden weight loss - each a red flag for cancer - before diagnosing a classic case of sciatica.