Diagnosing sciatica often involves both a physical examination as well as an interview with your physician regarding your medical history and symptoms. There are several conditions that can cause the pain associated with sciatica, and your doctor will want to eliminate the other causes before delivering a sciatica diagnosis.
In addition your medical history and physical exam, your doctor may conduct simple tests to assess whether or not your nervous system is working properly. An MRI, X-ray, or CT scan may be ordered so your doctor can see if there is a visible reason for your painalt
Diagnosing sciatica may also involve being asked in detail about your symptoms with questions like:
- “How long has the pain been present?”
- “What does it feel like: numb, shooting, dull, down just one leg?”
- “Does it prevent you from doing your normal activities?”
- “Does it lessen when you rest or sit down?”
If your answers to those questions, the results of your MRI or other medical imagery, or evidence from your physical exam or neurological tests indicate nerve root compression in the lower back, then your doctor may diagnose you with sciatica: pain associated with compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a very long nerve that branches out from the spinal canal around lumbar vertebrae 4 and 5. Sciatica occurs when a herniated disc or other tissue presses on the nerve as it exits the spinal canal. The sciatic nerve extends all the way into your feet, which is why the pain can reach your toes in some instances. That’s why a doctor may test the range of motion in your legs when diagnosing sciatica. If you have recieved a sciatica diagnosis, there are many treatments your doctor may suggest depending on how advanced your sciatica is. Surgery is an option considered usually only in advanced cases, but if your doctor recommends it to you, you may want to consider gentle, outpatient procedure at Laser Spine Institute.