Sciatica Diagnosis

Diagnosing sciatica is a process that begins with your physician understanding your pain and your symptoms.

First, your doctor will attempt to better understand your history by asking questions:

  • When did your pain start?
  • What were you doing when it began?
  • What activities or positions cause you more pain?
  • Is there anything that you do to relieve any of your pain and symptoms?

Next, a physical examination of the affected areas in your body will help you doctor determine if you suffer from sciatica. A common diagnostic test used to diagnose sciatica is called the straight leg raise.

During this test you will be asked to lay flat on your back with your legs extended straight in front of you. The doctor will begin by slowly raising each leg and note at what elevation your pain begins. This test helps your health care provider determine where your sciatic nerve is being pinched and can help indicate what may be causing it.

Diagnostic Tests for Sciatica

X-ray or CT scans can usually help a doctor see if there are any fractures present in your spine exist, and if they may be the cause of your sciatic nerve compression. If the doctor cannot find any evidence of fractures, an MRI image is the next step. MRI’s allow the doctor to see if any spinal conditions such as herniated discs or other sources of inflammation exist, and if they may be impinging on your sciatic nerve.

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