How Is Sciatica Diagnosed?

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Sciatica is caused due to the compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body that is located at the bottom of your backbone in the tail bone area and runs down through the buttocks, thigh area down to the foot. Compression to this nerve can be caused due to various conditions mail y related to posture such as use of inappropriate furniture or even through sitting with your wallet in your back pocket for long.


Since sciatic nerve is the largest in the body starting from the pelvis to the toes any irritation or compression to it can cause severe sciatica pain. Usually this happens when excessive pressure or strain is present on the back or the areas surrounding it. Depending on the extent of pressure present in the area the pain can range in between mild to severe. There are several symptoms and ways to diagnose whether or not a person is suffering from sciatica pain.

There  are certain ways through which doctors access whether or not a person is suffering from sciatica pain. The diagnosis procedures include

  • Medical history of the patient – Before the doctors conduct any tests he will inquire on the medical history of the patient.
  • Physical examination – the doctors will take a complete physical examination with main focus on the legs and spine area. In some cases the person is also asked to perform stretching exercises to see whether the patient experiences pain or not.
  • Basic muscle tests – the strength and reflexes of the muscles are also tested to access the present conditions of the patient with special focus on back support and related stuff. Also doctors to diagnose sciatica ask patients to walk on their heels and toes and to get up from a lying position. Also another exercise included in the procedure is lifting the legs one by one. Any pain experienced from these exercises indicates that the patient is suffering from sciatica pain.
  • Imaging tests – If the patient reports the pain to suffering from pain for more than four weeks  and the intensity of pain is continuously worsening sciatica could be the result, however this could also be due to cancer conditions. To evaluate precisely the reason of the pain doctors perform imaging tests on the patient to get a better view of which nerve is affected and exactly where the compression on the sciatic nerve is.

Imaging tests are of various types as well and according to need doctors prescribe the one that can help in accessing the patient’s conditions. The tests include

  • Spinal X-Ray – This is the more refined X-Ray form as the normal X-Ray cannot determine the problem related to the herniated disc and nerve damage conditions.
  • MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging that is capable of showing the cross sectional images of the patients back area. It is a very sensitive procedure which is effectively used to diagnose sciatica.
  • CT scan – Computerized Tomography scan is where a dye is injected in the spinal column to get a better view of the spine.  This test too provides the cross sectional view of the back.

Depending on the result of all diagnoses and tests the treatment procedures are designed. There are ways to diagnose sciatica pain at home as well. This home diagnosis procedure includes laying down on the floor with your legs stretched out straight and have a friend sit beside you. Take the leg that does not hurt you and rise is as high above the ground as you can, ask your friend to note how high you raised it. Later raise the leg that hurts and let your friend note how high you were able to do so. If both the legs were not able to be raised at an equal height there are exceeding chances that you suffer from sciatica pain.

Also in some cases the leg is not the part that hurts in sciatica rather the pain resides in the buttocks this test will still help to diagnose sciatica even if the pain is in the buttocks.

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