How Can I Tell If I Have Sciatica ?
If you have any of the symptoms of sciatica, go and see a physician. Your physician can carry out their sciatica investigations in three
- The physician will ask questions about your medical history and current
- They will ask you to hold your
body in certain positions and move in certain ways;
- You may have to undergo
investigation using medical equipment.
Your physician will nearly always do the first two; depending on the results they may do the third
If they decide that you do indeed have sciatica then they will go on to develop a treatment plan for
you, so that you can manage your pain, try to make the sciatica go away, and to keep it away. But you
want to know: How can I tell if I have sciatica ?
Sciatica Diagnosis QuestionsThe physician will ask questions such as:
- When did the pain start?
- Where did it start?
- How has it progressed?
- How bad is your pain on a scale of 1 to 10?
- What recent activities or incidents could have brought on the pain?
- Does walking uphill or downhill make the pain worse?
- How have you tried to ease your pain?
- What makes the pain worse? Or better?
Sciatica Diagnosis Investigation
The physician will ask you to try doing the following, while they watch how you move and react, and
they will ask you how you feel at the time:
- Walk on your toes
- Bend forwards and backwards
- Rotate your spine
- Sit down and stand up
- Lie down on your back, and raise one leg at a time
Note that if you do have sciatica then these activities may cause you additional pain (sorry!). The
physician will also prod and poke, feeling your bones and musculature in the region of your sciatic nerve, and watch for reflexes and muscle
Sciatica Diagnosis Tests
Hopefully, the above investigation will help to pinpoint the
irritated sciatic nerve. The physician will then carefully consider the results of the questions and physical investigation and may then decide
that special tests are necessary; you may be subjected to one or more of the following:
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): this uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to create
a detailed picture of the inside of your spine area, especially the soft tissue that does not show up on a normal X-Ray. A great way for your
doctor to find out more about your sciatica, MRI results can help to show damage to various parts of your spine, such as the discs and
ligaments. MRI is non-invasive and has no side-effects (but this does mean that you have to be able to lie still in a claustrophobic
place for 30-60 minutes – ask for a sedative if you expect that to make you feel uncomfortable).
- CAT (Computerized Axial Tomography) or CT
(Computerized Tomography) scan: this uses a tight beam of radiation to create a detailed picture of the inside of your spine
area, similar to MRI. The radiation used in a CAT scan has associated risk, and exposes you to more radiation than ordinary
- Spinal X-Ray: this special type of X-Ray procedure does not show the normal
causes of sciatica, but can be used to highlight tumours that might be irritating your sciatic nerve.
The main reason for these tests is to find out precisely what is causing your sciatica (if it is not already obvious), and whether an operation will help to cure it.
Note that there are other tests being devised all the time, such as Needle Electromyography and Nerve Conduction
At the end of all this, your healthcare professional should be able to tell whether you have
sciatica and, if you have, whether an operation is the best way forward; very often medication and
exercise can be effective treatment for sciatica.