Various exams and tests are available to diagnose the source of an individual’s sciatica symptoms. The way your healthcare professional diagnoses sciatic nerve pain may depend on their specialty as well as on the cause of sciatica.
If you suspect you may have sciatica, however, it’s essential to first contact a spine specialist who may be able to properly diagnose any spinal health issues which may be causing your sciatic nerve pain. You might suspect you’ve got sciatica if you’re experiencing shooting pain in the low back and down one or both of your legs, or if you’ve been experiencing numbness, weakness or tingling and burning sensations in your legs.
Throughout your healthcare visit, your doctor or spine specialist will ask you specific questions and also carry out a few basic examinations and tests. This is to attempt to identify the reason for your sciatica and create an appropriate treatment program for you, or a method to manage your pain and other symptoms associated with sciatica as well as to help you recover.
As you are able to learn within our previous article on the common causes of sciatica, there are numerous spinal health issues that can lead to sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica. Your treatment plan will be determined depending on the main cause of your pain, therefore it is important to get an accurate diagnosis with a qualified and experienced spine specialist.
Furthermore, your spine specialist will ask about your current symptoms and remedies you may have used to alleviate sciatica. They will also ask other common questions, such as:
- When did the sciatic nerve pain start?
- Where do you feel pain? Is it all of the way down your leg? Is it in both legs? Does it stop at your knees?
- On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain possible, rate your pain.
- Are you currently experiencing tingling sensations or weakness in your legs and/or feet?
- What physical activities did you recently participate in?
- Does walking uphill or downhill increase pain?
- What else have you done to relieve your sciatic nerve pain? Have you tried particular medications or exercises?
- Does anything reduce the pain or make it worse?
Your spine specialist will even execute physical and neurological examinations to determine if any of the symptoms of sciatica may be due to these health issues.
In the physical examination, a healthcare professional will observe the patients position, range of motion, and physical condition, noting any motion which causes pain. The healthcare professional will also feel your spine, notice its curvature and alignment, and feel for muscle strain. Through the neurological exam, the spine specialist will examine your reflexes, muscle strength, and other nerve changes.
To properly diagnose the cause of your sciatica, you might need to have some imaging evaluations. You could have an x-ray or a computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan. When it’s possible that a bulging or herniated disc or spinal stenosis may be causing your sciatica, a healthcare professional may order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test.
Collectively, all these exams and tests will give your spine specialist a more comprehensive view of your sciatic nerve pain. Using this information, they will most probably be in a better position to make a diagnosis of the underlying cause of your sciatica.
Chiropractic Diagnosis for Sciatica
It’s very important that sciatica be correctly diagnosed by a healthcare professional in order for it to be treated correctly. A chiropractor is a qualified and experienced spine specialist who focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of a variety of injuries and conditions associated with the musculoskeletal and nervous system, including sciatica, Because many ailments can cause symptoms of sciatica, the chiropractor’s first step before beginning treatment is to determine the reason for the patient’s sciatica.
By studying about the patient’s medical history and administering physical and neurological examination, the doctor of chiropractic, or chiropractor, can get a thorough diagnosis of a patient’s sciatica. A chiropractor can also refer patients to receive diagnostic testing to more accurately determine the source of the health issues. As mentioned above, diagnostic testing includes MRI, X-ray, CT scan and/or electro diagnostic tests, such as nerve conduction velocity or electromyography. The examinations and diagnostic tests can also help determine the probable contraindications to chiropractic care as well as other treatment methods.
Chiropractic Treatment for Sciatica
It is worth remembering that the purpose of chiropractic care is not only to reduce sciatica but its objective is to help maximize the human body’s potential to heal itself, treating the symptoms at the source. Chiropractic care is non-invasive, drug-free, and natural way of healing the human body. After a proper diagnosis of the true cause of a patient’s sciatica is determined, the chiropractor may begin treatment accordingly.
The chiropractor will attempt to ascertain the cause of the sciatica so that a sciatica treatment plan might be administered. Chiropractic treatment for sciatica can include, cold therapies, ultrasound, spinal adjustments or manual manipulations, TENS, among other treatment methods. These treatment options have their own way of treating the sciatica symptoms.
Ice/Cold therapy helps reduce inflammation so that sciatic pain may be controlled. Ultrasound is heat created by sound waves entering deep into the tissues to decrease muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain. TENS unit or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is a small box battery-powered portable machine which stimulates muscles. Spinal adjustments and manual manipulations function by correcting misaligned vertebral bodies, or subluxations, in order to restore them into an appropriate position in the spinal column so that nerve irritability and inflammation is decreased thereby preventing spasm, pain and other back symptoms.
Dr. Alex Jimenez’s Insight
A chiropractor is a spine specialist which can properly diagnose the source of a patient’s sciatica through the use of physical and neurological exams and tests. Diagnostic procedures may require a healthcare professional to check the individual’s muscle strength as well as their reflexes, for instance, the chiropractor may ask the patient to walk on their toes or heels, or they may ask the patient to lift their legs one at at time, while lying on their back. Symptoms of sciatica will generally worsen during these type of exams and tests. Furthermore, a doctor of chiropractic may request for imaging diagnostic tests to more effective determine the cause of the patient’s sciatic nerve pain, however, these may not be required unless the symptoms are severe.
Chiropractic care has increasingly become one of the most frequently recommended alternative treatment options for sciatica. To receive a proper diagnosis of your sciatic nerve pain, seek immediate medical attention from a spinal specialist, such as a chiropractor. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic as well as to spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Sciatica
Sciatica is medically referred to as a collection of symptoms, rather than a single injury and/or condition. Symptoms of sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica, can vary in frequency and intensity, however, it is most commonly described as a sudden, sharp (knife-like) or electrical pain that radiates from the low back down the buttocks, hips, thighs and legs into the foot. Other symptoms of sciatica may include, tingling or burning sensations, numbness and weakness along the length of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica most frequently affects individuals between the ages of 30 and 50 years. It may often develop as a result of the degeneration of the spine due to age, however, the compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve caused by a bulging or herniated disc, among other spinal health issues, may also cause sciatic nerve pain.