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How to Diagnose Sciatic Pain

You will experience sciatic pain when your sciatic nerve is compressed due to injury or irritation of the nerve roots that give rise to the sciatic nerve. This condition causes you to experience intense pain in your lower back, buttocks, legs and feet. There may be times that sciatic pain results from simple nerve root irritation alone.


But you need to know that there are various reasons why your sciatic nerve can get compressed or irritated. And you should remember that sciatic pain is not a disease itself but simply a medical condition. The cause of the sciatic pain determines the type of treatment required. Spinal stenosis, vertebral disc herniation, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, piriformis syndrome and trigger points are among the usual causes of sciatic pain.

The diagnosis of sciatic pain depends largely on its manifested symptoms. It is basically characterized by pain in the lower back, buttock and lower extremity. There are no external symptoms involved. As the sciatic nerve affects only one side of the body, the pain is generally confined to the affected side. The following symptoms can be experienced:

-Recurring pain which may worsen and become intolerable over time

-Numbness in the affected lower extremity due to nerve irritation

-Weakness of the affected muscles

-Leg movement becomes painful and difficult

-Loss of leg function (partial paralysis) may result due to nerve damage

It is critical for you to be examined physically before your doctor can come up with a sciatic pain diagnosis. Your doctor may ask you to move your leg and back or place them in various positions to assess the pattern and intensity of pain.

Upon ascertaining that your symptoms are indicative of sciatic pain, your doctor would then recommend you to take pain medications.

More definitive diagnostic procedures for sciatica include a few tests to confirm the findings. These diagnostic procedures can detect and reveal abnormalities in the internal condition of the sciatic nerve like compression and inflammation; and they can further show any problems with the spinal column. These diagnostic imaging techniques include:

-X-rays - the most common and basic imaging technique

-MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) - a highly sophisticated imaging technology

-MR neurography - the most innovative MRI that is used specifically for high-tech imaging of the spinal nerves and detection of nerve compression impact.

It may be important for your doctor to know and understand your lifestyle practices too to establish a cause-effect relationship. For instance, weight gain due to pregnancy or obesity can predispose you to contract sciatic pain. Therefore, your doctor has to assess the impact of pregnancy and obesity on your spinal column and sciatic nerves.

Early diagnosis and proper understanding of causes are imperative in choosing the most appropriate treatment for sciatic pain. Immediate and proper treatment is the key to symptom relief and complete recovery from this condition.


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