The majority of us have experienced some form of back pain, whether it’s mild discomfort or excruciating pain that knocks you off your feet. However, with sciatica, you’ll likely recognize immediately that this is not the case.
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Sciatica is identified by pain that begins in the lower back and travels down one leg, sometimes all the way to the foot.
Sciatica occurs when something presses on your sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back to your legs and feet. Typically, this is a herniated disk, but it can also be a bone spur. This can occur as a result of an injury or simply as a result of aging.
Mild sciatica frequently responds well to self-care measures such as over-the-counter medications and hot and cold packs. However, if your back pain persists for more than a week or worsens, it’s time to consult a physician. If you experience pain that occurs suddenly, is caused by an injury, or causes you to lose control of your bladder or bowels, these are medical emergencies, and you should immediately contact your doctor.
The following are seven signs that you may have sciatica:
- The pain is localized to the buttock and leg on a single side of the body.
- You are experiencing pain or numbness in one of your buttocks.
- You are experiencing lower back pain.
- You occasionally experience nerve-tingling, pins, and needles, or an electric shock down one leg.
- Rather than a dull ache, the pain is a sharp prickling, burning, or tingling.
- You have weakness in the affected leg, for example, your leg gives way occasionally when you rise from a sitting position.
- The pain is worse when you are sitting or standing, but improves when you are lying down.
Mild sciatica typically resolves within a few days. If you have persistent back pain, such as sciatica, that does not resolve within a few days, you should seek medical advice. If you notice noticeable weakness in your leg, lose control of your bladder or bowel, or are unable to go to the toilet, you should consult a physician immediately.
If you experience sudden pain following an accident, such as a gardening injury or a car accident, or if the pain is unbearable and lasts all night, you should also see a doctor immediately.
How to Determine Whether You Have Sciatica
Doctors conduct two physical examinations to determine the pressure on your sciatic nerve. We demonstrate how you can perform these same tests at home and discuss sciatica in greater detail. Consult your doctor about diagnosis and treatment options if you believe you have sciatica.
The slump test places pressure on your lumbar spine’s spinal cord and peripheral nerves.
- Sit upright in a chair that does not have a backrest.
- Hands behind your back, clasped.
- Slump forward and draw your neck down to your chest, touching your chin to it.
- Stride forward with one leg and flex your foot toward your shin.
- Rep with the opposite leg.
If the affected leg cannot reach the same height as the unaffected leg, or if lifting your leg exacerbates your symptoms, you may have sciatica.
Straight Leg Raise Examination
The straight leg raise (SLR) test is used to ascertain the source of your discomfort. The sciatic nerve is stretched during the test, and if it is compressed, the symptoms will occur.
- Lie flat on your back and extend your legs.
- Flex your foot and extend your leg 30 to 70 degrees upward, while maintaining a straight leg.
- Rep with the opposite leg.
If you have pain running down your leg to your foot or are unable to lift your affected leg as much as your other leg, this indicates a positive sciatica test result. If no pain occurs, the test is deemed negative, and any pain you are experiencing could be caused by another spinal condition.
Sciatica is typically not a cause for alarm. While it is painful, it typically resolves on its own within a few days to about three months.
Completing these tests at home can confirm or deny the presence of sciatica or another spinal condition. While at-home remedies are generally sufficient to alleviate pain until your sciatica resolves, if your pain worsens, always consult your doctor. Diagnosis and treatment are critical to ensuring that severe symptoms resolve completely and do not recur.
Doctor Osvaldo Pepa, Neurosurgery Service Physician at Hospital San Martin, La Plata, Argentina. I graduated last November 16, 1984 with a Medical Degree at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata. The Medical Board of La Plata, District 1, licensed me as a Neurosurgeon in 1990. I hold a Provincial and National License and an active member of the Neurosurgery Society of La Plata, World Ozone Therapy Federation, and Inter American Society of Minimally Invasive Surgery.