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How to Self- Diagnose Sciatica

Sciatica is very common, but how can you be sure that you have it? 

Sciatica is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the back, hip, buttock, and leg. It is caused by a compression of the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down the back of the leg and into the foot.

Symptoms of sciatica

The symptoms of sciatica can vary from person to person, but they often include:

  • Pain in the lower back, hip, buttock, and leg

  • Numbness or tingling in the back, hip, buttock, and leg

  • Weakness in the leg

  • Muscle spasms in the leg

Self Testing


Experiencing one or all of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have sciatica. To further confirm the diagnosis you can use some simple movement tests which are outlined below. These tests are based on the principle that creating tension on the sciatic nerve will temporarily increase leg symptoms.

These tests, although not 100% accurate, can help to confirm that the cause of your pain is related to a nerve irritation. They should not be repeated frequently because they can provoke your symptoms. Please ensure that manoeuvres are performed very slowly and carefully. 


 Straight Leg Raise Test


The straight leg raise test is used to gently exert tension on the sciatic nerve. If there is nerve irritation, this will often increase the intensity of the leg pain. 


For this test you should lie on your back with your legs out straight. Starting on the non-painful side, slowly lift your leg whilst keeping it straight. Continue to lift until a stretch point is reached. (It is possible that the pain may be increased on the painful leg doing this manoeuvre – please stop if this occurs).


Return to the starting position.


Repeat the same manoeuvre, this time lifting the painful leg. Take care to do this very slowly, and be prepared that it probably will not go as far as the non-painful side, and may well temporally increase your leg pain.


A restriction of range compared with the good leg, along with increased pain in the leg is a positive confirmation that you have sciatica.

How do you know if you have Sciatica?

How do you know if you have Sciatica?

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Have You Got Sciatica? The Slump Test

Have You Got Sciatica? The Slump Test

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 Slump Test


 Another way to exert tension on the nerve system is to perform a slump test. If any of the following manoeuvres increase your leg pain then please cease the test. Sit on a chair. Please perform the movements in sequence and very slowly.


1. Allow yourself to slump by rounding your back. If pain in the leg increases then stop the test. If not: 

2. Add to the stretch by taking your chin to your chest. If pain in the leg increases then stop the test. If not:

3. Add to the stretch by straightening the knee on the painful side


Any increase in leg pain with each movement is an indication of a sciatic nerve problem.



If these tests do not reproduce your leg pain it does not mean that you do not have sciatica. The most significant diagnostic sign is pain in the leg that can not be explained by anything else. However, 90% of the time these two tests will be positive in someone with sciatica.

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