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
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.