Obtaining an accurate sciatica diagnosis

In order to receive an accurate sciatica diagnosis, it is necessary to see a medical professional. Many sciatica symptoms can be explained by a variety of degenerative spine conditions and injuries, which is why it is so important to consult with a physician to determine the underlying cause of your pain and other issues. Once he or she knows the causes of these symptoms, a physician can recommend a personalized treatment plan with the best chance of getting you back to a healthy, active lifestyle.

How doctors diagnose sciatica

Generally speaking, the sciatica diagnosis process consists of three main steps: review of your medical history and symptoms, a thorough physical examination and diagnostic testing. During the initial medical history review, your doctor attempts to better understand your symptoms and lifestyle to isolate potential causes. You should be prepared to describe in detail the exact location, severity and duration of any symptoms. Also be prepared to discuss your family’s medical history, especially if one or more relatives have a history of back pain.

During a physical examination, your doctor might apply pressure to the lower back, hips, legs, knees and the rest of the lower body to attempt to pinpoint the source of symptoms. You might also receive a neurological exam to test reflexes and muscle strength.

Finally, a medical imaging scan may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis, identify the precise cause — such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis or stress fracture — and ensure that no other factor, like a spinal tumor or infection, is causing the sciatica-like symptoms. The scans most frequently recommended are:

  • X-ray
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan

If sciatic nerve compression caused by a degenerative spine condition is confirmed to be the source of your pain and limited mobility, your doctor will then begin to discuss your treatment options with you.

When to consider surgery to treat sciatica

If you’ve received a sciatica diagnosis and initial treatments like anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, stretching, exercise, and epidural steroid injections have failed to relieve your symptoms, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery is often the clinically appropriate first choice and provides many advantages versus traditional open neck or back procedures, including less risk of complication and no lengthy recovery period.^

To learn whether you may be a candidate for one of our procedures, reach out to our dedicated team today and ask for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan.*

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