Tests for sciatica diagnosis

Tests for sciatica can include several procedures, such as physical reflex trials and examinations using diagnostic imagery like MRIs, CT scans and X-rays. The purpose of these tests is to positively diagnose a cause, or rule out other causes, for sciatica. These tests are often necessary because the symptoms that people with sciatica experience can be caused by a range of conditions, including piriformis syndrome and SI joint dysfunction.

If your life is being disrupted by sciatica pain, learning about the ways that doctors can test for the underlying causes of this condition can help you take a more active role in your treatment. Being able to work with your doctor during the diagnosis and treatment process can give you the best chance of getting back to the life you’ve been missing.

Specific tests for sciatica

Here is an overview of some of the diagnostic tests for sciatica causes commonly used by physicians:

  • Reflex and neurological tests. These may indicate limited range of motion or feeling in one leg of a sciatica patient. It can help narrow down the type of condition pressing on the sciatic nerve, disrupting signals from the brain to the leg
  • MRI. An MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, can positive identify the location and type of condition, such as a herniated disc, causing sciatica pain.
  • Spinal nerve block. This procedure involves isolating specific nerves, such as the sciatic, and desensitizing them with a chemical injection. If pain disappears when nerves associated with sciatica are desensitized, then sciatic nerve compression is likely the cause of the pain.

In addition to these procedures, your physician will also ask you a series of questions regarding your sciatica symptoms, including how long you’ve experienced them, what type of pain you’re feeling, where and when it occurs and if anything provides you with relief. These questions can help your physician narrow down the possible causes of your pain.

Upon diagnosis of the cause of sciatica, most doctors will prescribe an initial course of conservative treatment. Typical recommendations are stretching, physical therapy, epidural steroid injections and medication. Some of these treatments aim to manage symptoms while your physician waits to see if the cause for your sciatica resolves on its own. Surgery is usually explored when sciatica pain does not improve after weeks and months of attempted treatment.

Laser Spine Institute

If you’ve reached the treatment stage, and your physician has mentioned surgery, you may want to consider the minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery we offer at Laser Spine Institute. Because our procedures use a smaller muscle-sparing incision, it leads to a shorter recovery time^ with less risk of complication than traditional open spine surgery.

Contact us today and we’ll review your MRI or CT scan at no cost* to help you find out if you’re a candidate for one of our procedures.

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