If The Symptoms Are The Same How Will My Doctor Tell The Difference
This is a common question among people suffering with radiating pain or numbness down the leg.
There are a few tests that your Doctor of Physical Therapy will perform to give you the right diagnosis.
Imaging tests such as X-rays and MRIs are useful to see if your sciatic nerve is being compressed by something but, these types of tests arent always needed to make a full diagnosis. If something is compressing your nerve such as a bone spur, bulging disc, or herniated disc, you would get diagnosed with sciatica, which is easily treatable by a lower back pain specialist in most cases.
Some joint conditions that mimic sciatica, such as arthritis, can also show up on X-ray results. Your doctor may also order blood tests if you are suspected to have arthritis.
Increase Hip And Hamstring Flexibility
Stiff hamstrings, glutes, and hips can alter your posture and increase the stress on your lower back, which may contribute to sciatica. Most types of sciatica will benefit significantly from a stretching routine that targets the hips and hamstrings and relieves an overused or inflamed piriformis muscle. The piriformis is a small muscle that attaches at the base of the spine and runs just above the sciatic nerve. Prolonged inactivity or sitting compresses the piriformis over the sciatic nerve, which can lead to aggravation and pain. Reverse the effects of tight hips and hamstrings by adopting a simple stretching routine or incorporating yoga into your overall fitness regimen.
Here are two ways to stretch your piriformis muscle and relieve pain.
What Exercises Should You Do With Sciatica
Its important to do some physical activity daily, even if its only gentle stretching. Walking, swimming, and water therapy exercises are also great options. When walking, move at a comfortable pace and avoid walking uphill.
Work on increasing flexibility and building strength in your back, core, and leg muscles. You must also improve your posture, alignment, and movement patterns. Only stretch as far as youre comfortable, and remember that flexibility can vary daily. Stop if you experience pain.
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If I Dont Have Sciatica What Do I Have
One of the reasons that it can be difficult to tell if a person is truly experiencing sciatica is that many other types of pain can mimic sciatica. As someone trying to self-diagnose, you may find it difficult to tell if your pain is truly sciatic in nature or if its simply lower back pain.
Here are some of the most common problems that can cause sciatica-like symptoms.
Using Cold And Heat To Alleviate Sciatica Pain
When you first start experiencing sciatica pain, applying a cold pack can provide a lot of relief. Wrap a cold pack or a bag of frozen peas in a clean towel, and apply it to the painful area a few times a day for up to 20 minutes each time.
If your sciatica is still bothering you after a few days, then it can be helpful to try heat instead. Apply a heat lamp on the lowest setting, a hot pack, or a heating pad to the painful area.
If your pain persists, try alternating between cold packs and hot packs.
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Do You Have Sciatica Or A Condition That Mimics Sciatica Heres How To Treat It
Pain, numbness, and tingling that extends down your leg is alarming for most people. Fortunately, most conditions that cause these symptoms are treatable and not serious.
If you have sciatica, piriformis syndrome, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, or other joint conditions, your best solution is to see a Doctor of Physical Therapy that specializes in lower back pain and sciatica.
Lower back pain physical therapists will pinpoint the condition you have and what caused your condition. You can rest assured that you will receive treatments that are safe, proven successful, and personalized. Finally, you can get rid of your symptoms for good with the help of a lower back pain physical therapist.
What Tests Do Health Care Professionals Use To Diagnose Sciatica
Sciatica is a clinical diagnosis. In other words, the health care professional will be able to make the diagnosis based on the patient’s medical history, a physical examination, and description of his or her symptoms. If the patient has had sciatica for only a brief time and has no sign of any other diseases, no lab studies or X-ray films may be needed.
- If the pain has not improved after several weeks, CT or MRI scans of the spine may be ordered.
- If the patient has a history of cancer, HIV infection, IV drug use, or has been taking steroids over a period a time, the doctor may want to evaluate plain X-ray films of the back or a bone scan.
- Occasionally, laboratory studies may be helpful. A CBC may suggest infection, anemia due to certain cancers, or other unusual causes of sciatica. Elevated sedimentation rate may suggest inflammation somewhere in the body. Urinalysis can suggest a kidney stone if there is blood in the urine, or infection, if there are bacteria and pus in the urine.
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What Can I Expect If I Have Been Diagnosed With Sciatica
The good news about sciatic pain is that it usually goes away on its own with time and some self-care treatments. Most people with sciatica get better without surgery, and about half of these recover from an episode fully within six weeks.
Be sure to contact your healthcare provider if your sciatica pain is not improving and you have concerns that you arent recovering as quickly as hoped.
Should I Rest If I Have Sciatica
Some rest and change in your activities and activity level may be needed. However, too much rest, bed rest, and physical inactivity can make your pain worse and slow the healing process. Its important to maintain as much activity as possible to keep muscles flexible and strong.
Before beginning your own exercise program, see your healthcare provider or spine specialist first to get a proper diagnosis. This healthcare professional will refer you to the proper physical therapist or other trained exercise or body mechanics specialist to devise an exercise and muscle strengthening program thats best for you.
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Why Is This Happening
As we mentioned earlier, sciatica is a symptom and not an actual health condition. Sciatica simply means that the sciatic nerve is being compressed or irritated in some way, resulting in pain. The root cause of sciatic pain needs to be diagnosed by a professional, such as a chiropractor. Some of the more common causes of sciatic pain include:
- Lumbar disc herniation
- Isthmic spondylolisthesis
- Spinal tumor
There are other possible causes, but those are rare. Before your sciatic pain can be relieved, the root cause needs to be determined and addressed.
You Should See A Physical Therapist When Your Home Remedies Fail To Work
We all love a good DIY health remedy, right? There are plenty of things you can do at home to ease a mild sciatica flare-up. Alternating with cold and heat is a classic treatment for sciatica symptoms. You can use an ice pack, followed by a heating pad, for about 15 minutes per application. Sleeping with a pillow between your knees can also help. If you cant get comfortable during the day or at night, try a reclining chair to redirect the pressure from your lower back.
Going for walks often helps ease sciatica pain, because babying your condition can actually make it worse. Yet while these methods may help with mild sciatica, there are times when a physical therapy session is a far better strategy.
One sign that you should consult a physical therapist is if your home treatments are having little or no effect in reducing the pain and restricted motion, or if your pain lasts longer than a week.
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How Do You Know If It Is Sciatica
The key to diagnosing sciatica is a thorough history and a focused exam. Unfortunately, many patients expect an x-ray or MRI, and doctors, often facing time constraints, order one even though we know imaging tests dont really help us treat early sciatica any better. The Sciatica symptoms are often worse with sitting or coughing and may be accompanied by numbness or tingling in the leg. A physical exam can confirm that the sciatic nerve is involved, and I look for weakness or diminished reflexes in the legs that suggest that someone needs early referral to a specialist. With this information, I can make an initial diagnosis and start treatment.
How Is Sciatica Affecting Your Quality Of Life
Sciatica pain may extend all the way from the lower back, through the back of your thigh, to your foot. The pain can come and go, sometimes lingering for days and even weeks. This may cause anything from mild discomfort to making the simplest tasks intolerable. Sitting could be painful with sciatica and driving even more so. Not to mention playing sports and being active.
As you contemplate surgery for sciatica, consider how much the pain affects your quality of life. If your work, hobbies, social life or relationships suffer from your being in constant pain, it may be time to think about surgery.
Although sciatica starts as nerve inflammation, it may eventually progress to nerve damage. If the sciatic nerve is damaged, it could result in numbness, tingling and, in more severe cases, weakness in the knees or legs. The longer it is left untreated, the longer it will take for numbness and weakness to go away, and they may become permanent.
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How Is Sciatica Diagnosed
First, your healthcare provider will review your medical history. Next, theyll ask about your symptoms.
During your physical exam, you will be asked to walk so your healthcare provider can see how your spine carries your weight. You may be asked to walk on your toes and heels to check the strength of your calf muscles. Your provider may also do a straight leg raise test. For this test, youll lie on your back with your legs straight. Your provider will slowly raise each leg and note the point at which your pain begins. This test helps pinpoint the affected nerves and determines if there is a problem with one of your disks. You will also be asked to do other stretches and motions to pinpoint pain and check muscle flexibility and strength.
Depending on what your healthcare provider discovers during your physical exam, imaging and other tests might be done. These may include:
- Spinal X-rays to look for spinal fractures, disk problems, infections, tumors and bone spurs.
- Magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography scans to see detailed images of bone and soft tissues of the back. An MRI can show pressure on a nerve, disk herniation and any arthritic condition that might be pressing on a nerve. MRIs are usually ordered to confirm the diagnosis of sciatica.
- Nerve conduction velocity studies/electromyography to examine how well electrical impulses travel through the sciatic nerve and the response of muscles.
- Myelogram to determine if a vertebrae or disk is causing the pain.
Which Treatments Have You Already Tried
There are several ways to manage sciatica without surgery, depending on the cause. They may include pain relief medications, steroid injections, physical therapy, aquatic therapy, meditation and nerve blocks, among others. What works for one person may not be as effective for someone else.
There are several types of doctors who treat sciatica pain. If you feel like you have exhausted your options with your primary care physician, consider making an appointment with a rehabilitation physician or a pain medicine specialist before calling a surgeon. Because every person experiences pain differently, it often takes working with the right specialist to find the combination of treatments that works for you.
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Treating Symptoms Of Sciatica
In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to help ease your sciatic pain. Some patients use over-the-counter pain medications. If these dont touch the pain, your doctor might be able to prescribe you some stronger pain relief or perhaps some anti-inflammatory medication. Other patients have discovered physical therapy can help.
You might also try applying heat or chilling the impacted area:
- Use a heating pad on low or medium setting for about fifteen to twenty minutes about every two to three hours.
- Try alternating a warm shower for one of these heating pad sessions.
- You can also try ice packs, using them for ten or fifteen minutes every few hours.
There isnt strong evidence ice packs and heating pads help, but they have occasionally brought relief to patients and are certainly worth a try.
Will My Sciatica Come Back
Sciatica can and does come back, especially when a person has a chronic medical condition.
People who do not make lifestyle changes to prevent more sciatic pain may also redevelop symptoms. However, for most people, sciatica heals on its own within a month or two.
Sciatica usually goes away on its own, with or without treatment.
A doctor can diagnose the cause of sciatica and may prescribe treatment to speed healing.
However, sciatica is not a medical emergency, and it is fine to wait to see whether the symptoms resolve on their own before visiting a doctor.
It is advisable to see a doctor if:
- sciatic pain interferes with daily functioning
- sciatica lasts longer than 3 months
- sciatica goes away and then comes back
- the pain is unbearable or gets steadily worse
Although the outlook for most people with sciatica is good, those with chronic sciatica face a longer and more complicated recovery.
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What If I Just Wait For The Pain To Go Away
Unfortunately, sciatica pain is so common that many people have come to believe that they can either just wait it out, self-treat the problem, or take advice from non-qualified persons about how they fixed their sciatica.
While most people have similar pain sensations, everyone is different. Some describe the pain as intermittent and annoying, while others find it intense and absolutely debilitating.
Sciatica rarely goes away on its own without some type of medical assistance and healing program.
Damage to the nerves can happen if the problem is not addressed. Nerve damage can lead to a permanent loss of sensation or even a loss of bladder or bowel control.
Seeing your chiropractor to determine the cause of your sciatic pain is the best possible option to avoid complications and to prevent a small problem from becoming more severe.
How Can Physiotherapy Help My Lower Back Pain
Physiotherapy is one of the most effective methods for the treatment of lower back pain. There is a large amount of research to support the techniques that we use. Most cases of lower back pain respond well to a program of manual therapy and graded exercises. Manual therapy can include massage, and joint mobilisations and manipulations. These techniques reduce pain and help to restore movement. The exercise program typically includes a combination of range of motion and mobility exercises, trunk and leg strengthening exercises, and a gradual return to activities. Physiotherapists can also use other forms of treatment such as acupuncture, taping and TENS.
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Is My Pain Sciatica Or Something Else
Sciatica is a term used to describe radiating pain that travels along the path of the sciatic nerve, running from your lower spine through the buttock and down the back of the leg. It flares when the sciatic nerve is irritated or pinched by any of a range of problems in your lower back.
The term sciatica describes radiating pain that travels along the path of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower spine through the buttock and down the back of the leg. Watch:Sciatica Causes and Symptoms Video
Secrets To Get Sciatic Nerve To Stop Hurting
If you are suffering from sciatica, you have one thing on your mind right now, how to get rid of sciatica pain fast! While some people might confuse sciatic pain with general low back pain, they arent the same thing.
You arent alone, either. An estimated 8 of 10 Americans will suffer from sciatica at some point in their life. Low back pain is the #2 reason people visit the emergency room and the #1 reason for job disability in the world!
The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body, going from the lower back, through the buttocks, down the legs, and ending just below the knee joint. The sciatic nerve controls multiple muscles in the lower legs and gives you feelings and sensations to the skin of the foot, as well as most of your lower leg.
You might have heard people complain about or say that they suffer from sciatica, but this is actually a symptom and not a condition.
Unfortunately, most hospitals and doctors will simply give you addictive, liver-damaging pain killers and tell you to rest. This is one of the most destructive things you can do.
You dont need opioids and you dont need more than 48 hours of rest. What you need are real solutions to solve your sciatica pain.
Keep reading and lets find out how you can get rid of sciatica!
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