How Do I Know If I Have Sciatica?
Do you have a job that requires you to lift heavy loads for long periods? Maybe you're in your 30s and lead a sedentary lifestyle. If so, you may be at risk of developing sciatica. It's characterized by persistent, radiating pain felt along your sciatic nerve. It's the widest and longest single nerve in the body. Sciatica is a common symptom of many different health conditions. But about 90 percent of reported cases are due to a slipped disk. Other causes are lumbar spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, piriformis syndrome, and spinal tumor. You may also suffer from sciatica if you've had an injury or an infection that ultimately affects your spine. So, how do you know if you have sciatica?
Common Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatica generally affects only one leg at a time. The pain extends from your lower back or buttock down to your thigh and the leg. You can feel the pain in the front, back, or sides of your lower extremities. Besides pain, which could be constant or intermittent, you may also experience an altered sensation. These are characterized by numbness or tingling sensation at the back of your leg. Another indication that you may have sciatica is weakness in the leg and foot. You may also notice that changing your posture either aggravates or eases your pain. For some patients, the pain worsens when they cough, sit, try to stand up, stand for long periods, twist their back, or bend them forward. The discomfort may also increase or remain the same when they're lying down, disturbing their sleep. Other people find relief when they walk or perform pelvic exercises.
How to Diagnose Sciatica?
Your doctor will determine whether you have sciatica by taking your medical history and conducting a physical examination. They may ask you to walk on your heels or toes, rise from a squatting position, and lift each of your legs while lying down. If your symptoms get worse with any of these movements, it's a sign that you may have sciatica. Your doctor can recommend various diagnostic tests to determine what caused your sciatic nerve pain. These tests may include a computed tomography scan, electromyography, magnetic resonance imaging, and X-ray. These tests are often only required if you have chronic sciatica or another type of severe disease.
What's the Prognosis?
Many cases of sciatica can be managed with simple home care. Some people may require surgery to resolve chronic pain or weakness. But for most patients, preventive measures are enough to keep the sciatic nerve pain from coming back.
For sciatica cases caused by factors that chiropractic care can address, several treatment modalities may be incorporated for long-term relief. Your chiropractor may use ultrasound, cold therapy, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to treat sciatica. While ultrasound reduces swelling, cold therapy can help with the inflammation. The TENS device, on the other hand, can relieve acute pain and lessen muscle spasms. Your chiropractor may also perform spinal manipulation to restore proper alignment of your spine. Massage therapy and exercises are also excellent treatment options, depending on what caused your sciatica.
If your sciatic nerve pain has started interfering with your daily activities, consult with our chiropractic care professionals today at Mission Bay Chiropractic. Call our office now in San Francisco, California, at 415-855-4300 to schedule your appointment.