How Do I Know if I Have Sciatica?

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Pain, numbness, and tingling — these are the telltale signs of sciatic nerve pain. However, like many symptoms, these could indicate other spinal or nerve issues. So, how can you be sure? 

At Lazar Spinal Care PC, we partner with families to bring lifelong care and wellness. If you're struggling with pain in your lower back that extends into your legs, let's explore some ways you can tell if this is sciatica and find relief.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Sciatica?

Sciatica refers to leg pain often accompanied by numbness and tingling or weakness. This symptom frequently begins in the lower back and runs through the buttocks and down the sciatic nerve in the back of each leg. The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body, about the size of your smallest finger. 

Many people don't realize that sciatica is a symptom, not a disease. The following signs of sciatic nerve pain accompany sciatica:

  • Consistent pain, usually on only one side of the body.
  • Pain that radiates down the leg, sometimes as far as the foot and toes.
  • Pain in the leg, often described as searing, tingling, or burning.
  • Pain that becomes worse when sitting.
  • Weakness.
  • Difficulty moving the leg, foot, or toes.
  • Numbness.

5 Ways to Know if It Is Sciatica

Actual back pain does not accompany sciatica. Or, if it does, it is usually very minor. If you're unsure if the pain you feel is nerve-related, there are certain signs and symptoms of sciatica to help you uncover the truth. Let's explore the top five ways to know if you're experiencing sciatic nerve pain.

1. Weakness in Your Knee

As the largest nerve in the entire body, the sciatic nerve runs the length of the lower spine and down into each foot. When it becomes pinched, the function becomes disrupted and results in pain, tingling, and weakness. 

Pain is a problematic symptom, as it's pretty common and can indicate a wide variety of spinal issues and conditions. However, pain and weakness in only one leg are significant indicators for doctors. Patients often go to the ER for pain, but the weakness is more concerning. Seek professional care if you recognize you are getting weak in the legs or knees.

2. You've Experienced Muscle Pain, But You're Not a Runner

If you are not training for your next triathlon or running on the treadmill as part of your workout routine, you shouldn't be experiencing muscle pain or strain. For non-athletes, you may be suffering from sciatica.

Piriformis syndrome is very similar to sciatica and has many similar symptoms, including pain, tingling, and numbness beginning in the buttocks and running down the back of the leg. However, instead of a slipped disc being the cause, it is the piriformis muscle located near the top of the hip joint pressing on the sciatic nerve. Your healthcare team can help you address the muscle pain to relieve the sciatic pain. 

3. You Cannot Reproduce Your Pain on Demand

Pain undoubtedly impacts your quality of life — but sadly, this symptom tends to be a catchall phrase. When speaking with your doctor about your symptoms, it's important to be specific. After all, you wouldn't simply order "ice cream" at the Ben and Jerry's counter.

Try the following method to determine if your pain is sciatica or muscle induced. Push your thumb on the muscles in your lower back with at least five to 10 pounds of pressure. If you can trigger your pain by doing this, the issue is probably muscle-related, not sciatica. When your muscles become shortened and tightened, they get thicker and do not get the proper nutrients and blood supply. This is what leads to pain when you press on it. Sciatica is not able to be produced through pressure.

4. Testing Positive for Sciatica

There is a test that doctors can perform to determine sciatic nerve pain, especially if the cause is suspected to be a slipped disc.

First, you'll be asked to lie down with your feet stretched out. Your doctor will then raise your leg up to a 70-degree angle. If you feel pain radiating down your entire leg, below the knee, and even into the toes, you probably have sciatica. Stretching the leg also stretches the entire sciatic nerve. So, if the root is pinched, you will feel pain.

5. Loss of Bowel and Bladder Function

For those who experience loss of bowel and bladder function in conjunction with sciatic pain, this may be a surgical emergency. This symptom is extremely rare. However, if the spinal column puts enough intense pressure on the sciatic nerve, permanent damage to bowel and bladder function is possible. Seek professional care immediately.

Relief for Sciatica

There is good news. Sciatica often clears up on its own. An acute case of sciatica can clear up in under 90 days. Your primary care doctor may suggest medications to help you manage pain as you get through this time period. 

If you regularly suffer from sciatica, you may have visited a chiropractor at some point. He probably adjusted your lower back near the pain site, providing some temporary relief. For chronic cases, sciatica often returns.

Sometimes issues in the lower back stem from problems higher up the spine. Targeted stretching can help relieve the pain. However, with upper cervical chiropractic care, you may be able to find the long-term relief you long for. 

Find Gentle Chiropractic Care at Lazar Spinal Care

Lazar Spinal Care in Ann Arbor, Michigan, focuses on upper cervical chiropractic care. When the top bone of the spine, the atlas or C1 vertebra, has a misalignment, the entire spine must shift and move to compensate for the head's weight, attempting to keep it level. This twisting can easily impact the sciatic nerve, leading to sciatica. 

Upper cervical misalignment is similar to toppling over a row of dominoes. The one at the beginning affects those all the way down to the end.

We use a gentle method that does not require popping the neck or cracking the back to get positive results. By encouraging these bones to realign naturally, outcomes tend to last longer. Many have seen their sciatica pain improve with very few adjustments. There is no need for medication, and often the symptoms do not return.

If you're struggling with pain and suspect sciatica, reach out to us today. Using state-of-the-art technology and individualized care, we will help you find the relief you long for.

By | June 27th, 2023 | | Comments Off

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