How to Tell if Your Pain Is Sciatica or Not

Sciatica isn’t an actual diagnosis. Instead, it’s a term used to describe the pain that travels along the sciatic nerve. This pain is the result of something in the lower back irritating the sciatic nerve, and it can be debilitating. A person can be walking and suddenly freeze in pain because sciatica can pop up with very little warning. The pain may occur in bouts rather than be constant.

Low Back Problems That Cause Sciatica

Several low back problems can cause sciatica. They include a lumbar herniated disc, degenerative spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease, isthmic spondylolisthesis, and lumbar spinal stenosis. Anything that can cause the muscles to constrict may result in those muscles irritating the sciatic nerve. The only way to stop the episodes of sciatica is to treat the condition causing it. The treatment may be surgery or therapy.

There are also conditions that can mimic sciatica. Joint problems in the spine, such as arthritis, are among them. While the pain may feel like sciatica, it isn’t really sciatica. The cause will be treated. For those with arthritis, the goal is to preserve the motion in the joints and reduce the pain. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, are given to reduce the inflammation in the joints.

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction is a common cause of pain in the lower back and hip. It can cause pain to radiate down the leg if a person moves too little or too much. The pain feels like sciatica, which is why some people ignore the condition.

If the piriformis muscle in the buttocks irritates the sciatic nerve, pain can radiate just as it would if the nerve was irritated in the lower back. A person may think he or she has a lower back problem when that’s not the case. Anti-inflammatory medication is a common treatment for this condition.

Do Not Self-Diagnose

It is important not to self-diagnose sciatica because the condition could be serious. Sciatic nerve pain can be caused by a spinal tumor, cauda equine syndrome, or a spinal infection. If any of these conditions exist and are allowed to persist, the consequences can be very serious. In fact, they can be life threatening. This is why it is advised that anyone experiencing sciatica-like pain sees a doctor as soon as possible so a proper diagnosis can be made. When you have a diagnosis, you will be more informed about your own body.

Be Sure to Exercise

Another important point is that you need to exercise. Talk to your doctor about an exercise treatment that will work for you. When you strengthen muscles that might be irritating the sciatic nerve, you can improve the situation. If you don’t regularly exercise using the prescribed regimen, the symptoms could return worse than they were before. Not exercising at all can cause the sciatic pain to get worse over time. You want to make sure you get a prescription for the right exercise program, learn how to exercise using the right form, and keep exercising even after the pain has gone away so it doesn’t come back.