Don't Let Spinal Stenosis Slow You Down

Get To Know The Symptoms Of Sciatica 5 WAYS TO TELL IF YOU HAVE SCIATICA

Pain that radiates down the back of your leg, numbness or tingling that extends down to your foot, a quick jolt each time you cough or sneeze—sounds like sciatic nerve pain, right? How do you know for sure that shooting pain is nerve-related and not coming from somewhere else—like your muscles? Here are tips on getting to

the root of your agony, once and for all. 1. YOU FEEL WEAK IN YOUR KNEES.

Well, actually just one knee—and it runs throughout the entire leg. The sciatic nerve—the one that gets pinched and causes sciatica—is the largest single nerve in the entire body, running from the lower spine all the way down to the foot. When that nerve is pinched, its function is disrupted, resulting in all kinds of unwanted sensations, such as pain, weakness, and tingling. And while pain is pretty common (and oftentimes hard to diagnose), pain and weakness in a single leg acts like a red flag for doctors. 2. YOU’RE A WALKER, NOT A RUNNER. There’s a good chance your leg pain is sciatica caused by a herniated disc, not the less-common piriformis syndrome, which mainly affects athletes. The funny thing is that piriformis syndrome presents itself almost exactly like sciatica: pain, tingling, numbness starting in the buttocks and extending down the leg. But instead of a slipped disc causing the issues, your piriformis muscle (found in the butt near the top of your hip Specificity is key. Sometimes the pain you think is sciatica isn’t actually nerve-induced pain at all, but rather, something muscular. So how do you find out? Use your thumb, push around on the muscles in your lower back and see if you can find spots that affect your pain. If you can trigger pain by a push—not a gentle push, you want to exert at least 5 to 10 pounds of pressure—your pain is most likely muscular and the result of a shortened, tightened muscle. joint) is pressing on that touchy nerve. 3. YOU CAN’T TRIGGER YOUR PAIN.

4. THERE’S ONE TEST YOU JUST CAN’T PASS. It’s the main test docs use to diagnose sciatica caused by a slipped disc, and it starts with you lying down with your feet stretched out. The examiner then raises your straight leg between 30 and 70 degrees. Pain from this test—the kind that radiates down your entire leg, below your knee, and possibly even down to your toes—indicates sciatica. This is because when you stretch the affected leg, you’re also stretching the entire sciatic nerve, and if the nerve root is pinched, you’ll feel it through the stretching movement. 5. YOU’VE GOTTA GO A WHOLE LOT MORE. We’re not talking about getting up a few extra times each night, but rather, totally losing control of your bowel and bladder movements. When paired with the typical sciatica pain, doctors treat this as a “surgical emergency”. It’s extremely rare, but if the spinal column is putting that much pressure on the nerve, it can lead to permanent damage to bowel and bladder function, so be sure to see a doctor immediately. Written by Amber Brenza

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