Can A Range Of Motion Test Diagnose Sciatica?

One of the reasons that back pain is such a chronic problem for many people is that they rely solely on self-diagnosis, which often leads to temporary treatments that don’t address the source of the pain. Even if your self-diagnosis is correct, genuine treatment will need to address the symptoms as well as the source of the pain to find any lasting relief.

Many people start to feel pain in the lower back accompanied by a bit of tingling down the hip, buttocks and thigh and the first thing they think is “sciatica”. While what you are feeling may be the result of a pinched or exposed sciatic nerve, there is often a larger problem that is causing the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Only when you figure out why you have sciatica can you begin to undergo an effective pain management plan.

On average sciatica affects adults between the age range of 30 to 50 years, and this is the population most likely to chalk their pain up to age and muscle deterioration and are less likely to seek medical help right away. Sciatica can be caused by a range of problems that include nerve damage, herniated or slipped discs or spinal problems. To determine the source of the sciatica will require a range of tests for a proper diagnosis. 

Diagnosing Sciatica

A common diagnostic tool used to diagnose the cause of sciatica is a range of motion test. Although a general medical practitioner may perform this test, you will get better results and a more accurate diagnosis from a spine specialist. The specialist may require a referral from your primary physician before agreeing to see you, to make sure you don’t suffer from general back pain.

Before your appointment with the spine specialist you will need to pay more attention to your body. You will be asked detailed questions regarding your lower back pain so be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • When is the pain the most unbearable?
  • What activities lead to lower back pain?
  • How long does the pain last?
  • What treatments help relieve the back pain?
  • How long have you been experiencing lower back pain?
  • Does the pain extend to the hip, buttocks and thigh?
  • Is the pain on one side of the leg, or both?

Answering these questions will not only give you insight into what you can do to relieve the pain, but it will also help the physician diagnose the underlying source of your back pain. It will also let the specialist know if a range of motion test will be a beneficial diagnostic tool.

In many instances a range of motion test will provide a conclusive diagnosis so that you and your physician can create a pain therapy regimen just for you. In some instances however, additional tests will be required to confirm the diagnosis or look for another cause for the pain.

Range Of Motion Test

During the diagnostic period, the physician will examine your range of motion in the affected area. Range of motion simply refers to how well you are able to move in the area of the pain as well as surrounding areas. For example if you suffer from sciatica your gait may be off or your ability to bend may be restricted.

The physician will look for signs of abnormal spinal curvature or weakness by looking at the alignment of the spine. By observing your range of motions the doctor will be able to determine how well you can manipulate your limbs in different directions, how far you can extend and how the pain spreads during these movements.

Range of motion tests can provide the physician with great insight into far more than your mobility. The doctor will be noting muscle strength in the affected area, any changes to your sciatic nerve or other nerves, muscle reflexes and responses and muscle imbalance.

Once the range of motion test has diagnosed your sciatica, your physician will be better equipped to determine what type of treatment will best treat your symptoms. Physical therapy is the most common method of treatment for sciatica and underlying causes because it can be tailored to strengthen the particular muscles most affected on each person. These stretches and exercises will improve flexibility and posture while alleviating pain.

By identifying your pain and taking immediate action to get a diagnosis and treatment, the more likely you are to have a successful treatment. 

Filed Under: Sciatica
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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2 thoughts on “Can A Range Of Motion Test Diagnose Sciatica?”

  1. nate says:

    I recently tripped walking up stairs at work and the pain in my back (lower right side) felt like I was getting stabbed. I went to see the DR the next day. He massaged my back, gave me a tens unit and flexeral. It started to feel a little better for a couple days, then I went back to work. At work I wear body armor (approx 15 lbs), and almost immediately it started to hurt again. This time, the pain led to tingling in my leg. It hurts when I sit (I drive a vehicle, or sit in the back seat) and when I stand/walk for more than a few minutes. At night, while sleeping, I keep waking up having to change position. I’m 37 years old and in fairly decent shape (this is a requirement of my employment). The last time I was home (about a month ago, before the incident I had on the stairs at work) I had an MRI and was told I have a protruding disc, but was told I don’t have sciatica. Is there anything else you could tell me that it might be? Or, can it happen all of a sudden? I may be sent home for medical purposes…

    1. Admin says:

      Hi Nate,

      Thank you for posting regarding your back issues. We believe education is key to dealing with back pain and we would suggest you get yourself a copy of our book the “7 Day Back Pain Cure”. The book discusses back pain issues, muscle imbalances, sciatica and related pains, various treatment options you can consider, pain relief suggestions, action plans and other helpful information for when dealing with pain.

      Please read more details and information about the 7 Day Back Pain Cure book via the link below

      We would also suggest you consider this book Dr Sarno Healing Back Pain.

      It sounds like your health is a requirement of your employment, it is wise for you to keep in touch with your doctor to review any changes and if things get worse for you.

      Our Best Wishes
      Admin (The Healthy Back Institute)

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