3 Reasons Why You May Not Actually Have Sciatica

Sciatica itself cannot be considered as a condition or disease, but rather a name for a set of symptoms caused by a spinal condition. The fact is most patients are not aware of what sciatica actually is. Even more interesting, many in the health care sector misuse the term sciatica daily.


Sciatica is the longest nerve in the body that travels from the lower back and buttocks into the legs. But, most of the people are unaware and misinformed as to what sciatica actually is. Symptoms of sciatica can be pain travelling down the leg, numbness and tingling, and even weakness in the leg. This however does not tell you what exactly the problem is. The problem can be where the nerve comes out of the spine or anywhere along its path. Here are the top 3 reasons why you might not actually have sciatica:


Disc Herniation


A herniate disc can irritate nerves and can result in pain, numbness or weakness in arm or leg. Now these symptoms are often suspected as that of sciatica by most people. Basically, a herniated disc refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions between the individual bones that stack up to make your spine. Most herniated discs occur in your lower back, although they can also occur in your neck as well. If your herniated disk is in your lower back, you will typically feel the most intense pain in your buttocks, thighs and calf. And if it is in your neck, the pain will intensify in your shoulder or arm.


However, seeking help of a physical therapist can help you get immediate relief with a variety of physical therapy techniques including deep tissue massage, hot and cold therapy, electrical stimulation, and hydrotherapy.


Spinal Stenosis


It is basically narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. Spinal stenosis occurs most often either in the lower back or in the neck. Spinal stenosis also causes numbness or tingling in your leg. Most of the people get their spinal stenosis recognized on an MRI or CT scan but they might not have symptoms. The most common cause of spinal stenosis is the wear and tear changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis.


But the effects of physical therapy are equal to that of a surgery when it comes to spinal stenosis symptoms. Your physical therapist will design a specialized treatment program to meet your needs. The program might include:


  • Gentle Movements
  • Stretching and range of motion exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Aerobic exercises


Hip-Joint Pathology


Hip joint pathology is considered as the most common clinical entity related to chronic hip and groin pain and, often, it relates to labral tears and osteoarthritis. The complexity of the hip increases as it can refer to a wide variety of regions including hip, pelvis, groin, thigh and even knees. Since hip is close to the low back, it can be quite difficult to make out whether your hip pain is coming from the hip or coming from your low back. You might feel pain in the buttock, but there is a good possibility that this pain is coming from your lower back and not your hip. But most of the people might relate it to the pain of sciatica. Therefore, if your hip pain persists for more than 2-3 weeks, a visit to a physical therapist is highly recommended. You physical therapist might conduct several examinations including:


  • Gait Evaluation
  • Palpation
  • Strength Measurements
  • Special Tests


After initial evaluation, your physical therapist might initiate a plan of treatment for your hip.


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Majority of patients suffering from sciatica will experience back pain alongside the leg pain, but in rare cases, patients might not experience back pain. A thorough clinical examination by a physical therapist will help you reveal the root cause of your leg pain; whether it is spinal stenosis, disc herniation or hip-joint pathology. Most of the times sciatica can be mistaken for some other leg injuries and this is why consulting a physical therapist becomes very significant. So if you are receiving treatment for sciatica and do not see any treatment, you must get yourself examined from a physical therapist to see if the root cause is really sciatica.



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About Author: Dr. Scott Gray


Dr. Scott Gray is an internationally recognized and expert physical therapist specializing in sport, athletic, and back and neck injuries. He is the inventor of a revolutionary form of treatment called the GRAY METHOD. This type of treatment unlike others, addresses the CAUSE rather than just your SYMPTOMS with a full body approach. For more information on how to ease or overcome your injury, go to




About the Author: Harminder

“Physical Therapy, Fitness, & Performance Tips From Dr. Scott & the Back in Motion Team”
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