Back pain and sciatica can be caused in many different ways, but one of the most common ways is due to a herniated disc. Because of this, when someone is suffering with back pain and sciatica they often times assume a herniated disc is the cause of the pain. But there is no way of knowing without being properly diagnosed first!
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Every herniated disc is different, and no two causes or symptoms are alike. This can often make diagnosing them very challenging. For example, some people may have a small herniation that is causing very severe pain due to how the rupture is pinching a nerve, but their MRI appears very normal. Conversely, other people may have a very large herniated disc but be in little or no pain.
If a doctor suspects you may have a herniated disc, these are the steps to properly diagnosing it:
1. First your doctor will give you a detailed examination, paying attention to if there are problems in the legs such as numbness and muscle weakness which could indicate sciatica caused by a herniated disc.
2. If the doctor's examination determined that you most likely have a herniated disc, you will be sent for a MRI to confirm. The MRI is the best tool available to be able to see and properly diagnose a herniated disc. You may also be sent for other tests such as a X-ray or CT scan.
3. If you are showing the symptoms of sciatica as well, you may be given two more tests: an EMG (Electromyography) and NCV (Nerve Conduction Velocity) study. These tests can help determine how severe the patient's sciatica is and if it is a result of the herniated disc or some other health issue.
Once you have the results of these examinations and tests you should know for sure if you do have a herniated disc and exactly how severe it is!
At the Illinois Back Institute we strive to educate everyone as much as possible about their back pain and sciatica, because it is proven that the more people know about their problem the more likely they are to eliminate it!
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