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Chiropractor for Algonquin and Lake in the Hills
Photo of a chiropractor performing a physical examination of a patient with leg pain.

How Can I Tell if I Have Sciatica or Peripheral Neuropathy?

Learn How Peripheral Neuropathy Differs from Sciatica

Do you struggle with constant pain, fatigue, sleep deprivation, and other symptoms making it hard to get through each day? If you’re experiencing pain, numbness, tingling, and balance issues, two potential underlying causes are sciatica and peripheral neuropathy.

Both conditions cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the legs and feet. They also both negatively affect your strength and balance, making you more likely to fall. Finally, both can have a negative impact on the quality of your life by limiting the activities you enjoy, disturbing your sleep, and forcing you to use potentially addictive medication.

Sciatica’s symptoms tend to include back pain, occur on one side of the body, and fluctuate with bodily position. Peripheral neuropathy’s symptoms tend to include leg pain but not back pain, occur on both sides, and remain constant regardless of body position.

Now, let’s look more closely at the differences in the symptoms and causes of neuropathic and sciatic pain and what you should do next.

What Are the Signs of Sciatica?

Photo of a man grasping his leg in pain, possibly due to sciatica or peripheral neuropathy.
Is your pain caused by sciatica or peripheral neuropathy?
  • Usually features back pain
  • Disc herniation may be the cause
  • Spinal stenosis may be present
  • Pain is worse during morning hours, sitting, and driving
  • Pain may be worse with coughing and sneezing
  • Numbness and pain starts in lower back, radiates to hip, and travels down the leg in predictable patterns
  • Symptoms are usually on one side
  • Symptoms can range from mild to severe
  • The cause is usually in the lower back
  • The cause is nerve irritation/compression, “pinched nerves”
  • Doctors will recommend medication, physical therapy, steroid injections, MRI, EMG, and surgery

If the symptoms of sciatica match up with what you’re going through, read our guide to this condition and its treatments.

What Are the Signs of Peripheral Neuropathy?

Photo of a woman grasping her ankle and calf in pain, possibly due to sciatica or peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy mostly affects the limbs, while sciatica affects the region from the buttocks to the foot. The confusion usually comes up when you have leg pain.
  • Usually no back pain
  • No disc herniation
  • No spinal stenosis
  • Not routinely worse in the morning
  • Symptoms may be constant, not affected by position
  • Pain not affected by coughing or sneezing
  • Symptoms can start in the toes and feet and slowly travel up the leg
  • Usually have symptoms on both sides
  • Symptoms can range from mild to severe
  • The cause is in the legs, feet, and toes
  • The cause is usually poor circulation that leads to nerve degeneration
  • Doctors may recommend an EMG, prescribe medication, and tell you there’s nothing else they can do

If you think you might be suffering from peripheral neuropathy, check out Algonquin Chiropractic Center’s guide to this condition’s causes and treatments.

The Bottom Line: Try Chiropractic Care

Photo of a chiropractor performing a physical examination of a patient with leg pain.
A chiropractor can help you identify whether your symptoms point to sciatica or peripheral neuropathy.

So, what do we do?

As we’ve seen, sciatica and peripheral neuropathy are two very different conditions. However, both can severely interfere with the quality of patients’ lives if left untreated. Eventually, patients “will try anything,” and end up having invasive procedures that often don’t eliminate the problem. Many patients then become addicted to opioid painkillers trying to find some relief.

Chiropractic care successfully treats both sciatica and peripheral neuropathy without drugs, injections, or surgery.

Algonquin Chiropractic Center has successfully treated hundreds of cases of sciatica and peripheral neuropathy in Algonquin and Lake in the Hills, so give us a call and schedule a consultation today. We look forward to helping you get back to a more active lifestyle, without risky surgeries or addictive drugs!

This post was originally published in January 2018 and has been updated and expanded for accuracy and comprehensiveness.