Doctors typically diagnose sciatica by considering medical history and performing physical exams, according to WebMD. Imaging tests, such as X-rays and MRI scans, help determine the cause of the sciatica.
Symptoms of sciatica include shooting pains that start in the back or buttock area and move down the leg and weakness, tingling or numbness in the affected leg, notes WebMD. During a physical exam for sciatica, the physician checks the patient's muscle strength and reflexes, explains Mayo Clinic. The exam includes walking and moving into different positions. Sciatica pain usually increases while walking on the heels or toes, standing from a squatting position, or lifting one leg straight in the air while lying on the back.