As part of the physical exam your doctor may also perform one or more of the following tests:

• Lower body nerve evaluation. By running a device called a pinwheel along your skin, from your hips to your feet, your doctor can check for any areas that are either abnormally sensitive or insensitive to stimulus, which would suggest possible nerve involvement in the lower spine.

• Muscle-strength evaluation. By checking the strength of the different muscle groups in your lower body, your doctor can detect possible nerve problems. Because different nerves supply different muscle groups, a weakened muscle group may suggest damage to the nerve that supplies that group of muscles.

• Sciatic nerve stretch test. By raising your legs one at a time (while you extend and relax them) as you lie flat on a table, your doctor can determine whether stretching the sciatic nerve causes pain, suggesting possible nerve-root involvement.

Depending on the findings of your history and physical exam your doctor may also order one or more of the following: lab tests, nerve tests or imaging tests.