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By March 26, 2022April 8th, 2024No Comments

It’s not uncommon for athletes to strain the hamstring muscles that run along the back of the thigh, which can result in severe pain. However, this is not the only possible cause of discomfort in this area. Sometimes leg pain is caused by sciatica, a condition where the sciatic nerve is pinched or damaged, causing pain that branches from the lower back and down each leg. On the surface, the symptoms of hamstring strain and sciatica are very similar; how can you tell the difference and make sure you’re getting the right kind of treatment? Here’s what you need to know.

What Characterizes Sciatica and Hamstring Pain?

Sciatica can start without any obvious cause, and it often results in pain, numbness, or tingling down the back of your leg. The pain associated with sciatica tends to vary; sometimes it’s relatively mild while in other cases it’s sharp and severe. In the worst-case scenario, sciatica can decrease the strength in your legs, and it might even interfere with your ability to walk or jog. Note that this is not the case for all patients.

Hamstring strain usually occurs as the result of exercise or injury, so you’re more likely to be able to point to a specific incident as the starting point of your pain. The discomfort usually starts out intense and slowly decreases as the injury heals. In general, a hamstring strain is more likely to make it more difficult to walk, and it might even prevent you from running.

How Can You Tell the Difference?

While there are some differences between sciatica and hamstring pain, the symptoms are often similar enough that you may have trouble telling the difference on your own. One key detail to keep in mind is that sciatica is a form of nerve pain whereas hamstring pain is the result of a pulled muscle. Generally, nerve pain seems like it comes out of nowhere; if that describes your pain, you likely have sciatica. Conversely, if the pain in the back of your leg started after an injury, it’s more likely to be a strained hamstring.

That said, the symptoms of sciatica and hamstring strain overlap enough that the safest way to differentiate between them is to schedule an appointment with your chiropractor or your regular doctor. They’ll be able to examine your leg as well as your spine in order to narrow down the true cause of your pain and plan an appropriate form of treatment. Reach out to Spinatomy Spine & Disc Centers for expert assistance in resolving your pain.

Sciatica and hamstring strain can both take their toll on your life, but both of them can be overcome if you seek care early on and take the right steps to control your pain. Call your chiropractor today to schedule a consultation if you’re ready to put a stop to your leg pain and take back your life.


Dr. Brigitte Rozenberg completed her training at the Cleveland Chiropractic College. She is a Board-Certified Chiropractor in California, and she is certified by the Spine Research Institute of San Diego for the treatment of accidental injuries. For patients with sciatica, she offers non-surgical spinal decompression therapy and a number of other treatments at Spinatomy Spine & Disc Centers. To schedule an appointment at one of Spinatomy’s three California locations in Van Nuys, Culver City or Ontario, click here or call (818) 938-2132.