Skip to Content

Straight-Leg Test for Evaluating Low Back Pain

Topic Overview

Straight-leg tests are done to help find the reason for low back and leg pain. To do this test, you lie on your back with both legs straight. Your health professional raises one of your legs upward, keeping the knee straight.

Your doctor may do this test on each leg. The test stretches the sciatic nerve that runs down the back of your leg and the nerve roots that lead to it.

  • If you have pain down the back of your leg below the knee when your affected leg is raised, the test is positive (abnormal). It means that one or more of the nerve roots leading to your sciatic nerve may be compressed or irritated.
  • If doing this test on the unaffected leg causes pain in the affected leg, it helps to confirm that one of these nerve roots is compressed or irritated.

Compression or irritation of the nerve roots leading to the sciatic nerve can have several causes, but the most common is a herniated disc at the lowest part of your back.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
Current as of June 4, 2014

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Section Links

Health Library