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Sciatica is a painful condition caused by the compression or damage of the sciatic nerve due to conditions of the lumbar spine, such as herniated disc, bone spurs, and injury or tumors of the lumbar spine. Dr. Nicholas Spina is a fellowship-trained Orthopaedic spine specialist at the University of Utah who specializes in treating degenerative, traumatic, and oncologic conditions of the spine with a main objective of restoring patients’ function and helping them to regain their optimal lifestyle. Dr. Nicholas Spina provides diagnosis and individualized management for sciatica in Utah. Contact Dr. Spina’s team for an appointment today!

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a painful condition caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can be acute (short term), lasting for a few weeks or chronic (long term), persisting for more than 3 months. It is important to understand that in most cases, sciatica will resolve itself within a few weeks or months and rarely causes permanent nerve damage.

Risk Factors for Sciatica

Anyone can develop sciatica at some point in their lives; however, there are certain risk factors that may predispose you to develop sciatica. These may include:

  • Increased age
  • Poor physical fitness or inactive lifestyle
  • Occupational risks
  • Genetics
  • Poor nutrition
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes or cancer that has metastasized to the spine
  • Smoking

Causes of Sciatica

It is important to know that sciatica is a symptom but not a medical diagnosis. Some medical conditions that can cause sciatica include herniated discs, lumbar spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease, diabetes, tumours, and trauma.

Symptoms of Sciatica

The most common symptom of sciatica is pain. The pain can vary from mild to debilitating depending on the degree of pressure exerted on the sciatic nerve. Patients having sciatic nerve experience other symptoms such as:

  • Pain in the buttock area and leg
  • Sharp, intense, shooting pain down the leg
  • Numbness, burning or tingling sensation in the leg or foot
  • Weakness of the leg or foot
  • Lower back pain that radiates down the buttock and leg
  • Pain that increases with coughing, sneezing or straining
  • Pain that increases with bending backwards and with prolonged sitting or standing

Diagnosis of Sciatica

Sciatica is diagnosed by reviewing your complete medical history, performing a physical examination and assessment of neuromuscular functions. Diagnostic procedures such as X-ray, MRI, CT scan, CT scan with myelogram, electromyogram, and nerve conduction tests may also be ordered.

Treatment of Sciatica

Sciatica can be treated with conservative approaches such as physical exercises, over-the-counter drugs, ice or hot packs, prescription medications, epidural steroid injections, massages, and manual manipulation.

In some cases, surgery may be recommended to treat the underlying condition causing sciatica such as herniated discs, lumbar spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and degenerative disc disease.

If you are experiencing pain due to sciatica, please contact the office of Dr. Nicholas Spina, orthopaedic spine specialist treating patients in Salt Lake City and Farmington, Utah.