Sciatica is more common than you might imagine. It’s been reported that 40% of individuals will experience this painful spine condition at least once in their lifetime. Since the sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, the symptoms of sciatica can be far reaching—from the low back down to the feet. Irritation of the sciatic nerve can range in severity, lasting only a few weeks to months depending on individual circumstances.
Typically, sciatica manifests in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. While sudden pressure on the disks that cushion the vertebrae can lead to sciatica, wear and tear is a more common cause of the condition.
Additional risk factors and causes of sciatica include:
- Advanced age
- Poor physical fitness or an inactive lifestyle
- Risky occupational situations (falls, wear and tear from repetitive motion)
- Poor nutrition
- Hereditary factors
- Medical conditions such as diabetes or cancer that has metastasized to the spine
- Habitual smoking
It is important to note that sciatica is a symptom, not a medical diagnosis. Some medical conditions that can cause sciatica include:
- Herniated Discs
- Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
- Piriformis Syndrome
- Degenerative Disc Disease
A major indication that sciatica is present is pain in the lower back or hip that radiates to the back of your thigh and into your leg. There may also be a protruding (herniated) disc in the spinal column pressing on the nerve roots in the lumbar spine.
The most common symptom of sciatica is pain, varying from mild to debilitating. Patients having sciatic nerve problems experience additional symptoms such as:
- Radiating pain in the buttock area and leg
- Sharp, intense and/or shooting pain down the leg
- Numbness, burning or tingling sensation in the leg or foot
- Weakness of the leg or foot
- Radiating pain down to the buttock and leg
- Increasing pain with coughing, sneezing, straining, bending backward and prolonged sitting or standing
Sciatica is diagnosed by conducting a complete medical history, a physical examination and assessment of neuromuscular function. Your OrthoAspen physician will likely order diagnostic procedures such as X-rays, an MRI, CT scan, CT scan with myelogram, electromyogram and nerve conduction tests.
Most cases of sciatica will resolve within a few weeks or months with the implementation of conservative treatment modalities. It is rare for sciatica to cause permanent nerve damage.
Conservative treatment approaches include:
- Physical exercises
- Over-the-counter medications
- Prescription medications
- Ice and/or hot packs
- Epidural steroid injections
- Massages and manual manipulation
In some cases, surgery may be recommended to treat the underlying condition causing sciatica (herniated discs, lumbar spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis and degenerative disc disease).
No matter what is causing sciatica, our OrthoAspen physicians are dedicated to finding a solution to have you back to feeling better as soon as possible.
Click here to schedule a consultation, or call us at 970-544-1289.