Individual factors, occupational loading, and physical exercise as predictors of sciatic pain

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2002 May 15;27(10):1102-9. doi: 10.1097/00007632-200205150-00017.


Study design: In this prospective study, a cohort of 2077 workers free of sciatic pain and another cohort of 327 workers with severe sciatic pain were followed up for 1 year.

Objective: To evaluate the effects of different risk factors on the incidence and persistence of sciatic pain.

Summary of background data: Sciatic pain seems to differ from other types of low back pain in terms of etiology, occurrence, and prognosis. Yet only a few studies of sciatic pain exist. The role of individual characteristics, occupational loading, and participation in different sports has rarely been assessed in a study with a prospective design among a working population.

Methods: The subjects of this study, Finnish forest industry workers, replied to a modified version of the Nordic Questionnaire at the baseline of this study and after 1 year. The effects of the predictors on the 1-year incidence and persistence of sciatic pain were studied with multivariable logistic regression modeling.

Results: Greater age, mental stress, smoking of long duration, and work-related twisting of the trunk increased the risk of incidental sciatic pain. Joggers had a lower risk for incidental sciatic pain, but a higher risk for persistent symptoms. Walking was positively associated with the risk of incidental pain. Greater age, mental stress, former smoking, jogging, and poor job satisfaction increased the risk for persistent severe sciatic pain.

Conclusions: The findings from this study suggest that mental stress and smoking are independent risk factors for incidental sciatic pain. Overall physical exercise and most of the sports activities, except jogging and walking, had no effect on sciatic pain. Physical workload factors seemed to be more involved in the onset of sciatic pain, whereas psychosocial factors were related to the persistence of symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupations
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sciatica / epidemiology*
  • Sciatica / etiology
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workload*