Risk factors of sciatic pain: a prospective study among middle-aged employees

Eur J Pain. 2011 Jul;15(6):584-90. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2010.11.008. Epub 2010 Dec 15.


Objective: To study the effects of occupational class, physical and psychosocial working conditions, health behaviours, and pain in the low back and the neck on sciatic pain among middle-aged employees.

Methods: The participants were municipal employees without previous sciatica, aged 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 years at baseline (n=5261, 80% women). Sciatica was defined as low back pain radiating to the calf or the foot. Data on occupational class, physical and psychosocial working conditions, body mass index, smoking, leisure-time physical activity, neck pain, local low back pain, and sciatica were obtained from baseline questionnaire surveys in 2000-2002. The question on sciatica was repeated in a follow-up survey in 2007. Logistic regression analysis was used.

Results: In women, manual occupational class (OR 1.3; 95% CI 1.0-1.6 compared with managers/professionals), overweight (1.3; 1.1-1.5), obesity (1.4; 1.1-1.7), smoking (1.5; 1.2-1.7), low leisure-time physical activity (1.3; 1.0-1.7), previous acute (1.5; 1.3-1.7) and chronic (1.5; 1.1-2.0) local low back pain, and acute (1.20; 1.0-1.4) and chronic (1.5;1.2-1.9) neck pain predicted the onset of sciatica in a multivariable model. In men, semi-professionals (1.5; 1.1-2.1) and manual workers (2.0; 1.4-2.8) had an increased risk compared with managers/professionals; also acute (1.5; 1.2-2.0) and chronic (2.1; 1.2-3.9) local low back pain predicted sciatica.

Conclusions: Manual occupational class in both genders and semi-professional occupations in men, unhealthy behaviours and previous pain both in the neck and the lower back predicted sciatica, while physical and psychosocial working conditions had no independent effect.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Low Back Pain / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / complications*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sciatica / etiology*
  • Smoking
  • Surveys and Questionnaires