Risk factors for sciatica leading to hospitalization

Eur Spine J. 2018 Jul;27(7):1501-1508. doi: 10.1007/s00586-017-5182-8. Epub 2017 Jun 13.


Purpose: To study the known or suspected risk factors for sciatica: Tallness, overweight, smoking, leisure-time physical exercise, self-reported health and occupation, and how they predict hospitalizations due to sciatica. Only a few cohort studies have previously focused on the risk factors for sciatica.

Methods: The 13,095 subjects, free from low back disorders at the baseline in 1973-1976 were followed up to the end of 2011 via the Care Register for Health Care. Along with an invitation to the health examination, a basic questionnaire concerning lifestyle factors was sent to participants. The outcome measure was incident sciatica leading to hospitalization.

Results: Altogether 702 incident sciatica cases occurred. Among men, the adjusted hazard ratio (HR) with 95% confidence interval (CI) was 2.57 (95% CI 1.47-4.50) in metal or machine work, and 1.44 (1.06-1.95) in other industrial work, compared to that in white-collar occupations. Among women, the corresponding risk estimates were 1.81 (1.18-2.78) for nurses and related occupations, 1.56 (1.05-2.31) for sales workers, and 1.46 (1.03-2.08) for industrial workers. Among men, physical exercise during leisure predicted a decrease in the risk of sciatica (0.74; 0.55-1.00); this association was significantly pronounced in white-collar occupations (0.38; 0.18-0.88). Among women, the association between body mass index and the risk of sciatica was only modest, but varied greatly between different occupations.

Conclusions: Physically demanding work is a strong risk factor for sciatica. Leisure-time physical activity seems to protect men against sciatica, while overweight is a risk factor among women. However, occupation substantially modifies these associations.

Keywords: Care Register for Health Care; Hospitalization; Interactions; Occupation; Sciatica.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Sciatica / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires