Understanding sciatica: illness and treatment beliefs in a lumbar radicular pain population. A qualitative interview study

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Review written by Dr Tom Walters

Key Points

  1. Subjects with sciatica reported a range of physically and mentally draining symptoms and that they felt as though their pain was not taken seriously, and that the severity of their symptoms was often underappreciated.
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BACKGROUND & OBJECTIVE

Pain that radiates from the lumbar spine (radicular pain) is often diagnosed as ‘sciatica’ and described as being caused by compression of one or more of the lumbar nerve roots. Previous research has demonstrated that a disc prolapse can be associated with radicular pain (1), but also that nerve root compression can exist in asymptomatic individuals (2). While the natural history of lumbar radicular pain is generally favourable (3), an individual’s beliefs about their illness can play a major role in how well they respond to treatment. This study aimed to better understand patients’ beliefs about sciatica and how these beliefs might influence perceptions about various treatment options.

An individual’s beliefs about their illness can play a major role in how well they respond to treatment.
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Having a better understanding of the patient’s beliefs about their diagnosis and treatment options will help the clinician navigate the clinical encounter.

METHODS

Individuals who were 18 years or older and had a history of more than four weeks of symptoms and a diagnosis of lumbar radicular pain were referred by their GP to a musculoskeletal triage service. In total, 13 subjects completed

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