header advert
Orthopaedic Proceedings Logo

Receive monthly Table of Contents alerts from Orthopaedic Proceedings

Comprehensive article alerts can be set up and managed through your account settings

View my account settings

Visit Orthopaedic Proceedings at:



Full Access



The Society for Back Pain Research (SBPR), Northampton, England, November 2017


Background and purpose of the study

Patients with sciatica experience high levels of disability and poor outcomes and treatment has demonstrated, at best, only modest success. To be effective, management strategies must be informed by patients' perceptions about ‘what matters’ about experiencing this condition. The aim of this paper is to explore the lived experience of sciatica and to consider the implications for clinical practice.

Methods and results

In this qualitative study, based on the principles of interpretative phenomenological analysis, 14 participants with a clinical presentation of sciatica of likely nerve root origin were purposively recruited from an NHS, Primary Care Musculoskeletal Service in the UK. Individual, semi-structured interviews were used to collect data, which were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were managed using a framework approach and analysed thematically.

Sciatica was experienced as a protracted journey of acute exacerbations of uncontrolled and incapacitating symptoms that were overwhelming and difficult to make sense of. Adversely affecting almost all aspects of life, participants struggled to maintain their physical, functional and financial independence; their important relationships; social networks and the roles and activities that provided joy and purpose. The impact of sciatica was a ‘life on hold’; an altered sense of self and an uncertain future. For three participants, the experience of sciatica was sufficiently distressing for them to contemplate suicide.


This paper reveals the severity and devastating impact of the symptoms and effects of sciatica. Important practice and research implications have been identified regarding managing symptoms and the need to align treatment strategies with patients' complex and multifaceted needs.

Conflicts of interest: None

Funding acknowledgements: This study was funded by an NIHR Masters in Clinical Research Fellowship awarded to CR. LR is funded, in part, by an NIHR Senior Clinical Lecturer award (Round 3).