What is the prevalence of sciatica?

Updated: Aug 22, 2018
  • Author: Jasvinder Chawla, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: Stephen A Berman, MD, PhD, MBA  more...
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An estimated 4.1 million Americans had symptoms of an intervertebral disk disorder between 1985 and 1988, with an annual prevalence of about 2% in men and 1.5% in women. A study of 295 Finnish concrete workers aged 15-64 years revealed that 42% of men, and as many as 60% of the men aged 45 years or older, reported having sciatica. When interviewed approximately 5 years later, the lifetime prevalence had increased from 42% to 59%.

Sciatica due to lumbar intervertebral disk herniations usually resolves with conservative treatment. However, it leads to surgery more often than back pain alone. In a published review of more than 15,000 disk operations, the most common surgical level was L4-5 (49.8%), followed by L5-S1 (46.9%); only 3.4% were performed at levels higher than these. Surgical treatment for lumbar diskogenic syndromes is most common in the United States, where the estimated rate is at least 40% higher than that in other countries and more than 5 times higher than rates in Scotland and England.

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