The patient with pain radiating down the leg

  • Gunnar B. J. Andersson
  • Thomas W. McNeill


In epidemiologic research the term “sciatica” is often used to denote pain in the leg originating from the spine. In a closer sense, however, sciatica means involvement of one of the nerve roots making up the sciatic nerve or of the sciatic nerve proper. In this chapter we will use the term “sciatica” as the symptom of pain radiating down the posterior leg to the foot or ankle in the distribution of one or several lumbar nerve roots. “Sciatica” may be associated with parasthesias, numbness, and sometimes muscular weakness leading in its extreme to muscular wasting in the leg. Pain in part of the sciatic distribution as in the buttocks or posterior thigh which does not extend below the knee is not sciatica in the sense in which it will be used in this discussion, but, rather is called “referred” pain. When numbness or weakness is present in the distribution of a specific nerve root the patient is said to have a “radiculopathy” (e.g., L-5 radiculopathy) in addition to sciatica (when pain is present).


Sciatic Nerve Nerve Root Herpes Zoster Disc Hernia Post Herpetic Neuralgia 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gunnar B. J. Andersson
    • 1
  • Thomas W. McNeill
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Orthopedic SurgeryRush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical HospitalChicagoUSA

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