Lumbago and sciatica


Lumbago means pain in the lower back. Getting up after sitting and lying can be difficult, as can coming back after stooping. There are many ideas about the cause (see also the article on causes of low back pain).

One theory is that a bit of damage in an intervertebral disc is caused by bowing and bending. Another view is that there is cramp in the lower back muscles due to overload, for example continuous muscle tension from an unfavorable working posture. Another theory assumes that the leg length difference gives the symptoms. No convincing evidence has been found for any of these theories. Lumbago almost always disappears automatically within a few days to a few weeks without therapy. It is important to move as soon as possible. Sometimes painkillers help. If the complaints last longer than 3 weeks, or increase more and more, it may be wise to seek expert help.


Sciatica is a shooting pain from the low back into a leg. The name comes from a thick nerve, the sciatic nerve, which runs from the low back, through the buttock, along the back of the leg. This nerve is sometimes blocked by a hernia, muscle cramps in the buttock or something else. Often sciatica is an extension of lumbago: low back pain with shooting pain in the leg. These complaints often disappear automatically. Important to watch out for is: loss of feeling such as deafness in the crotch or at the ankle/foot, loss of strength as can not walk properly on the toes or heels. In these situations, as with severe pain, it is advisable to seek expert help quickly.

See also:


Tulder MW van, Koes BW. Low back pain and sciatica. Clinical Evidence 2001;772-789.
McIntosh M, Hall H. Low back pain (acute). Clinical Evidence 2011.