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Table 4 Comparison of key characteristics for patients diagnosed with or without sciatica

From: Characteristics of patients with low back and leg pain seeking treatment in primary care: baseline results from the ATLAS cohort study

Characteristics Sciatica pain Referred pain Sig.*
n = 452 (74.2 %) n = 157 (25.8 %)
Socio-demographics    
 Age (years), mean (SD) 50.4 (14.0) 49.4 (13.7) 0.451
 Gender, Female 276 (61.1) 105 (66.9) 0.194
 BMI 29.9 (6.3) 30.0 (8.7) 0.906
 Current smoker 151 (33.4) 43 (27.4) 0.163
 Back/leg pain interference with work performance, mean (SD)a 6.0 (2.9) 5.4 (3.0) 0.073
 Self-certified time off work or given sick note due to current episode (365)a 111 (40.8) 33 (36.3) 0.443
Pain and function    
 RMDQ disability score (0–23), mean (SD) 12.9 (5.7) 12.0 (5.7) 0.093
 Back pain intensity, mean (SD) 5.6 (2.2) 5.4 (2.1) 0.413
 Leg pain intensity, mean (SD) 5.6 (2.3) 4.1 (2.3) <0.001
 Pain below knee 333 (76.6) 61 (40.9) <0.001
 Leg pain is worse 252 (55.8) 28 (17.8) <0.001
 Sleep disturbance due to back/leg pain 325 (72) 103 (66) 0.447
 EQ—5D summary index 0.4 (0.3) 0.5 (0.3) 0.391
Start Back risk score    0.086
 Low 53 (12.1) 29 (19.1)  
 Medium 212 (48.5) 64 (42.1)  
 High 172 (39.4) 59 (38.8)  
Sciatica Bothersomeness Index,
mean (SD)
   
 Leg pain 4.5 (1.4) 3.6 (1.6) <0.001
 Numbness or tingling in leg, foot or groin 3.5 (2.0) 2.4 (2.1) <0.001
 Weakness in leg or foot 2.8 (2.0) 2.0 (2.1) <0.001
 Back or leg pain while sitting 4.1 (1.6) 4.1 (1.7) 0.084
Composite score 14.9 (5.1) 12.2 (5.4) <0.001
 S-LANSS; neuropathic pain score (≥12) 232 (51.6) 61 (39.0) <0.007
Psychological measures    
HADs anxiety subscale    0.023
  Mild/possible case 86 (19.1) 34 (21.8)  
  Probable/moderate/severe case 116 (25.7) 55 (35.3)  
HADs depression subscale    0.325
  Mild/possible case 82 (18.1) 37 (23.4)  
  Probable/moderate/severe case 75 (16.6) 23 (14.7)  
MRI findings(553)    <0.001
 Nerve root compression 252 (60.7) 45 (32.4)  
 Normal 163 (39.3) 94 (67.6)  
Neurological examination findings (609)    
Muscle weakness b    <0.001
  None 347 (76.8) 157 (100)  
  Mild (4) 92 (20.4) 0 (0.0)  
  Severe (≤3) 13 (2.9) 0 (0.0)  
Reflex change    <0.001
  None 341 (75.4) 149 (94.9)  
  Slightly reduced 30 (6.6) 0 (0.0)  
  Significantly reduced 19 (4.2) 3 (1.9)  
  Absent 62 (13.7) 5 (3.2)  
Sensory change    <0.001
  None 226 (50.0) 130 (82.8)  
  Reduced pin/prick 175 (38.7) 26 (16.6)  
  Loss to pin/prick 51 (11.3) 1 (0.6)  
Neural tension tests (any positive test) c 324 (71.7) 11 (7.0) <0.001
  1. All figures are frequencies (percentages) unless stated otherwise as mean (SD)
  2. aApplicable to those currently in paid job
  3. bMuscle strength tested according to the Oxford scale where;
  4.  1. Flicker of movement
  5.  2. Through full range actively with gravity counterbalanced
  6.  3. Through full range actively against gravity
  7.  4. Through full range actively against some resistance
  8.  5. Through full range actively against strong resistance
  9. cNeural tension tests; straight leg raise, femoral stretch, slump test
  10. *Significance p-value for the difference between participants diagnosed as having sciatica symptoms and those diagnosed as having referred leg pain based on Chi-squared test for categorical variables and 2-sample t-test for continuous variables