Is Sciatica Worse for Women?

Woman Back Pain

If sciatica were getting graded on gender parity, it would fail to meet the marks on every test. Recent research reveals that women are more likely to suffer from chronic sciatica than men — and it doesn’t stop there.

Neurosurgeons at the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands tracked the progress of 283 patients with severe sciatica as they received treatment (including surgery, conservative care, or both). By the end of the study, the majority of patients recovered, but 17% still reported significant pain. The majority of those patients with lingering symptoms were women. Overall, 28% of females  had unsatisfactory outcomes after one year of treatment, compared to just 11% of males. Gender differences in recovery rates were not affected by the type of treatment provided.

So where does this “gender bias” in chronic pain come from? While the issue continues to be debated and researched, a 2006 review of the literature suggests that a variety of social and biological factors are play. The findings suggest that higher rates of anxiety among women, gender expectations, physical fitness, and family history may all contribute.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that being a woman condemns you to chronic pain. What is does mean is that women with severe pain —who also have anxiety, low physical activity levels or family members suffering from similar conditions — need to take extra precautions. A chiropractor can offer a holistic solution for managing pain, providing spinal adjustments to ease pinched nerves while giving you tips on better nutrition and exercise to enhance treatment outcomes. And thankfully, the effectiveness of chiropractic truly is free of gender bias.



Peul W, Brand R, Thomeer R, and Koes B. Influence of gender and other prognostic factors on outcome of sciatica. Pain 2008;138: 180-191.

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