A study in the British medical journal, Lancet, reports that pain going down the back of one leg, called sciatica, may be caused by infection.

When you have a pain that goes down the back of your leg or the front of your lower leg, your doctor often diagnoses sciatica. He looks for a pinch of the huge sciatic nerve at the back or by a muscle in your buttocks, called the piriformis. However, most of the time, the MRI test does not show a pinch of the nerve in your back and it doesn’t hurt when you touch the piriformis muscle, at a spot two inches from the center of your backside at the height of your hip bone. But your doctor calls it sciatica, tells you that you have pinched nerve in the back and sends you for physical therapy.

Researchers in Birmingham England found bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes in 31 percent of people with sciatica. Fifty-three percent of discs removed at surgery contained this bacteria also. If infection really causes sciatica, the treatment would be to take Zithromax, Biaxin or Dynabec antibiotics for many months. We will see if other studies confirm these findings.

Association between sciatica and Propionibacterium acnes. Lancet, 2001, Vol 357, Iss 9273, pp 2024-2025. A Stirling, T Worthington, M Rafiq, PA Lambert, TSJ ElliottAddress Elliott TSJ, Univ Hosp, Dept Clin Microbiol, Birmingham B15 2TH, W Midlands, ENGLAND

Checked 5/10/15