Back pain: A 42-year-old male reports pain in his lower back for the past month. The pain sometimes radiates to his left leg.

Back pain

Episodic/Focused SOAP Note Template

Case Scenario 1

A 42-year-old male reports pain in his lower back for the past month. The pain sometimes radiates to his left leg. 

Patient Information:

MC, 42yo, Male


CC: lower back pain for the past month 

HPI: MC is a 42yo male presented to the provider with reports of lower back pain for the past month. Reports pain radiates to his left leg. Reports pain 6/10 today. Reports the pain is worse with activity and is relieved by laying straight on hard surfaces and with Ibuprofen. Reports not being able to work because of the pain.

Location: lower back

Onset: one month ago

Character: radiating to left leg

Associated signs and symptoms: n/a

Timing: with walking, applying pressure to lower back

Exacerbating/ relieving factors: walking, bending back

Severity: 6/10 pain scale

Current Medications: 

Amlodipine 5mg BID

Ibuprofen 800mg BID

Allergies: NKDA, peanut allergy – hives


Back pain


Reports immunizations up to date as per work place requirements

Past Surgical History

N/A Soc Hx: MC reports being a construction worker, carpenter, married, father of two children, son 14yo plays baseball, 12yo daughter in dance, married for 18 years. Reports never being a smoker, drinks on occasion, last drink three weeks ago after a game his son’s team won a game. Denies illicit drug use.

Fam Hx: 

Mother: no illnesses

Father: hypertension, 68yo, diagnosed at 40yo

Brother: no illnesses

Maternal grandmother: died at 72yo, hypertension

Paternal grandmother: living, 80yo, dementia

Maternal grandfather: 81yo, asthma, hypertension

Paternal grandfather: died at 77yo, DM II, hypertension


GENERAL:  No weight loss, fatigue due to unable to sleep well r/t back pain, no fever, nausea or vomiting.

HEENT:  Eyes:  denies vision changes. 

Ears, Nose, Throat:  No hearing changes, denies changes in smell, runny or itchy nose, no throat or neck pain, no difficulty swallowing, no changes in taste.

SKIN:  No rash or itching.

CARDIOVASCULAR: denies chest pain, pressure, or discomfort. Denies palpitations or edema.

RESPIRATORY:  Denies shortness of breath, cough or sputum.

GASTROINTESTINAL:  Denies changes in bowel habits, bloating, discomfort after meals, heartburn

GENITOURINARY:  Denies painful urination, able to maintain stream, no frequent urination, no hematuria.

NEUROLOGICAL:  Denies headache, dizziness, syncope, numbness or tingling in the extremities. 

MUSCULOSKELETAL:  lower back pain radiating to the left leg, difficulty walking because of leg pain. Denies pain in upper extremities or right leg. Denies previous musculoskeletal problems.

HEMATOLOGIC:  Denies history of anemia, unexplained bruising, or bleeding. Reports few occasional minor accidents at work, described them as normal scrapes, denies previous infections or major work injuries.

LYMPHATICS:  denies large lymph nodes

PSYCHIATRIC:  Denies depression or anxiety, reports job being low stress

ENDOCRINOLOGIC:  Denies sweating unless in the heat, denies chills. Denies polyuria or polydipsia.

ALLERGIES:  peanuts – hives, denies swelling or difficulty breathing when accidentally ingesting


Physical exam: 

Vital signs:

T- 98.7F

P – 80bpm

RR – 19

BP – 140/78

Height – 6’1”

Weight – 210lbs

General: A&O x3, verbal and able to make needs known, speech is coherent and clear, well-groomed, and nourished


H: normocephalic, hair well distributed, no skin abnormalities noted

E: symmetrically positioned, no redness, no yellowing of the sclera, no discharge, eyelids without droopiness, pink conjunctiva

E: no abnormal findings, ear canal clear, pearly grey tympanic membrane

N: no swelling, trachea at midline, no pain on palpation

T: no difficulty swallowing, no abnormalities

Respiratory: chest symmetric, clear lung sounds auscultated in all lung fields, no cough or shortness of breath

GI: abdomen not distended, active bowel sounds in all quadrants, no masses palpated, tympany

CV: S1, S2 present, regular and strong heartbeats, no edema, capillary refill < 3 sec

GU: no abnormalities, denies inability to maintain stream, or changes in urinary habits

Skin: no rashes, hair evenly distributed on the body, no color irregularities

MS: low back pain radiating to left leg, unable to maintain normal gait d/t pain, bending is difficult d/t pain

Diagnostic results:

Lower spine assessment for nerve root irritation

X-Ray of lumbar spine

CT scan of the cervical and lumbar spine


Differential Diagnoses 

1. Sciatica – low back pain radiating to one lower extremity due to compression of the compression of sciatic nerve root. It may be caused by mechanical compression of the sciatic nerve, lumbar disk herniation, neural adhesions, arachnoiditis, or virus-induced mononeuritis (Pesonen et al., 2021). Physical assessment consists in femoral hip stretch to detect inflammation of the nerve root at L1, L2, L3, or L4 level. The patient is prone and asked to extend a hip; presence of pain on extension is a positive sign of nerve root irritation (Ball et al., 2019). Non-pharmacological therapy is aimed to relieve symptoms through exercise and proper use of body mechanics, pharmacological aimed to alleviate pain – NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, opioids, or glucocorticoids, or surgical intervention to relieve pressure (Foster et al., 2018). XRays or CT scan of the lumbar spine will give a definitive diagnostic. MC presents with all s/s, requires further assessment and imaging diagnostic.


2. Herniated lumbar disc – is the most common cause of lower back pain. It is caused by inflammation between the vertebrae and it can irritate the nearby nerves, resulting in pain, numbness, or weakness of the affected extremity. It can be medial or lateral, medial disc herniation has greater chance of positive outcomes post-surgical treatment (Chirchiglia et al., 2020). 

3. Muscle strain – is a common work-place injury, is the second cause of disability among American adults. It is caused by damage to the muscle tissue or its attaching tendons, may occur during regular activity of daily living, or during strenuous activity at the work place such as heavy lifting. Pain can arise from multiple sites such as vertebral column, surrounding para-spinal muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. Resting, NSAIDS, or steroid injections are possible treatments to relieve pain (Khalid et al., 2021).


Ball, J. W., Dains, J. E., Flynn, J. A., Solomon, B. S., & Stewart, R. W. (2019). Seidel\’s guide to physical        examination: An interprofessional approach (9th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby

Chirchiglia, D., Della Torre, A., & La Torre, D. (2020). Comparison of post surgical results in medial and     lateral lumbar spine herniated discs: Own case series experience. Interdisciplinary Neurosurgery:        Advanced Techniques and Case Management, 22.

Foster, N. E., Anema, J. R., Cherkin, D., Chou, R., Cohen, S. P., Gross, D. P., Ferreira, P. H., Fritz, J. M.,        Koes, B. W., Peul, W., Turner, J. A., Maher, C. G., & Lancet Low Back Pain Series Working Group       (2018). Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising             directions. Lancet (London, England), 391(10137), 2368–2383.

Khalid Medani, Kushinga Bvute, Natasha Narayan, Cesar Reis, & Akbar Sharip. (2021). Treatment             outcomes of peri-articular steroid injection for patients with work-related sacroiliac joint pain   and lumbar para-spinal muscle strain. International Journal of Occupational Medicine and             Environmental Health, 34(1), 111–120.

Pesonen, J., Shacklock, M., Rantanen, P., Mäki, J., Karttunen, L., Kankaanpää, M., Airaksinen, O., & Rade,             M. (2021). Extending the straight leg raise test for improved clinical evaluation of sciatica: reliability of hip internal rotation or ankle dorsiflexion. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 22(1),     303.

Discussion Post Response 1


Thank you for your informative post. I found it easy to follow and agree with the primary diagnosis, sciatica pain of acute type. The patient’s symptoms of lower back pain radiating to the left leg suggest that inflammation is caused by compression of lumbosacral nerve roots (L4-S1) that constitute the sciatic nerve (Jensen et al., 2019). It is instructive to note that the MC has experienced those symptoms for the last month. It is also imperative to note and educate the patient of other types of sciatica, namely chronic sciatica, which is characteristic of persistent nerve pain that lasts more than two months. Chronic sciatica pain is not relieved through self-management. Alternating sciatica is the third type and affects both legs but in alternating turns (Siddiq et al., 2020). Unlike acute, chronic sciatica, which manifests on only one side of the leg. One should also note that it is rare and caused by sacroiliac joint degenerative problems. The fourth and last type is bilateral sciatica which, unlike alternating sciatica, has clinical symptoms manifesting in both legs simultaneously. The leading causes of bilateral sciatica are cauda equine syndrome or degenerative changes in the vertebral and the disc at several spinal levels.

Besides the known causes of sciatic pain mentioned above, it is also possible that the patient’s BMI at 28.48, which is overweight, is an exacerbating factor in the patient’s pain (Nisargandha et al. 2020). As practitioners care for such patients, it is essential to educate them on how pain and excess weight are related.


Jensen, R. K., Kongsted, A., Kjaer, P., & Koes, B. (2019). Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica. BMJ367.

Nisargandha, M. A., & Parwe, S. D. (2020). Does Obesity Lead to Sciatica Pain: A Comparative Study. Int J Cur Res Rev12(23), 120.

Siddiq, M. A. B., Clegg, D., Al Hasan, S., & Rasker, J. J. (2020). Extra-spinal sciatica and sciatica mimics a scoping review. The Korean Journal of Pain33(4), 305.

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