Sciatica from Medical Terminology in a Flash

Med Term: A Health Care Career Foundation

Medical Terminology is more than just a weed out course you have to take before getting to the core of the training in your chosen field. Medical Terminology is part of learning medical language and essential for any health care professional to be able to communicate effectively and establish credibility with colleagues and patients alike.

Perhaps you’ve already started your journey toward a career in health care, or you’re thinking about it. Can you formulate a succinct and accurate response to the patient in the scenario here?

Dr. Vu: Hello, Walter. The nurse tells me you’re having some back pain.

Walter: Yeah, it’s mostly my right hip and leg, though. The pain shoots right down the back of my leg. Sometimes, it goes all the way down to the area behind my knee and even to my heel when it’s really bad.

Dr. Vu: Hmmm, sciatica is a common ailment. The good news is that with the right treatment, sciatica can be cured. And with lifestyle changes, you can prevent it from recurring.

Walter: That’s good news. I’ve heard of sciatica, but what exactly is it?

Like Walter, you may feel you know of sciatica, but the difference for health care professionals is having the vocabulary to explain what it is in terms of the language of medicine. Your patients will expect you to articulate a clear and decisive response to any questions they may have:

“Sciatica is severe pain in the leg along the course of the sciatic nerve, which travels from the hip to the foot.”

It’s hard to escape medical terminology if you plan on going into a health care career. You may think an office position such as medical billing won’t require as much medical terminology, but you will need to select appropriate billing codes based on patient chart information. If you are interested in physical therapy or occupational therapy, you will be working with orthopedic surgeons who expect you to understand and communicate about a patient’s condition. Those same orthopedic surgeons expect their surgical technologists to be on point in the OR and know exactly what the surgeon is asking for. Learning the language of medicine is the first essential step you must take when choosing to pursue a career in health care. Treat it as more than a course or prerequisite and enjoy the credibility and respect that comes with being able to speak confidently and competently to your colleagues and patients.


Note: the scenario above is from an exercise within The Medical Language Lab. F.A. Davis’s medical terminology texts use the Medical Language Lab to help you become proficient and self-assured in your medical language skills. Visit for more information.

Molly Ray, Marketing Manager for medical terminology products at F.A. Davis

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