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Rome Reports

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Pope Francis' sciatica: a painful enemy

Pope Francis was elected pope at the age of 76. He is now 84, and his health is remarkable: in the almost eight years of his pontificate, he has made more than 30 international trips and endured an intense work schedule.

However, aging is inevitable, and in July 2013, he confessed that his worst memory of the first months as pope was a painful sciatica.

July 28, 2013
“The worst thing, sorry, that has happened was a sciatica. Really! I experienced this in my first month as pope because when I would give interviews, I would sit in an armchair that caused this problem. It’s a very, very painful sciatica. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.”

Sciatica is a painful enemy, and at the end of 2020, the Vatican announced that this pain prevented Pope Francis from presiding over the Te Deum on Dec. 31 and the Mass on Jan. 1.

Orthopedic, Parioli Medical Center (Rome)
“Sciatica is a type of pain, sometimes very severe, that starts in the spine, which branches from your lower back area and can spread along to one of the two legs. “The causes may be many, but their common element is that they compress the nerve, and this pain is felt throughout the leg.”

Dr. Vincenzo Sessa is a specialist in the field and explains that the first phase of sciatica, the most painful, is the one that impedes any movement. He points out that many elderly people suffer from it because of arthrosis. 

Orthopedic, Parioli Medical Center (Rome)
“Usually, the severe phase lasts a few days, two or three. Then it gets better, although recovery can take 1, 2, or 3 weeks.”

Despite having sciatica, the pope did lead the prayer of the Angelus on Jan. 1st. The pain prevented him from performing long ceremonies, but he seemed to feel strong enough to make his way to the Apostolic Palace from Santa Marta, although he remained standing still.

Pope Francis suffers from hip problems, so he has difficulty moving his legs. In 2016, in Poland, he stumbled during a celebration, but with no serious injury.

In 2015 his then spokesman, Federico Lombardi, had confirmed that he receives physical therapy sessions.

Javier Romero

Translation: Christian Campos