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Sciatica. Sounds unpleasant doesn’t it? Well it won’t surprise you to know that it’s a dispassionate term from the medical world that accurately describes one of life’s many ‘pains in the rear’ (literally!) and sadly, does not relate to the more joyous experiences of the human condition.
The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back, down each leg to your feet. Sciatica most commonly occurs when this nerve becomes compressed, due to a slipped, or herniated disc in your back.
Compression of this nerve will often trigger the symptoms of shooting pains and numbness (amongst others) through the buttocks, right down to the legs and feet, usually on one side.
Other musculoskeletal conditions can also produce this nerve-pinching annoyance; many of which are much more likely to occur the older and more decrepit we get. However, beware all you young’uns out there, this condition can often occur as early as around 30!
Can You Ride a Bicycle with Sciatica?
If it’s a mild to moderate case of Sciatica, then generally yes; but it’s very important to consult with your actual GP (not Dr Google) for a proper assessment before undertaking any exercise, as some cases (mainly severe ones) may require specific treatment, and occasionally, surgery.
In the majority of mild to moderate cases, light exercises and stretches involving the legs with gradually increasing intensity, are often encouraged by physicians as a therapeutic treatment to help resolve Sciatica more expediently, and reduce the likelihood of future occurrences.
Does Cycling Help with Sciatica?
Albeit not gleefully espoused as a top therapeutic exercise for Sciatica, engaging your legs in low-intensity, slow and steady movement, with stable posture of the lower back; cycling can actually help ease Sciatica, if done moderately, and in accordance with your physician’s advice.
It is important to be aware that there are some instances however, as we shall see, where Sciatica can be aggravated or even caused by cycling.
Does Cycling Worsen Sciatica?
The lack of wholesale endorsement from physicians in regards to cycling with Sciatica, has some reasoning, due to the position of your body during cycling; pressure to the Sciatic nerve and Coccyx whilst on your saddle can occur, especially during long rides with a hunched posture.
Extended periods of seating on a less than adequate saddle, combined with a poor stooped posture, and continuous exertion of the abdominals, quadriceps and glutes can create pressure on the structures in your lower back, where the nerve can find itself compressed. All of this increases the chances of this pinch-happy menace, making an unwelcome appearance.
That’s why it is crucial to ensure that you have the correct saddle for your bodily specifications. Something as simple as this, can have a significant effect in aiding your correct riding posture, and alleviate the amount of pressure applied to your posterior and lower back, reducing its likelihood.
So…Should YOU Cycle with Sciatica?
Like most things in life, there is a benefit / risk spectrum when it comes to cycling with Sciatica; neither is it a cardinal sin, nor a divine therapeutic cure. On balance, cycling, done correctly and in coordination with your GP’s advice, leans more towards being beneficial, than not.
Cycling with Sciatica
If you’re a keen cyclist, the onset of Sciatica doesn’t necessarily mean that you and your two-wheeled friend will need an extended break from each other. It may just mean that you need to change your cycling routine for a few weeks, or months depending on the severity.
Temporarily reducing your time in the saddle (or changing your saddle altogether for that matter!), reduction in intensity, improving your riding posture and incorporating key stretches and exercises to help relieve your symptoms before you begin to ride; these are just some of the things for you to consider whilst you recuperate.
If you’re new to cycling however, with or without Sciatica, but especially with; it is important to familiarise yourself with some fundamental do’s and don’ts of the cycling game (along with the information already mentioned) before you consider using this form of exercise as a rehabilitation option.
It’s the opinion of many health professionals and Joe Bloggs alike, that we are now in the midst of a rut if you will (especially now due to the pandemic) of docility and inactivity at the behest of technological progression.
It is glaringly apparent, from a myriad of health studies, that the ultra-convenience combined with general inactivity of our biological mass in this age, is leading to many boldly ailments – but just how much exercise is the right amount to confer the optimal benefit for prevention of this condition, and others?
Although the jury is still out on exactly how much is optimal in relation to Sciatica; even lightly-moderate regular exercise, on a weekly basis, such as walking to work, or a bike commute, can be enough to sustain health advantages, and facilitate the prevention of many illnesses and conditions, in the short, medium and long term.
So, if you’re reading this hunched over your phone or laptop, and you have (or haven’t) got a mild case of the old Sciatica; get your lazy (presumably painful) behind, up off that chair, and (slowly) on to your bike! Just remember not to pedal like the clappers; your (possibly tender) hindquarters will appreciate it!