• Philip Hehir

Walking and Cycling to Work

How your commute it linked to Reduced risk of Hospitalised Sciatica


Sciatica is debilitating condition that will impact around 5% of us.  Sciatica is when a nerve root or portion of the sciatic nerve in the buttock is pinched resulting in pain and/or tingling; numbness and weakness in the leg and back. Most cases are the result of a bulging disc, muscle spasm or joint arthritis. Often the sufferer will have to take time off work or their social activities, thus having a major impact on their quality of life. Thankfully, the vast majority of these will respond positively to conservative treatments such as those given by chiropractors or physiotherapists, and pain medication prescribed by a GP.  There are a small number however, who will require more invasive treatments such as surgery, which is not only more expensive, it carries a greater risk of complication and should be reserved for the minority of cases.

Researchers in Finland* looked into risk factors relating to sciatica, and in particular those who were more likely to be hospitalised/needed surgery. Here they followed a group of over 35,000 people for up to 30-years and assessed certain lifestyle choices.


Here’s what they found: If you either cycle or walk to work, you are 33% less likely to develop sciatica which requires surgery compared to the normal population. Likewise if you smoked or obese you were 33% more likely. If you were obese with abdominal fat, your risk went unto 41%. Interestingly, former smokers didn’t share the same risk as smokers.


Authors of the study were surprised to see that no effect on hospitalisation was witnessed by other forms of leisure time activities. They believed this may have been due to the fact that regular, moderate activities such as cycling and walking don’t add excessive strain to the back, unlike other higher-intensity exercises that would.


This study emphasises the need to keep mobile and gives us yet another reason to exercise regularly. Using those opportunities such as traveling to and from work can be an easy way to incorporate such healthy habits into our lifestyle.


Furthermore, studies have indicated that sciatica patients noticed a significant improvement when they underwent a number of treatments, including spinal manipulation as performed by chiropractors. As such the UK national guidelines recommends these sorts of treatments. Specific hands on procedures and exercises can be used to reduce nerve irritability, thus reducing pain, muscle spasm, inflammation and weakness.


If you or anyone you know, suffers from sciatica, our practice offers a complimentary 15-minute assessment to provide free advice to any sufferer. Contact clinic reception for further details.


*SHIRI R et al (2017)Lifestyle Risk Factors Increase the Risk of Hospitalization for Sciatica: Findings of Four Prospective Cohort Studies Am J MedDec;130(12):1408-1414.

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