Can sciatica be aggravated by bicycle riding?

I have developed some acute pain in my left leg lately, radiating down from the buttocks, and more recently in my lower back. Going by the symptoms this would appear to be a case of sciatica. Now, the pain I am experiencing is not entirely new; I have a job where I have to stand for long periods of time, and I can recall from years back that it would pop up after taking some time off, but would go away after a week or two.

But in the last year or so it has become much more acute and persistant, and I don’t just get it at work. It has also been just over a year since I got a bicycle. I can remember having buttock soreness after riding for an extended period of time, I know the pressure of the bicycle seat has some effect.

What I would like to know is, can the pressure from the bicycle seat affect the nerves back there in such a way as to aggravate a case of sciatica? Might it have something to do with an improperly adjusted seat? I am especially interested in any personal experiences with this problem anyone might have.

My thanks in advance to anyone who can help me out here.

I think this is a case where just about anything can aggravate it…it just depends on how the nerve sits and just how it moves…a little diff in all people.

However, there are some things that are probably not good up right up front, and that would include anything that induces bad posture, contorting, or locking into certain position for extended periods. Bike riding would make me go hmmmmmm…especially the bending over and the specific way your back bends when doing it. It might be a case of ‘give up biking’ as a test to seek improvement, or to eliminate it as a variable and go back if nothing has changed.

I would ask if you are sticking to rehab typ workouts on and ongoing basis, including the most popular exercises for the condition you have, becaue they are very succesful. Has your job caused tou to drift away from the exercises…or has bike riding taken up too much time?

I am not a doctor, but have several family members who are doing far better than some cow-orkers who are less disciplined, have poor posture, or skip exercises for the condition. Surgery seems to be a flop too.

Some people aggravate the condition in the oddest ways, so It’d be crazy to eliminate biking as a cause until you test-eliminated it and kept everything else in life the same…and see what happens.

I threw my back out washing my bike but other than that my experience with back pain and bicycling has been generally good in that bicycling was one of the few activities I could do without aggravating my back pain too much.

My guess would be that if riding is the problem it may have more to do with riding posture than pressure from the seat.

What kind of bicycling do you do (mountain, road, city)? How many miles a week? What kind of bike? What kind of saddle?

It’s a cheap road bike from Wal-Mart, with I guess the standard kind of saddle. I try to ride a half hour a day but on a typical week I skip 2 or 3 days. Not sure what that works out to in terms of mileage. I stick to the roads and sidewalks, no dirt biking. After a half hour my ass isn’t very sore, but last year toward the end of the summer I was going some long distances and it got so bad I had to stop for a few minutes.

YES, riding a bike can aggravate sciatica! It’s one of the many factors that finally drove me in to a doctor’s office after a year of gritting my teeth and wishing it away. I only wish I had done it sooner, as the problem was next to nonexistent within a month. Please don’t be a bonehead like I was.

Ah, thank you toque. Personal experiences were what I was looking for. Could you possibly elaborate a little? What did your doctor say?

Docs recommend sciatica exercises. It’s standard and succesful. Search on sciatica exercises or check out the link:

Exercises are more succesful long term than surgery, but you should seek a doc’s feedback.


I had never heard of sciatica at the time. I was only, like, 21-22 years old, and felt like an old man much of the time. I was determined to lead an active lifestyle, and kept telling myself I was just a little stiff, or must have pulled a tendon; of course making the problem worse and worse. The symptoms were exactly like you describe yours as being, and it got to the point where I was hobbling out bed every night at 3a.m. to gulp ibuprofen, just so I could sleep. The doctor initially gave me some tylenol 3s to help deal with the pain, and referred me to a physical therapist. The PT just showed me a fairly a simple regimen of lower-back stretches and abdomen strengthening exercises, and, like I said, within a couple of weeks the pain was much alleviated, and basically gone within two months. The sciatica occasionally reflares after activities like shoveling snow, but only faintly, and I know how to deal with it so it’s never a problem.

IME, pretty much any physical activity can aggravate sciatica. Sometimes just walking around in shoes that are just right (or wrong) enough to make me sore the next day. Of course, some activities are more straining than others.

I ride my horse quite a bit, and a certain position (called two-point, or half seat) is similar to the bike position–leaning forward, legs underneath you. This position kills my back, but I found that experimenting how I arched my back and placed my feet could limit to erase the pain. Pay attention to your body and experiment somewhat with body position, and pay especially close attention to the subtlest hint of strain–is it on flat land, uphill, downhill, rough terrain, constant? And when your back is sore, sucky as it might be, don’t ride–or at least, don’t do the things that irritate it when in the (bike) saddle. Give it a little time to heal–this may be why at the end of last summer you couldn’t do very much.

Exercises will help strengthen the back and limit those strains; now that I’m at the gym more regularly, my back isn’t giving me near the same amount of problems. Stretching has been an awesome help, too…really helps work out the spasms better than any massage (but don’t tell hubby that…there go my free pity massages! :wink: ).

Good luck!

toque, did you get told anything specifically about how the bike riding was aggravating it? Is it due to improper seat adjustment? Can wearing padded shorts help?

Philster, thank you for the link.

I’ve gained a lot of weight since stopping smoking, and about every bike rude ended up in pain. So I bought this.

I’m still learning how to control the damn thing, but it is MUCH more comfortable to ride. They can get pretty pricey, but if you love biking and pain is discouraging you from getting out, they’re worth every penny.

I believe it’s just that cycling puts a lot of stress on the lower back, as well as tightening the hamstrings. I think it’s an inherently sciatica-aggravating activity, unless maybe you have one of those recumbent bikes.