For many people, sitting is an unavoidable part of their workday. For those who work at desk jobs, whether they’re an office worker or someone who works from home, sitting in front of the computer can take its toll on your body over time, especially if you do so for eight hours per day or more. Professional drivers can also be an increased risk. 

If you sit in one spot for several hours a day, you could end up with sciatica – pain that runs down the back of your leg and into your foot.

Is Sitting More Dangerous To Your Health Than Smoking?

Some experts suggest that prolonged sitting is more dangerous than smoking. And while this sounds extreme, sitting for long periods can do damage to our health in ways we might not realise.

Sciatic nerve swelling

Sitting too much can cause the sciatic nerve in your back to swell and press on your spinal column. What’s more, sitting for a long time can lead to serious issues like diabetes and cardiovascular disease – as well as depression and anxiety.

We’re designed to stand upright

Humans are designed to stand upright. Standing upright strengthens your heart and cardiovascular system.  In addition, bowel function is more efficient when you are upright.

People who are bedridden in hospitals commonly experience bowel difficulties.

Muscle wastage

Sitting for long periods can lead to the weakening and wasting away of the large leg and gluteal muscles. These large muscles are essential for walking and for stabilising you. If these muscles are weak, you are more likely to injure yourself from falls, and from strains when you do exercise.

Using your muscles enables them to digest the fat and sugars from the food you consume. However, if you spend too much time sitting, your digestion can become less efficient, causing your body to retain the fats and sugars from the food you ate as body fat.

Exercise can help you

Even if you exercise and spend time on your feet but spend the rest of your time sitting down, you are still putting yourself at risk of developing health issues like metabolic syndrome.

The latest studies indicate that you need 60 to 75 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day to combat the dangers of too much sitting.

Depression and anxiety and sitting

We don’t understand the link between sitting and mental health as well as the link between sitting and physical health yet, but we know that the risk of both anxiety and depression is greater in people who sit more.

More research is needed to figure out the full cause, but what is currently known is that people who sit a lot are missing the beneficial effects of physical activity. Standing and being more physically active may be helpful.

Heart disease and sitting too long

Studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time is associated with heart disease. One study found that men who watch more than 23 hours of television each week are 64% more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than men who watch 11 hours.

Inactive people and those who sit for long periods have a 147 per cent higher risk of heart attacks and strokes, according to experts.

Jobs with extended sitting times

The table below shows the proportion of standing to sitting time by occupation types, which clearly shows drivers and office bund employees have the highest portion of their work day sitting and so are at greatest health risk.   

Stand and sit chart

Chart source:

How to treat your sciatica

The best way to treat your sciatica is to quit sitting so much. But if you can’t do that, try these other ways:

The Piriformis Stretch

Stretch! A great stretch is the piriformis stretch – lie down on your back, bend the knee on the side of your bad leg up, and grab your foot with the opposite hand. Pull it towards your body until you feel a good stretch in the buttock or hip of that leg. Hold it there for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
piriformis stretch

The piriformis stretch

The Tennis Ball Stretch

Stretch again! Another great stretch is to put a tennis ball on the ground and lean over it. Let your body hang down, then make sure you can relax your hips and buttock muscles by taking deep breaths. Hold it there for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat two more times on each side.

Hamstring Stretch

Stretch your hamstrings. Again, lie on your back and hold onto a chair or wall. Lift one leg off of the ground and let it hang down while you breathe deeply. Relax as much as possible by focusing on your breathing. Hold it there for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat two more times on each side.

Goniometer to measure stretching

How ‘hard’ should you stretch?

While stretching is good for your body and reliving sciatica, often avoid over-stretching which will undo the value of the stretch. Michael advises if you consider stretching on a scale of 1 to 10, focus on stretches at about 2.

If in doubt, use a simple goniometer (pictured here) to measure your comfortable stretch’s angle.

You will notice that over-stretching will result in reduced rather than improved movement.

The Charlie Chapman Walk

Another potential source of sciatica is from an overly tight piriformis muscle.

This in turn causes the feet to turn out in a splayed fashion, resulting in the patient walking in a manner reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin’s comical gait, which is neither fast or economical.

Patients are often surprised when a lifelong out-turning of feet is quickly and painlessly resolved by simply treating the overly tight piriformis muscle.

Seek help from your Musculoskeletal Practioner

 With several treatment modalities at his disposal, experienced Musculoskeletal Therapist Michael Butler has a broad range of treatment options for conditions such as sciatica etc.

In Michael’s clinic, a patient suffering from sciatica may receive involve any of the following therapies as part of their treatment:

Scenar Therapy

A therapeutic medical modality that utilizes computer-modulated interactive electro-stimulation to prompt the body to heal itself. Read more.

Bowen Therapy 

A holistic and multi-dimensional approach to pain relief and healing that has achieved remarkable results over the past 50 years. Read more.

Musculoskeletal Correction

A technique that restores a proper balance between the skeletal system and the muscles and other soft tissues. Read more.

Post-Treatment Exercises

Further, the patient may also be supplied with post-treatment exercises or stretches to support their recovery. 

Sciatica Pain?

Discuss treatment options with Michael.