Sitting and Low Back / Sciatica Pain

By John Leung, RMT

Do you sit on your leg (one leg up under the other thigh while sitting) or worst have both legs up to the same side on the seat? Have you experienced low back or sciatica pain?  The pain may be caused by sitting improperly. Putting your leg up under the other leg causes the raised leg to turn outwards at the hip joint and your knee flexes. The problem is that the group of external rotator muscles of the hip joint shorten to turn the leg out. The main muscle is the piriformis muscle. If shortened, when your leg goes back to neutral or when standing, the shortened muscle is pulled tight. It can contribute to locking up the sacroiliac joint causing low back pain or can pinch the sciatica nerve resulting in pain from the buttocks down the back of the leg to the heel. People will tend to go back to the bad positions to slack off the shortened muscle causing it to shorten even more.

Worst than sitting on one leg is having both legs bent up to the same side. The second leg up is turned inwards. This shortens the internal rotators muscles of the hip joint. When you straighten up or stand up, your hip is now twisted to the opposite side the legs go up and point to. This causes all kinds of problems besides the mentioned low back pain and sciatica nerve issues. The whole spine has to compensate.

Many of those who sit on their legs also sleep on their stomach. A leg is turned out and the knee and hip are flexed. This may lessen the low back and/or sciatica pain but is making it worst. The leg is really turned out to be in that position, thus shortening the external rotators even more.

Break the bad habits (the cause of pain), decrease discomfort, get rebalanced and educated with massages and stretches with the help of a trained massage therapist/acupuncturist.

John Leung is an RMT and medical acupuncturist practicing in Toronto since 1998. He can help you achieve a healthier, happier body.