5 Ways You May Be Triggering Your Sciatica

High Heels and Uncushioned Shoes May Trigger Your Sciatica

Women putting on stilettos
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High Heels and Uncushioned Shoes May Trigger Your Sciatica

Wearing high heels and uncushioned shoes are another “word on the street” sciatica trigger.  It’s quite possible that ground forces generated while you walk or stand may transfer up your lower extremity to the structures of your back and hip. 

Plus, high heels throw your weight forward, which in turn may cause you to flex forward at the hips; this is your body's way of staying upright.  The problem is, this is also the pelvic movement that stretches the hamstrings in back.  Because the sciatic nerve runs down along the same route as the hamstrings, this chronically stretched position may also stretch (and irritate) your sciatica.

Wallets, Cell Phones and Credit Cards in Your Back Pocket

Wallet in back pocket.
Keeping your wallet in your back pocket may trigger your sciatica. Craig Veltri/E+/Getty Images

Wallet and Cell Phone Sciatica

Sitting, especially for prolonged periods of time, with your wallet in your back pocket can irritate your piriformis muscle.  The sciatic nerve courses under this muscle, which may become pressured by your wallet.  When this happens, the sciatic nerve may also become pressured.  In 1978, M.D. Elmar Lutz described two case studies of this phenomenon and named it “Credit Card – Wallet Sciatica.”

Wallet sciatica is also called back pocket sciatica.

Admittedly, 1978 was a long time ago.  Now, in the 21st century, we can add a new potential irritant to this list of back pocket sciatica causes. The cell phone. 

Orly Avitzur, M.D. specializes in neurology.  In an article for Consumer Reports entitled "Cell-phone sciatica is a pain in the butt” says:  "Cell-phone sciatica can now join several related nerve compression syndromes, including wallet sciatica, credit-card sciatica, and back-pocket sciatica.”

“Pressing any hard object against the derrière, home of the sciatic nerve, is a bad idea,” she adds.


Avitzur, O. M.D. Cell-phone sciatica is a pain in the butt. Consumer Reports. April 2015. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2015/04/cell-phone-sciatica-pain/index.htm

Elmar G. Lutz, MD. Credit-Card-Wallet Sciatica. JAMA. 1978;240(8):738.

Putting the Stress on Yourself

Worried woman.
Image of stressed out woman. pidjoe/E+/Getty Images

Stop Putting the Stress on Yourself

Stress is a mind-body trigger for sciatica, according to Dr. John Sarno Dr. Sarno.  Sarno, who is Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University School of Medicine, and Attending Physician at The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University Medical Center, has, for years, been advocating for an approach to diagnosing and managing back pain that is based on our emotions rather than things that can be picked up on an MRI or determined from a diagnostic injection.  Needless to say, not all members of the conventional medical establishment have proven supportive of his simple, patient-centric focus on back pain relief.

Sarno says that it’s the people who put pressure on themselves – especially Type A people pleasers – who are most at risk. 

When explaining sciatica, Sarno asserts that rather than nerve damage in the low back, the brain deprives the nerves of oxygen (in a mild way,) which results in the same symptoms. These are, of course, pain down your leg, weakness, and other electrical sensations.


Medscape. Expert Interview with Dr. John Sarno, Part 1: Back Pain is a State of Mind. Medscap Orthopedics. June 2004. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/478840#vp_1

Tight Jeans and Underwear

Tight jeans.
Tight jeans may trigger your sciatica. Paul Viant/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Tight Jeans and Underwear

Medical research is generally not the place to turn to for guidance on clothing, but that doesn’t stop social media! In one Facebook discussion group, several people agreed that both tight jeans and underwear with tight elastic can trigger a bout of sciatica. 

Perhaps it’s time for some sweats!

And ladies, when it comes to underwear, maybe thong style is the way to go.  Check out this one, designed specifically for sciatica sufferers:  Thong Underwear for Sciatica Sufferers

Overweight or Obesity May Trigger Your Sciatica

High Angle View Of Donuts In Box
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Overweight or Obesity May Trigger Your Sciatica

Being overweight is another way to put pressure on your sciatic nerve. A study assessing associations between being overweight and having sciatica and/or lumbar radiculopathy found a dose-dependent relationship between the two.  In other words, the more overweight you are, the higher your risk for sciatica.


Rahman Shiri; Tea Lallukka; Jaro Karppinen; Eira Viikari-Juntura. Obesity as a Risk Factor for Sciatica: A Meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol. 2014;179(8):929-937.