A personal experience of Sciatica

A personal experience of Sciatica

I feel that the time is right to write about my experience of back pain and Sciatica. It has been over a year ago since I was first diagnosed with this (in my experience) debilitating condition. Before I discuss my personal experience of this condition I will briefly outline what Sciatica is.

Sciatica is not a disease, rather a symptom. Normally pain is felt in the buttock or leg, however it can also occur in the arms. It is known as referred pain, in that the source or reason for the pain being felt for instance in the ankle, could be in the lower back, yet pain is not felt there. The reason for the referred pain is because the Sciatic nerve is being pinched, irritated or crushed somewhere along its course down the spinal column from the base of the neck down into the foot and toes.

The Sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body in that it runs all the way down the body and it measures approximately the width of the average little finger. It goes down both legs, so if you are really infortunate you could be a sufferer of sciatica in both legs. It can be caused by Spinal Stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column, usually in people aged 50 and above), piriformis syndrome which is where the muscle in the buttock (buttock/hip region) gets too tight, sometimes Ankylosing Spondylothesis (where the bone fragments caused bone granules to rub and cause inflamation) and most commonly, so called slipped disk. The disk has not slipped, rather it is bulging or herniated or prolapsed, depending on how severely the disk has been damaged. There are other causes of Sciatica, such as chemical irritation of the Sciatic nerve caused perhaps by the damaged area releasing chemicals to tell the body of the injury which is turn irritates the nerve. My version of Sciatica was to turn out to be a very large disk bulge.

My story of back pain probably began when I was about eight years old giving piggyback rides to everyone in my class. Then I used to go ice skating twice weekly, however I used to lean forward in an awkward way. It was at this time, aged about twelve that I would sometimes get a stiff back. My great gran was always said to have suffered bouts of back pain, so maybe there is a genetic propensity towards back trouble, although I don't know if this is verified scientifically. When I was twenty I suffered my first really bad back ache. I don't know what I had done, maybe it was the heavy duty gardening a few days before, however I suddenly couldn't stand up straight and hobbled around like an old woman for the rest of the week. What I did not realise was that I had probably suffered from a small disk bulge. Small disk bulges are pretty common and many people have them knowingly or unknowingly. Sometimes they cause symptoms such as I suffered, sometimes they cause no symptoms. I think it mainly depends on where the disk decides to bulge as to what is or is not felt.

Fast forward to the beginning of January last year after a number of rather trouble free years. I had a small three month old baby and a three year old. I had been carrying my baby in a sling which was carried on my front. I think that I had not adjusted the sling properly and it seemed rather low down on my body, however I had not suffered any problems until we went for a particularly long country walk. Later that evening I just could not get comfortable when sat down. This feeling grew, until it made me feel ill, almost as thought I was getting flu. I went to the doctor, who prescribed me anti inflamatories. I took them for a few days, then things seemed to settle down. For the next few months, this episode seemed to fade. I had a nice summer and then started to look forward to my two daughters' birthdays in October.

My youngest daughter was one year old on 6th October 2008. That was the day that my back pain came back with a vengeance. I had carried her around a homeware shop and also carried too much shopping in a basket at the same time. I felt nothing bad to begin with. Later in the evening the familiar can't get comfortable feeling kicked in. I went to bed thinking that it would be better in the morning. The morning came. I could just about get out of bed. Then I started to experience the most incredible back muscle spasms which made my spine lock. This had happened a few times earlier in the year, but this time was different. I would find myself sliding of the couch onto the floor face down in order to deal with the pain of having my spine lock. My two girls just jumped over me and carried on playing. After about a week and a half things started to settle. I thought it would clear off just as it seemed to have done in January. What I did not realise was that these two episodes were serious warnings for me to start looking after my back. I did not pay attention. I immediately started doing Pilates and using the giant bouncy ball for exercises. Nothing wrong with Pilates, however it should not be done rigorously so soon after damaging your back. Three days after starting the exercises I was walking my older daughter to pre-school. I had walked less than quarter of a mile when there was a burning shooting pain into my buttock/hip area. I carried on walking/limping thinking it would go away. Finally it did. Thought no more of it for the rest of the day. The next day it was back but with a difference. I could no longer stand up straight. My spine veered off to the right sideways. I couldn't straighten it at all. I later learnt that this is called Sciatic Scholiosis (curvature of the spine caused by the compression of the Sciatic nerve). I could not walk properly, or very far. I tried on a few occasions to walk my older daughter to school, but the whole thing took me hours to walk a mile and it was excruciating.

I was referred for physiotherapy by my doctor. I did McKenzie extension exercises which involved me lying on the floor face down and then pushing the top half of my body up to make my disk bulge get pushed back in. That was the theory at least. Instead, the pain (agony) intensified, I think the exercises had actually made the bulge bigger. If you image gettting a ballon that is partially inflated and squeezing one side, the other side bulges. I think this same thing happended to my disk. I started to get extreme muscle spasms and even when lying down was in agony. Nothing seemed to relieve me of the pain. I did not sleep for months. The only thing that was reasonably decent was being put on diazepam to relax my back muscles. By 23rd December I had my MRI. The results came back a few day later. I had two very large disk bulges at S1/L5 and L4/L5. The two most common disks to go. It could be worse, some people have more than three disks go. The problem with having more than one disk crushing the Sciatic nerve is that there are more areas of referred pain. By now I had pain all the way down to my foot, especially in my shin. It felt like I had been kicked really hard in the shin. I had been on Co-codemal, Diazepam, Paracetamol, Ibuprofen and Amytriptylin. The Amytriptylin is an anti depressant that is also used to treat nerve pain. It literally made me lose the will to live and gave me an enormous panick attack. I had to call an ambulance. I stopped the Amytriptylin. The next drug was Tramadol. My doctor prescribed these (top strength) just before Christmas. I was out of it, however these pain killers lived up to their name. I combined these with 400 ml of Ibuprofin alternating the two throughout the days. I got relatives to look after the girls and just lay back on the sofa eating a mixture of Diazepam, Tramadol and Ibuprofin. My doctor had given up hope and explained the operation that I would need to have - a micro discectomy. I had a neurosurgeon appointment booked at the beginning of February. After 16 weeks of agony, the pain seemed to turn a corner. I started walking again after weeks in the house. I couldn't get far to begin with and I made sure that I listened to what my body was telling me. By the time I saw my neurosurgeon I was about 90% better. He gave me some advice and referred me for more physio. I had to wait months for this. By August I was in physiotherapy this time. I was skeptical. My physio created a programme of exercises based on strengthening my back and stretching the muscles. He said that I had over protected my back since the Sciatica began and to avoid further problems I needed to make it flexible again. I followed his exercises. My back feels so much better.

I would say that I am about 97% better. I can feel things improving still. I have been told that an injuried spine and Sciatic nerve can take years to get better. This is a long term condition. There will be no more rollercoaster rides etc. To be honest, I feel that I have a different outlook on life now and try to appreciate every largely pain free day I have. Hopefully this will continue.

If you have any back problem you need to consult your doctor first.

Do not shirk the drugs that are prescribed. See them as a means to an end. They help you to sleep. This is the time when your body is going to heal.

Don't try to rush things, you could exacerbate things. Your body needs to do things in its own time. Relax.

Listen to your body and work with it. If doing exercises gives you lots of pain, stop. Work within a comfortable pain threshold, any more is a warning you are doing too much.

Some people say Osteopaths and Chiropodists are good, however don't expect to be instantly cured. People say they are miraculously cured but I bet there're not. I had Osteopathic treatment and it was very good at getting some of my muscle spasms to relax, however time seems to have been the ultimate healer.

Don't jump into an operation too early. At first I was literally begging for an operation, however the NHS does not rush anything. My condition turned the corner after sixteen weeks. Many doctors say that if the Sciatica is not better by twelve weeks it is not going to be better. I think this is a bit too black and white, as my story shows. If you need an operation however, go for it and look forward to living life again.

Physiotherapy is a good thing at the right time. If you are in acute pain it may do more harm than good. My first physio sessions at the beginning of my condition caused it to get worse. The later physio sessions have been a God send and made me feel like a normal person again.

TENS machines may give some pain relief.  I found it gave some relief to begin with, however after a while it did nothing.

My mother has had Cortisone injections because she too had a spine problem (different to mine).  She says that it is very effective for a few months after. Other people do not feel the effects.  If your pain is really bad it may be worth investigating.  Some studies have found that although the Cortisone does not cure the problem, it can give you enough breathing space for it to start to get better.   Some people say that Cortisone is a poison and should be avoided altogether.  My view is that when you feel the intense level of pain (and I've had two children naturally) that Sciatica presents, you really don't care that much about the ins and outs of Cortisone and other drugs.

Do what is right for you.  You don't have to be a hero/martyr.  Get through the ordeal best you can and learn from it.

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Comments 32 comments

boo 6 years ago

yea same thing with me, except it too got 97 percent better for months, and one slip later right back to where i was 11 months ago.all i did was sit down.........

bee 5 years ago

Same here,

Angie 3 years ago

I am a current sufferer of Sciatica due to a bulge at S1/L5. I have had severe debilitating pain for almost 4 months now. I can say it is starting to get better. I have finally slept through the night for the last week...what a blessing that is. It has been very slow, as my pain would barely allow me to walk to the front door of my apt. I am slowly starting to be able to go further now. It is definitely a slow process, but bulges WILL heal on their own even though it takes time. I still have no feeling below the knee on my left leg but I can handle that...wonder if it will ever return?

exteacher 3 years ago

It's been three years since I wrote this article and now feel no pain in my leg. Earlier this year I strained my back getting something out of my wardrobe which made it sore for a week after, but apart from that I feel that the sciatica has gone and won't be back unless I do something silly with my back. I think often it's the people who don't make allowances for having a back problem or momentarily forget they have a problem who end up getting repeat episodes of pain, but I may be wrong there though!

MySciaticaRelief profile image

MySciaticaRelief 3 years ago from California

McKenzie extension exercises helped me in my case. Surgery is usually the last resort but I'm really glad to know that you have almost fully recovered.

ex teacher 3 years ago

Thanks. I've heard about McKenzie extension exercises and how they can help with sciatica. In my case physiotherapy only helped after my back had started to heal properly. It's good to know that you have benefitted from these exercises.

Keytan 3 years ago

I too had suffered for 3 months then one morning woke up and felt 90% better. Its still there and im being very careful but glad to hear you are doing well 3 years later. Thanks for sharing your story!

Keytan 3 years ago

Just wondering, were you instructed to not bend forward from your PT? I have not bent forward for a month now and when I do just a little, my back muscles feel really tight. Can you bend forward to put your socks on now?

Also, as you gradually felt better day by day, did you have days that were a lot worse than others and thought that the pain was coming back?

Your story sounds a lot like mine so it would be great to know how the healing process was for you. I have been dealing with this since mid July and the acute phase ended a month ago. It started on my right now it seems to be affecting the left leg a little more every day.. just sharp random pains that don't last. more annoying than anything.

I also had 2 kids naturally, after each I had mild right butt sciatica but it went away each time. We moved this july and thats when the whole leg got involved, in a bad way.. worst pain ever!!! And very depressing to not be able to do what you want.. I cant pick up my 2 year old so that makes life hard as it is. anyways, sorry for rambling. It is good to know that you CAN get better from this. Any tips are very welcome!

Evitchka 3 years ago

I loved this post. I have been felled by Sciatica for the last two months. Just dreadful and I had no idea that it could be this serious. I have learnt like exteacher, that I have to listen to my own body! How you coped with 2 small children is beyond belief. My saint of a husband has waited on me hand and foot and it is for that reason I have had the luxury of listening to my body. Resting , sleeping downstairs (it was excruciating climbing stairs) and crawling to the loo. (which was inadvertently the best exercise for my back) Ignoring physios who said I HAD to exercise. McKenzie was the best. Rejecting shit drugs like Amiltryptlin which made me fee so strange, and others that made me so constipated I did myself an injury. It has been HELL but I am slowly recovering. Will have an MRI in two weeks- suspected double crush. I think someone should set up back pain centres in the UK- there is a whole army of people suffering terribly and being ignored-. If I was younger (I'm 66) I would. I hope to write up my back centre idea in Hub which I have just joined

backpainattimes 3 years ago

Think I had an injury at age 13 and later on it slipped hard when I was 19 or 20. I could not straighten up nor walk right. After a few months I went to a chiropractor and he popped my back and immediately all was well. Until the next day when the pain hit and lasted for 4 months.

Since then over the years off and on back issues. I ignored the pains and continued to kill myself. When I got older I saw a correlation between certain movements and exercises and the back pain returning. after 15 years I began to realize that whenever I tried to do sit-ups, within a few weeks that particular problem would strike and last for 4-5 days.

AS I got older, this problem would come around and last longer and longer. Age late 30s I once again tried doing sit-ups to work out and did so for 2 months until it popped again, this time for weeks.

Thanks to google and extensive reading I am sure I suffer the bulged disk issue. Since 2 years ago I try not to do much hard moves to the back and this has helped greatly. Working on the ground, bending over or sit-ups will make this thing return. Also, got rid of any car ot truck I owned that I had make that squat and twist to enter or exit. Another exacerbation.

Bee good to yourself and realize your not superman and have to eliminate from your life somethings that you should no longer do. Like certain exercises, types of work and those certain motions that you did right before the pain came back...

mcmavpvpps 3 years ago

Yfter all thats enounced and done I m curious to obtain word the number of peoples truly realise mcdougal has merely revealed. Many thanks.

Chris Ironside 3 years ago

Great article. I have had fairly similar experiences with back pain worsening over a 20 year period (first visit to the Osteopath about aged 12). I suffered from Sciatica for many years undergoing different treatments (exercise, pain relief, physio) and finally had a discectomy when I was fortunate enough to have a good company healthcare plan. Since the discectomy the pain has slowly returned (a three/four year period) and the past week I have never felt anything like it.

I am currently on Tramadol and Ibuprofen and awaiting another MRI scan. I certainly wouldn't wish these feelings on anyone and it's made me appreciate the importance of looking after your joints etc. I did a lot of cross-country running when younger and often wonder if this played a part in wear of the disc, however, it's not practical to avoid everything in fear of a side-effect. One thing that without doubt causes pain is the subconscious "guarding" of the back, which causes some muscles to overwork and some to underwork. Ongoing gentle exercise/physio is crucial in minimising back pain once a problem develops.

All the best to anyone suffering back pain. I hope you find what's best for you.

Martin 3 years ago

My pain in my calf muscle is normally worse in the morning and late at night and there is some mornings I can't get out of bed. Yesterday after a fair bit of walking my ankle swollen up and I could barely walk. Can anyone help r advise?

Lilly64 3 years ago

You have got to be kidding me. Although I appreciate your story, life for many is not so willing to let you have the time to heal properly. I had sciatica very badly when I was 20 through 27 years old and worked every day, walking with pain all day long. It corrected itself while I was pregnant at 27. I never had sciatica again. However, I am now 48 and have had nothing but back and neck herniations, scoliosis, stenosis, and every nerve inflammed from head to toe. I have three children and an ailing husband, with no family to count on (or friends). I cannot and do not have the time to heal. Life goes on regardless of how a mother and wife feel and no one cares if you live or die, as long as dinner is on the table! I went through three major surgeries within 10 months completely alone; no one visited, no one helped me afterward, and when I got home, it was back to fixing dinner! I am so glad that you had 16 weeks to recover; God Bless you and those you know who allowed you to do this.

lynne 3 years ago

had and still suffering from sciatica and have shed a good few tears .Totally floored and unable to move for the first 3 weeks only time thst i have I left the house is for doc visits ..was really lucky to get a cancellation MRI and have disc herniation and some bulging discs doc and physio have told me it's past physio care and need to see the Neurosurgeon the waiting is driving me crazy, was on every heavy painkiller going Tramadol,Gapapentin ,Diclofonic and paracetamol was so spaced decided to bin them all and suffer in silence, it's hard but determined to not be a victim of Tramadol though the lack of sleep is hard would love a sleep with no pain .as I speak I have spasms and electric shock pains in my bum cheek to The sole of my feet ...what's worrying me is my good side s starting to playup and I'm terrified it goes like my damaged side don't think I could cope with both sides in pain. Back pain in Britain needs to be addressed as it's such a long drawn out affair ...hopefully soon I can post and say I've had treatment and no longer need a stick to walk with be a Prisoner in my own house and that I'm back to work pain free everything's crossed x

shrimpmama 2 years ago

Thank you for sharing your experience. I have been suffering with sciatica for eight weeks, with no improvement except the partial relief provided by the meds. Nine weeks ago, I was a fit, active person who enjoyed keeping up with her two young children. Now, I can barely walk them down the street to school. My MRI was a couple of days ago, and I await results with much anxiety, as I dread being advised to have surgery. It's exhausting keeping up the appearance of good cheer for the sake of my kids, and I know my patience sometimes wears thin. They are my little heroes for adapting to my often unpredictable pain levels, and my husband has been amazing. I know I should be grateful for the times when my pain is lessened, but some of the stories online of months and years of pain are discouraging. This post has given me a bit of hope that I might be like you and be halfway through the worst of it. Thanks again.

exteacher 2 years ago

It's been a while since I wrote this article. Thank you everyone for sharing their experiences. Five years ago I was suffering from sciatica and I recovered. Today, I live a normal pain free life still. My leg sometimes gets a spasm (where the nerve is), however it's a very minor inconvenience that doesn't bother me compared to the unbelievable agony of sciatica. When I recovered, I was very worried that I would relapse after reading that many people do have frequent relapses. I think regular back exercises, keeping my weight down, swimming and walking (as my neurosurgeon suggested) have helped enormously. I am very mindful of my back though and I won't be going on fairground rides any time soon! For those of you that are suffering, don't turn down the strong painkillers/medications that are on offer. I had to try a number of painkillers before finding the combination that worked for me (tramadol, 400mg ibuprofin and diazepam). Try to relax and where possible let your back heal. I had the luxury of having relatives that could come and look after my children while I let my back rest, however I really feel that this is what made the difference and was a turning point. Once I could feel it was improving, then I started to set small goals like walking to the end of the road, walking to the shop, walking further, but making sure that this was gradual. If rest doesn't help, an operation might be best, I know that when this was suggested to me by my doctor at Christmas 2008 I was ready to do anything to get rid of the pain. An operation has it's risks, however it's a choice between agony and an improvement in quality of life. I think that ultimately, for anyone that has/is suffering from sciatica, all that they want is to be able to live a normal life that is not overshadowed by permanent pain, to be able to enjoy the simple things in life such as a nice walk or a meal with friends and family. I hope that my article has helped. Sciatica for many people can be managed and in many cases it can clear up often by itself. My thoughts are with anyone that is going through this.

Miguel 2 years ago

Hi guys.. I just got diagnosed with sciatica. The back pain started 2 months ago but the sciatica pains started happening 2weeks ago. getting out of bed in the mornings feels like the absolute worst pain imaginable. My right leg buttock and thigh have the most severe shooting pains..After about an hour and a half of standing it starts to hurt less and less. When I'm in bed even the slightest movement gives me excruciating pain. It's making life pretty hard at the moment. I'm going for an MRI soon to get the exact diagnosis. Pray for me it would be much appreciated!

Amy 2 years ago

Nice to hear all of your experiences. I have sciatica and am scheduled for a CT scan at the end of the month. I have a 6 month old baby and a 3 year old and my husband is only home from work 8 days a month. Numbness and pain had increased suddenly this past week, and I feel guilty asking for an increase in pain medication. I just how something shows up so I don't get blown off.

Evitchka 2 years ago

I do pray for you Miguel and hope things are better. Amy I have no idea how you are coping with a 6 month old baby and a 3 year old. Awful. All that lifting. The MRI scan showed my sciatic nerve dripping into the space where my disc had slipped (from digging!) My sciatica was really severe for 4 months but now with gentle McKenzie exercises and gradual exercise and Tai Chi, it pretty well healed. So to give you hope it can heal and get better. And just ask for more painkillers. Hot and cold compresses helped me too.

Lilly64 2 years ago

@Amy: Are you doctoring with a pain management doctor/clinic? If you are, then by all means discuss your situation and that you are not being relieved by your current medications. It is difficult to find a good pain management doctor who doesn't think that all you want is narcotics! I have been with my current doctor for about two years now so we have built up a good relationship and he knows everything about all of my pain, as well as my personal life; this is very important in finding a doctor and keeping with him/her so that you can build that trust. They also need to know some about your home life and personal life because it all relates back to how much you are doing and the strains you are putting on your pain. I hope this is your case with your doctor.

@Evitchka: We just have to cope - even with children. Unlike the person who began this post, we all don't have the luxuries as she stated with people willing to just take over your life so that one can pursue proper treatment and get healthy. We have to try and do all of that with kids in tow! Also, I have the same issue you have with the "dripping" nerve, albeit not the sciatic nerve; the l4-l5 nerve drips but the pain is just as bad. Waiting for my children to grow up so that I can pursue treatment for my back and my neck! I also have a new herniation in my neck due to a car accident - two levels above my [failed] fusion surgery! So lots of different pain levels. I do agree that heat helps tremendously, as do the meds (I am on some very strong pain meds). Much of the time, however, I use a heat wrap instead of the heating pad so that I can continue to do things while the heat is on.... Best of luck to all of you in this New Year of 2014!!! Peace!

exteacher 2 years ago

I would like to correct the last comment about my situation during my personal experience of sciatica. I'm not sure that I experienced 'luxuries'. I think that a more appropriate description of the help I got off my family is 'luck'. I was lucky to have people who could help me. I know that other people don't have that, yet my advice is the same. A luxury is something that isn't necessary. I became a cripple and was regarded as disabled when my sciatica was at it's worst. As much as I tried, I could not carry on 'even with children'. My neurosurgeon was in disbelief that I could walk and had not developed cauda equina syndrome because my sciatic nerve had been completely crushed flat. That merits the word luck, that I recovered as well as I have and I encourage anyone with this terrible affliction to do what ever they can do to get better, however I do not take well to any suggestion that my suffering wasn't that bad or that I had it better than others. Having sciatic scoliosis (that still shows slightly, nearly six years on) and all the other symptoms that I have described is not good and I would never question anybody's personal account of the suffering that this condition inflicts. Please respect my experience, it was and is a life changing experience that makes me see life differently now. I respect anyone that has and is going through this hell and will not judge them.

Lilly64 2 years ago

@exteacher: I am sorry you took it the wrong way, but in the situation that I was in with my L4-L5 pre-laminectomy, it would have been a "luxury" to have people help me; that is all I meant by that. It was not sciatica, and I am sorry for jumping in here on that topic; I had sciatica once, but it is now the other nerves that are affected, but still the same horrendous pain. I use the word "luxury" because the people in my life never saw it as "necessary" to help me when I was crawling up the stairs in agony while they jumped over me to get down the stairs (my husband.... nice guy at the time!) No one saw it "necessary" to take me to a hospital when, pre-laminectomy, I was in the bathroom and it got stuck because my nerves had become so crushed and numb that I could not normally process a bowel movement. The three-hour process involved in resolving that was NOT a pretty one. But what my husband was angry about that morning was that HE had to get out of bed to take the children to school, and just said that I was "gross." I was not tested for cauda equina because I did go in for the laminectomy shortly after that experience - with total leg pain relief because of that surgery, thank God!

However, that was six years ago and I have been dealing with it all over again for the past four years (not to the point of another laminectomy, however - yet). So I am sorry for using the word "luxury" to describe your situation; it was my situation to which I was referring, I guess. I do believe that your suffering was that bad; you just had a great support network and it just angers me that I did not. With you writing this blog, it should bring to light how awful any nerve/back/neck pain can become and how debilitating it can be. I am only 49 years old, but have been on disability because of it (and other health problems) for four years now and my family (siblings and parents) still do not get it. My husband finally gets it but only because he was afflicted with it about four years ago as well. He is also now on disability and has had the complete support of me. However, his family doesn't get it too much either - even with all of the procedures and surgeries he has had. When you tell people what is going on, and they say something about their back "pain" while they are running a marathon or something, just ticks me off! They do not understand the full-on disability of it all for some people.

And scoliosis? My back is completely S-shaped, most likely causing many of these problems along with the degeneration of every "facet" (little back joke there..:) ) of my spine - now including the thoracic. I can't decide which area I should begin injecting because I can't sleep due to my back, hip and leg pain; yet, I cannot sleep because of my neck pain either.... And again, there is the problem of anyone caring for me and my children if I do have any procedures. However, I am now having bladder problems from the nerve degeneration!

Please accept my apologies for suggesting that your pain was any less awful than mine; I know it was not, but your overall experience was much better because you had such a great support network. And, you obviously wrote this blog to try and bring to light how debilitating these conditions can be; I appreciate that. Continue on with your "luxurious" life .... LOL! Kidding.... Peace and Be Well!

exteacher 2 years ago

Lilly 64, thanks for your reply and account of your own struggles. I'm sorry that you have had such a bad time with your back! I don't think people realise how bad life is when your back gives up. Your experience with having support or lack of it off family and friends is also saddening. I think that people don't understand the pain if they cannot see evidence of it, such as a wound. I had a similar situation with my employer at the time, who could not understand what my problem was and expected me to work while 'spaced out' on painkilling drugs. I am very lucky to have family who did step in when I needed them to, it let me heal and deal with the pain. I wonder how many people have the support they need so that they can rest and get better? Thanks again for sharing your experience. I hope that the situation with your back takes a more positive turn soon!

Lilly64 2 years ago

@exteacher: Thanks for your understanding, and I really hope that you believe that I was not "attacking" your situation of a great support network. It does, however, bring to the forefront the very real problem of finding support so that one can get better. I am thinking that your situation is very unique and think that my situation is more the norm, unfortunately. Maybe I am wrong; I would hope I am wrong. But maybe we should team up to do a survey of some sort with a follow up article on the need for emotional help that is SO needed to properly heal. I can tell you firsthand from my husband's experience that counseling is a must while one goes through the grueling process of whatever their doctor suggests. Although he had everything physically (and emotionally) that he needed from me, it is so very hard for him to cope now with the loss of work, his strength (lack thereof), and just realizing that he needs to adapt to an entire new way of living. The same goes for me as well; somehow I always put his ailments ahead of mine, but I continue to struggle with the loss of work and loss of strength; it is just depressing! His surgeon told him from the get-go that he should have counseling right along with surgeries, but he didn't pursue it. We have had a TON of stress from all of this and we are now just trying to come back together after years of - well - everything! Not to mention loss of income and trying to raise three children on disability income. There is just SO much upheaval that comes from being debilitated in every aspect of life.

I had a friend once, about five years ago while I was going through some massive pain and heartache because my husband was being so insensitive and inconsiderate. Although the laminectomy had helped my legs tremendously, I still have the actual back problems and neck problems from a failed fusion surgery. It was during the time that I was thinking of filing for disability because I just kept failing at my job, a job that I loved so much but just could not do anymore because of my disabilities (I also have optic neuritis and the eye began to get very painful, and still is to this day). My job required a lot of computer work and I could not do it because of any of these problems. But as far as the back pain, this "friend" kept comparing herself to me, and of course she was always way worse off than me. I didn't doubt her pain but there was no comparison: She worked full time, loved her work, and was extremely energetic and full of life; she did it all! Because she knew her pain level, she just could not understand that my pain could be any worse! She went so far as to tell me that I was ridiculous for considering formal disability. Her situation was that she was debating feeling good or feeling great - through a non-invasive procedure. At that time, I was debating living or dying, basically! Kidding, but you get my drift here. I also had an experience with one of my sisters who basically told me that I was purposely not trying to get well. She had ONE herniated disc in her back that was healed with some physical therapy. Again, this person did not understand the extent of my situation, etc.

What I am getting at here is that SO many people don't have the sympathy or empathy from people they need it most. As you said, your employer needed to understand your situation for the sake of your job, I assume. It is like a "cancer" to us, and when people hear the word "cancer" all bets are off! Our issues take so much out of us, albeit not life-threatening such as a cancer may be. And there are also so many methods, procedures, surgeries, etc. that we "should" do to help. Surgery is not an easy option whatsoever, and frankly, I don't think I will ever have it again. But people just say, "Oh, have the surgery....." So many times it fails for one thing, and many times it brings on a slew of other problems.

Wow... This is long... But I am so tired of being misunderstood and my problems are life-long. Not looking forward to explaining myself for the rest of my life. Especially the part of why do I take pain medications; people always look at me like I am a junkie! However, I follow doctor's orders and never ever over take anything! Another aspect to this too, unfortunately.

Maybe I will write an article on here, separate from yours, about my struggles with the "other nerve." Or if you want to collaborate, let me know..... Peace... Lilly

Amy 2 years ago

Thanks for your advice. Unfortunately my doctor does not like to work with me but against me. I'm very discouraged as my CT scan results showed no abnormalities. My doctors nurse called and told me to try massage and that I need to stop taking pain medication. I'm feeling extremely deflated. All I can think to try is the chiropractor? I don't think my doctor knows what it is like to feel pain. He also refused to put me on sick leave from work when I was pregnant, when my obgyn wrote me off work as soon as he saw me. Apparently if he can't see it, it's not real.

Lilly64 2 years ago

@Amy: You need to find a new doctor - now. Regular doctors, for one, do not want to prescribe pain medication because the feds are coming down hard on them. You would be wise to get to a pain clinic where these doctors DO take your pain seriously and will provide you with the pain meds you need. They also will get to the bottom of your pain, and I think you need an MRI rather than a CT. CT only shows the bones and any fractures of those bones that would cause pain. Very little back pain has anything to do with fractures, but is more about the soft tissue (discs, nerves, etc.). A MRI will show the extent of damaged soft tissue. If you are not happy with your doctor, you must change. The pain doctors are great, if you find a good one! Peace!

shrimpmama 2 years ago

Because this original post gave me some hope at a time when I was making no progress and was starting to feel really desperate, I thought I should circle back and update my story for others who may be closer to the beginning of their healing process. When I last wrote, I awaited results of my MRI.

The MRI (itself an excruciating experience because I had to lie still on my back) showed a large herniation of L5-S1 that was fully impinging my S1 nerve, causing sciatica. I was in severe pain and taking several meds (percocet, Tylenol 3, elavil) to cope.

The onset of my pain was over six months ago, and I am now very close to pain-free. I recently traveled with my family, and between the humid Florida weather (I'm Canadian) or the more relaxed week (not cleaning, doing laundry, etc), there were a couple of evenings when I realized I had *forgotten* about my sciatica all day. It was amazing.

There have been a couple of twinges since (stooping to pick up laundry!), but I'm diligent with my physiotherapy and very hopeful that there will be more and more days when the sciatica is a non-factor. Being careful with my back and keeping my core strong will be necessary for the rest of my life, but that's fine by me compared with how life was in the fall.

I have learned that back injuries take a long time to heal, but I know from experience that they *can* heal -- even when it feels like they won't. The best things I did when my pain was bad were to take the meds I needed, rest, walk as much as I could bear, rest, sleep, and plan for my recovery (I focused on getting to the park with my kids this summer). The best things I've done in the last couple of months, as I experience less and less pain are to remember how delicate my back is (even when I feel strong) and to do my physio (especially planks!).

Whoever you are, and whatever your injury/pain, I wish you well.

Lisa Denlinger 2 years ago

Sciatic issues for about 4 years now. I find relief from my teeter inversion table and I sit with my back joy with memory foam. Backjoy.com . It really helps you sit with perfect posture keeps your disk from compressing. The best 65 dollars I spent. The teeter table qvc.com can get on easy pay installments runs about 350. Hope everyone feels better soon.

John 2 years ago

I keep finding these pointless posts trying to find info on the after effects of surgery for sciatic nerve pain, I get my op to finally get this fix after years of hell so want to find out what I have got ahead of me.. But all I can find are these "I got better with time and fairy floss" stories. Grrr sorry no offence, just don't bother posting if all you did was nothing.

Aquahealer 19 months ago

wow....It's March 9 and my pain started Dec 6. This is no joke. Millions of us suffering and no solutions? Seems this problem has been put on the "I have a cold" shelf...now just live with it until your cold goes away. Mind boggling. I've already gone thru the "I'd rather be dead" phase, and the "I'd like to cut off my left phase." MRI phase Wednesday. Currently taking 2 motrin and 2 acetaminophen together three times a day. Helps with the pain but when you're a computer programmer and your company processes $82 million dollars in transactions a year, you need to focus and focus well. This pain is so distracting that I have to get up every 10-15 mins and try to get my brain back on track. This is no way to go thru life. This is not living. This is surviving. Barely surviving that is. I can't take heavy meds and work on computer programming. And now I have to look forward to a lengthy back surgery with unknown results? There is no exact science when it comes to the back. It's not like computer programming, 2+2=4 and will always = 4. If you ask four back surgeons their opinion on your back you will get four different answers. This is a terrible situation. I wish I could find the cure for this because I would love to die having made a quality impact on the world. After all my computer programming skills sure aren't going to change the world.

Lilly64 19 months ago

@Aquahealer: I TOTALLY feel your pain, personally and empathetically! I began with the neck (2000) then back issues (2003). But I actually had an awful case of sciatica when I was 20 to 27 years old - yep! for SEVEN years straight. Wasn't til I was pregnant that the baby shifted the nerve and I have never had that pain again!

But some years later my husband was hit hard with it - very hard. He is basically a cripple whereas he used to be in a heavy duty line of work. Then one day - BAMM - it was all over. In retrospect what we think happened was that the previous year he had battled very, very low testosterone levels, which basically makes the body vulnerable to crumbling (hormones control the entire being); his back was already bad but the lack of hormones put it over the edge. So..... go check on that for yourself first and foremost, as I am assuming you are a guy.

I know the stage you are in because we are still in it. We were both approved for SSDI a few years ago (me first - and it was an IRS AGENT that told me to file for it after she asked why there wasn't more income coming into the house....; ironic). Anyway, between his pension and our SSDI, we make about what we made starting out years ago as a very comfortable middle class family (HA!). That salary doesn't quite cut it anymore still raising two children. So we are still in the WTF state of mind.

I know my story isn't exactly uplifting, but I guess I wanted to give you some advice: check your testosterone and look into SSDI (if you are in the US). But mainly - get your surgery; it may actually work! And get on some sort of temporary disability. I assume you do not have a union; the union saved our butts and still does with continued health care forever for our kids (til they are 26 anyway) and as our secondary (Medicare is first), as well as prescription coverage and eye and dental coverage. Don't get me started on why anyone would vote for union bashers (aka, repubs). Sorry, that was a side-note to my problems.

But, please get the surgery, as I said it may work. And also, get on to a GOOD pain management doctor; we have the world's best! He signed up my husband for the medical mj and now we are just waiting for the plants to grow!

You are right - this is NO way to go through life and what makes it worse are the people - our very own families - that don't have a CLUE or give a rats' ass how awful this is for us. Also what makes it worse are bad doctors; if you don't like yours, especially a pain management one, change immediately. We are already in pain and don't need their mental pain! I have been through some real losers, which I will post about next in my own post.

Lastly, TAKE the MEDS - the "heavy" ones. You can start off with just a little and as you tolerate them, move up. But never, ever exceed what they prescribe. Believe me, I have been through that as well, and it ended up just leaving me sick to my stomach. You don't have to be completely stoned on them for it to work. I actually see many people here who take Tramadol, which is relatively mild compared to what I take; it is not even classified as a narcotic.

I am sorry to put this to you bluntly, but I also don't want to make it any less than what it is, and it does suck! But you sound like you are at the beginning somewhat so don't give up hope. One of my procedures DID work very very well, and I don't have that horrendous leg pain anymore. Push forward, man.... And please, please vent back if you want... I have YEARS of information

Best of luck to you, God Bless and Peace Out!!!

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