Diary of a Sciatica Sufferer
How I'm Getting Relief from the Pain of Sciatica
Sciatica can be a pain in the backside! Literally! I first suffered from Sciatica in October 2011, and for just over 6 months, I was in a lot of pain. I had my good days and my bad days. Luckily, more good. Back then, I could hardly stand or sit down without severe sharp pains running down my legs, radiating from my right hip and piriformis muscle.
My Sciatica has virtually cleared up today (although I still get the odd niggle now and then, it's manageable, so no need for the violins), so thought I would document how I got on, in the hope that I might be able to help someone who might be suffering the same as me. On this page, you will find some tips that I hope should help and hopefully get you back on your feet again.
I've been updating this page with my progress, month by month, like a diary, to show my progress (or not). I'm hoping to share how I get pain relief from Sciatica and back pain. Including exercise tips and how to the best muscle stretching to help Sciatica. So, here's my story.
Image source: The Therapy Portal.com
Back Pain is Tough!
Have you ever had trouble from Back Pain?
Introduction to my Diary of having Sciatica
Welcome to my page about how I became PAIN-FREE!
It's November 2014, and wanted to add an update, but also formally introduce my Sciatica Diary to you.
It's strange looking back at the entries, that started way back in 2011. It seems like a world away. I'm still Sciatica free - and I hope some of the tips and ideas below on this page, will help you on your road to recovery too.
In this diary, I talk a lot about running. I ran for two reasons, the first to get some exercise and be healthy, but secondly and most importantly to lose some weight. Now, the biggest difference in my life, is that I've stopped running and since May 2013, I've lost 3 stone (42 lbs). This weight loss, and probably a huge factor in my Sciatica not returning, is all thanks to Weight Watchers. After seeing a hideous photo of myself last year, I signed up to the program online, and attended the first meeting I could - and I haven't looked back. I do a lot of walking, which helps my back and core muscles, but now, the running is virtually non existent. I still do the odd Body Attack class now and then, but I don't do ANY of the kicking parts of the routine, at all...it's not worth the risk! (...more on that later)
I'm finally leading a truly healthy (well, healthier) life and thankfully, sciatica-free life too. Of course, as with all people who like writing, I've made a webpage about my weight loss too - if you want to check it out visit my Weight Watchers Diary here.
I get the odd twinge now and then, that lasts for a few days, but nothing debilitating to the extent it was a few years back. I have to say though, the that I bought from Amazon.com (link for UK amazon Stability Dischere) has been a god send. If I get a twinge, I just sit on it when working at my desk, and it eases the pain considerably.
So, on with the Sciatica Sufferer's Diary - although, I should really refer to as the EX-Sciatica Sufferer's Diary! I've set the page out to start at the beginning, if you think it would be better to have my most recent posts at the top, please leave me a note at the bottom and I can move things around.
Please bookmark this page also, and keep checking back for more updates, as I post them. Thanks for stopping by - and here's to a Sciatica and Pain free life for you :)
The Beginning: September 2011
Body Attack, literally...Sciatica starts
I had always heard that high impact exercise wasn't good for your bones or joints. Jumping, Running, Hopping - anything that that meant your feet would hit the ground with a degree of force, I knew isn't really a good idea. I thought I was indestructible though! My Sciatica started when I aggravated my sciatic nerve, from too much high impact exercise, that caused stress on the nerve. I used to do lots of high impact aerobic classes, called "Body Attack", so my muscles and body was strong. Then I took a break from exercise...and the fool that I am, went straight back to the class, working at the same rate I was when I went regularly - big mistake.
When the muscle around your abdomen and legs get weak, the higher the chances of causing too much tension on ligaments, and flaring up any nerves that are not used to the impact of exercises that you may do. I thought I would be able to get back into the classes, at the same rate I was working before, after taking a break from them. Sciatica loomed!
If you answered yes in the poll above, what type of back pain have you had?
So much for a Parisian City Break!
I had a city break planned, in Paris. I couldn't wait! I love Paris, and love every moment that I can spend there. I had noticed a pain in my hip area, but not really thought much of it. I was about to go and tour the Champs Elysses, only I couldn't walk. I could only move my right leg about 10 degrees in front of my left before a shooting and searing hot pain shot through my lower back and down my right leg...that would be the sciatic nerve growling at me! It was excruciating.
As soon as I got home, I booked an appointment at the doctors. I couldn't get comfortable to sit, or stand, or sleep. When I was moving, it wasn't so bad, as the muscles in my leg were being worked, but when they were kept still they just kept seizing up - it was horrendous.
The doctors diagnosed me with Sciatica, but weren't too keen on referring me to any specialists. A lot of people suggest that if you have sciatica, you should not see a chiropractor. They did the various tests, such as checking my reflexes, checking my sense of touch, and how high I could lift my right leg. I didn't have any tingling, or pins or needles to be concerned with - so they saw no huge risk (If you get pins and needles or numbness, anywhere in your legs...and guys, especially around your genitals, you must tell a GP). They gave my some pain killers and told me to get on.
Physio, help me!
Still in pain, I went back for more testing. I started to develop a pins and needles sensation in my feet - knowing that was one of the symptoms they discussed with me, I wanted to get it checked out. I got stronger pain killers and finally a referral to physio.
I was confused that I wasn't offered physio first time round. I guess pester-power was in my favour!
It took a long time to get through the paperwork and on the waiting list for physio.
Finally, I saw a really great physio (free, on the NHS) who was able to get some very good advice and exercises to work on.
From the way I was moving, they came to the conclusion that my sciatic nerves runs through my piriformis muscle, as opposed to running under it. This means that when my muscle gets tense, stressed, aggravated or exercised without proper stretching and warm up - it causes pain, resulting for me, in Sciatica.
Of course, the only way I could get this 100% confirmed, would be through an MRI scan, so not wanting to pay for something that wouldn't make a huge difference to my treatment, I took their word for it.
My Sciatica physio also recommended that I get a stability disc to sit on, at work (my job is spent mostly sat at a desk). These are like a flat ball, that alleviates pressure on the nerve when sitting down. It also activates your stomach and leg muscles when sitting, as your core muscles are working to keep yourself stable and upright.
It was a god send! It really helped. When I sat without it, the muscles in my hip area, would seize up and get very stiff and painful to move. However, the disc kept me moving very slightly, which kept my muscles working very slowly. So glad I got one!
Try Using a Stability Disc
These are very similar to my Stability Disc. Some people refer to them as Balance Discs. They are very easy to sit on. Like doing your exercises, whilst sitting down. A straight forward and simple solution. You should sit on them for only a couple of hours at a time, they work your upper leg muscles and lower abdominal muscles nicely, without breaking a sweat.
Still in Pain
My biggest pain was caused trying to put my socks on, and tying my shoe laces. I also had trouble lifting my foot onto the opposite knee. The classic symptoms of an aggravated Piriformis muscle. The way I was able to combat this was lots of stretches, once I was warmed up. When I was walking slowly and carefully, I was fine. It was sitting still, or standing still that caused the pain (the physio said this was the build up of toxins around the nerve, trying to help the tissues). So when I finished a walk, I would lay on the floor (or sit, if unable to lay down) and gentle take my foot to the opposite knee until I felt a gentle stretch, then let it stay for a few seconds. After, I had to gently sway the leg out in the opposite direction to relieve pressure on the nerve - and repeat. It was advised never to stretch if it caused pain, nor to stretch into pain - the theory of going through a pain barrier wouldn't work here!
Sometimes, I found it hard to find the motivation to go for a walk (as it was the winter months), so it was advised that I could do these stretches after a hot bath, as my muscles would be warm enough to stretch. Stretching on cold muscles could cause more trouble.
Never stretch a cold muscle
Running Gives Me a Set Back :(
I'm still going to physio and my sciatic nerve seems to have calmed down considerably. I've learnt that it's not common for the sciatic nerve to go through your piriformis muscle, but when it does, you need to keep it happy and not irritated! Feeling much better after keeping up with the stretches.
I thought I was getting back on the road to recovery. I've been feeling sluggish and unfit, so I ventured out for a run. Uh oh! Big mistake! The muscle and nerve flared up again. It felt like I was back to square one. I'm still doing my stretches, and light walking, I've also started going to Body Balance classes, which are a bit like a cross between Yoga and Pilates. I'm also still using my stability disc regularly. In terms of pain, I'm taking paracetamol and Diclofenac Potassium to help with the pain and inflammation, they're not great - but the pain is managable.
Have you had back problems from running or walking on hard ground?
Even Walking Sets Me Back...
Still doing light exercises with Body Balance, which has helped by stretching and working my muscles, without any intensive impact on the nerve itself. I just need to keep taking the low impact options. I've started to take stronger Ibuprofen tablets, to help with the inflammation - again they weren't great, but I could deal with the pain (which turned into a dull ache, rather than a sharp searing pain).
I made the same mistake again! I thought I was getting better, but instead of running, I went for a long walk. Next day, lots of pain and difficulty moving, especially getting out of bed! I walked on concrete, at quite a pace. The impact has flared up my muscle. I need to take it all much slower. Next time I feel I'm getting better - I'm going to wait another 3 - 4 weeks before going for any impact exercise, and then, make sure the ground is soft that I'm walking on!
From talking to a pharmacist, I managed to find even stronger Ibuprofen which had a sustained release, so only 2 tablets lasted 12 hours - these changed everything. Now, I'm in virtually no pain at all - I still get twinges, which tell me I'm not 100% yet, but I feel close to it.
To the Gym
I've started going to the gym and only using the bikes (10 minutes) and cross trainers (15 minutes) - as well as some floor stretches. I'm hoping to go out for some low impact walking, on soft ground too, to help build up my muscles and hopefully start taking light jogs. It's hard resisting the urge to go for a run, because I know I'll do damage to my muscles...positive thinking, positive thinking :)
*News Flash* (mid April) Last night, I had to do some running (much to my frustration), raining hard, no umbrella, late for the theatre...no option. I ran on firm ground, but tried to put most impact on my good leg. Really wasn't looking forward to waking up in agony again...and this morning...no pain. The low impact gym routine, followed by Piriformis stretches must be working. I've also halved my pain relief medication, so things are looking up. Hoping that I can come off them completely, but have to admit that I'm a bit scared of doing so.
No more painkillers!
The end of April and start of May have been fair. Some great news is, I've stopped taking my pain killers - I'm drug free! I'm still getting twinges and acute pains, but it is very minimal compared to what it was. I'm finding I need to use my stability disc less too.
The gym is paying off the most! I've been going every other day - taking it slow, but most importantly making sure I do my stretches. I feel so much better for being able to work out again, but also it's helping my mobility. Motivation to get the gym can be tough, especially if the weather is miserable and it's easier to curl up on the sofa - so I've been listening to audio books. I'm currently listening my way through The Hunger Games, the lady reading it is terrible, but the story is pretty good - so instead of needing to go to the gym, I've turned it into "I want to know what happens next in the book, so I'm going to the gym".
Hopefully the rest of May is good to me
My Gym Routine...
BIKE: 10 minute warm up
CROSS TRAINER: 15 minutes
FLOOR STRETCHES: 5 minutes
SIT UPS: 5 minutes
BIKE: 5 minute cool down
Total time: 40 minutes
Update: 19th May 2012
I've been to the gym 15 times over the past 5 weeks (not bad going), following my routine (as above). I'm feeling great, and the pain in my backside and hip area is virtually gone. I decided to try to take my routine up a notch. I'm at the stage where I can exercise (at last), so now I want to start toning up again, and getting back to the body I used to have. I made a few changes to my routine: I added in 5 minutes on the treadmill! I was actually a bit scared about it. What if I had another set back, and aggravate my sciatic nerve to the point where I can't walk without extreme again?
So, I wanted to walk, but in a way that was slightly more strenuous than regular walking (which I don't have a problem with anymore). On the treadmill, I added an incline of 7.5% and a speed of 6km/hour. It was OK, but the next day, I had a really bad ache at the top of my right leg. It was a different pain though - it felt more muscular than sciatic.
Towards the end of last summer, before my Sciatica really hit me, I experienced similar pains in my leg. Which to me, felt like the start of my piriformis muscle struggling, beginning to cause problems around my sciatic nerve. I don't want to start off the Sciatica again!
I kept going to the gym, and took the treadmill out for a 2 further sessions. Today, I added the Treadmill back in again, but wanted to ease off, and go a little easier than the last time. So I went with an incline of 4% and a speed of 5.5km/hr (less than before). To help the weight loss along a bit, I also increased my time on the cross trainer by another 5 minutes...so far...so good! Let's hope I can add the treadmill into all my sessions down the gym from now on.
My Updated Gym Routine...
BIKE: 10 minute warm up
CROSS TRAINER: 20 minutes
TREADMILL: 5 minutes (incl 4%, 5.5km/hr)
FLOOR STRETCHES: 5 minutes
SIT UPS & BACK RAISES: 5 minutes
BIKE: 5 minute cool down
Total time: 50 minutes
Feeling Ready to Run Again...
I'm feeling better than ever. I used to notice that I had to stretch my piriformis muscle at least every other day, before it starts to seize up. Now, I'm not even noticing, and don't need to stretch it for at least a week at a time. I'm trying to keep on top of it though, and not get complacent or relax and think "hooray, I'm cured" - when I could to some harm and end up back at square one. I'm feeling so proud of myself, that I haven't let Sciatica get the better of me.
My gym routine is getting a bit boring however, so feeling like I want to step it up. Watch this space!
So far, so good...
My Sciatica seems to be behaving itself. I get the odd twinge here and there, and if I do, I just straight down the gym for more stretches!
I've done quite a bit of walking, and very minimal running - when I say running, I'm really talking about short spurts to catch the bus, or because I feel like it...but I haven't ventured out "for a run" yet.
Generally speaking, it feels like my Piriformis Muscle is calm again. I don't know what I did to aggravate it so, but even now, when it feels a bit tight, I can gentle stretch my leg and it feels better.
A Great Book to Help You Through Sciatica Pain
I can run again!
I'm absolutely delighted to report that I can run again - pain free! Sciatica be gone! It's such a wonderful feeling. I used to love running, and pain stopping me from doing doing something I loved was a horrible feeling. Thank goodness my physio and gym work was able to come good for me!
I always stretch before I run, and sometimes do some mild stretching halfway through. I haven't run very far, but I've started none-the-less. I know it's going to take some time to get back to the level of fitness I had before the pain of Sciatica started to take over my life, but I'm determined.
I just need to remember to keep up my Piriformis stretches, so my sciatic nerve and piriformis is kept happy - pretty sure the only way to do it, is keep the stretches going! I've started running to my gym, doing my stretch routine, then running back again. Of course, I could do my stretches at home, but there's something about doing part of the workout at the gym that keeps me feeling athletic! :)
Training for a 5km run!
Well, it's been quite a journey for me. I can finally run at last! My fitness is terrible though. I've been using an app on my iPhone to help build up my stamina. It's really cool, I just put my head phones in, and it tells me when you run and when to walk, then gradually over time, it makes me run a little bit further. Currently, my total running time is 15minutes, with breaks.
I figured, there was no point just running for the sake of running...so I decided to train for a 5km run. I was so fed up and depressed about not doing a 10km last year, that I was determined to get back in the running habit this year. I have to be careful though, and I make sure that I stretch before every run, and stretch after every run too. I do specific piriformis stretches (as highlighted in the videos above), and make sure I do some sit ups to help strengthen my stomach and abdominal muscles too - to give me a strong core again.
I've found my legs and ankles have been taking a battering though. Of course, I've put on weight, not being able to exercise properly, because of my sciatica...so my body is carrying more weight when running - because when I ran previously, I wasn't this heavy. Remarkably though, the thing that has helped me, has been crocs! Yes, crocs! The fashion-faux-pas plasticy shoe sandals. They're so soft and bouncy to walk in, they really help my leg muscles and joints when I walk around the house, lessening the impact on my joints. Never thought I would say this, but I LOVE MY CROCS! Haha! I totally recommend them if you're training for a run after you've been resting from an injury.
I feel so much better about myself, just knowing that I'm getting exercise! And training for a 5km, gives me a great goal to aim for. I'm going to run with a local group called ParkRun. They run every week all across the UK, and I just join them by signing up on the website, then you meet them for your run...and the best part...it's totally free! So, my goal is to be able to to join for their 5km towards the end of October. Fingers crossed for me!
Some Useful Links for Sciatica Sufferers
Hopefully some of these links will help you find some sort of solution for you. Information and images I've used in this lens can also be found in these links.
- Sciatica - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sciatica From Wikipedia,
- Piriformis muscle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Piriformis muscle From Wikipedia
- Sciatica Stretches for Sciatica Pain Treatment
Learn effective sciatica stretches for sciatica pain treatment. Includes sciatica stretches, plus causes, risk factors and treatment tips for a complete recovery from sciatica pain.
- Glastonbury Chiropractor Blog- Low Back and Chronic Pain Relief: What is Causing My Sciatica??
A Chiropractor's blog covering Sciatica.
- Lying Piriformis Stretch - How to Stretch the Piriformis Muscle and Open the Hips
Tight piriformis muscles can lead to knee pain and lower back pain. Use this simple piriformis stretch to open your hips and keep the piriformis limber.
It's been a year since I got Sciatica!
This time last year I was in agony. This time last year, I got Sciatica for the first time in my life. The past year has been extraordinary. When I think back to that awful weekend in Paris (that should have been one of the best holidays of the year), I'm so thankful that I've been able to relieve the debiltating pain of Sciatica. Thank goodness for physiotherapists is all I can say!
I can't believe how much my health has improved since last month too. A couple of months ago, I could hardly run for a minute without gasping for breath. Now, from training, I can run for 22 minutes without stopping! I feel so good. I'm not quite ready for a 5km run yet, but I will be in no time!
The following 6 months of living with Sciatica...
Now 18 months have passed since I first got Sciatica!
Since November 2012 to April 2013...Wow, in 18 months my quality of life has changed so much. Long gone are the days of constant pain in my right hip area, and now things are so much better.
Since my last entry, a lot has happened: Christmas, New Year, Easter, a European holiday...My birthday. I firmly believe the thing that has kept me mobile and pain free is exercise. I'm still running, but haven't quite got to the stage of doing a Park Run yet - but that doesn't mean I haven't forgotten about it being a goal of mine (I've been getting stick from a friend about this...Billy, I will get there!) My exercise routine consists of a 5km run, with a stretch of walking in the middle.
I try to do this 2 or 3 times a week, but recently it's slipped due to a stupid stomach bug (non-related to Sciatica). As soon as I got sick, and realised I couldn't run, I began to panic that my exercise would stop, thus weakening the muscles in my leg, and potentially trigger another bout of the dreaded sciatica. However, so far, so good...I should be ready to try a run again in a couple of days.
I've been getting an overwhelming amount of messages about my experience of Sciatica, asking for questions, advice, tips and lovely sentiments. So thank you, and keep them coming! It's such a fantastic feeling knowing that I can offer an insight into what happened to me, and then help someone else. A couple of people have asked me for medical advice, which is a bit scary - I am not a doctor!! But of course, anything I can do to help, I'd love to. So, until next time...keep mobile and pain free x
I would love to hear your stories and comments, especially if you have any other ideas that could help Sciatica sufferers. I would like to think that some of my experience can help another sufferer. There is no cure. We can only work to get comfortable. Sciatica is not fun, but it can be managed.