Dealing with sciatica

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Dealing with sciatica

Post by macgyver » Sat Jun 16, 2018 10:05 pm

So I've dealt with a lot of pain over my life, staying off unnecessary medication as often as possible. Being stubborn & focusing on mind/body healing has helped too. Backup 3 weeks ago when I woke up with sciatica for the first time out of nowhere. This has been the worst consistent pain I've ever dealt with.
I've done and tried a lot since then, and it's slowly feeling not so shitty (constant stretching, standing desk at work, walking around more, chiropractor, etc)
Mostly my glute, outer rear thigh and outer calf are the areas that are the most debilitating - feeling like a band that cant stretch. This happens after sitting for a bit and lying down. That said, I'm getting cabin fever and need to get back to altitude. For anyone that's had this, I'm wondering what you've done to make things better in the short and long term, recovery time and when you were able to get back to the peaks and backpacking.
Last edited by macgyver on Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dealing with sciatica

Post by pbarn » Sat Jun 16, 2018 10:25 pm

Hey MacG,

First of all, I’m so sorry to hear of your pain. It can be excruciatingly painful and debilitating, and being an “invisible” condition can make it worse, as others can’t always understand what you’re going through.

I had intense sciatica for 15 months in my early 30s because of a double disc rupture. I could walk 50 yards and then would have to sit or lie down. I tried everything - stretching, strengthening, physio, chiro, opioid medication, herbal medication, steroid injections, yoga, acupuncture... nothing worked. The only respite I had was in the swimming pool.

Eventually I bit the bullet and had surgery - and was fixed immediately. In the 4 years since I’ve had ZERO issues: I play sport, snowboard, hike, climb and so forth. In fact I continue to hike as it keeps everything strong in the core.

As far as the best treatment is for you, I obviously recommend medical assistance to fully gauge the extent of your injury and plan recovery. That’s too hard to tell over a forum, and from a group of people not necessarily medically trained.

But there is hope for you. I got through it and came out stronger. You can too.

And once again I’m sorry for your current pain. It bites. Then not much more I could say to that.
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Re: Dealing with sciatica

Post by SnowAlien » Sat Jun 16, 2018 10:56 pm

I work as a massage therapist and I frequently see people with this condition (sounds like you have an acute stage). Sciatica nerve goes through the opening in your hip and passes under the piriformis, one of the gluteal musles. When piriformis gets tight, it pinches the sciatica nerve, which causes the inflammation. Aside from trigger point massage, which seems to be effective, we recommend sitting on a ball chair. I practice in Breck, and we see a huge number of active people - bikers, skiers, cyclists, runners who have sciatica problem in one form or another. ... YGEALw_wcB
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Re: Dealing with sciatica

Post by nomad_games » Sat Jun 16, 2018 10:59 pm

I had it too, but it sounds like it was a bit milder. I fixed mine doing yoga religiously. But the advice to seek professional medical help is probably the best one anyone here can give you. Good luck.
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Re: Dealing with sciatica

Post by painless4u2 » Sun Jun 17, 2018 4:46 am

I feel your pain. Same symptoms in same area. Had an MRI which showed L4-L5 flattened disc with offset vertebral alignment. No amount of messaging and stretching was going to fix a serious hardware problem, so had a fusion with titanium rods and bolts. After a period of recovery, I was back about 90%, did Half Dome, skiing, etc. But then, stupidly, I was moving a bunch of book boxes and have had a return of my symptoms. Haven't had a look to see what has happened but I'm certain it's another, similar problem. Bottom line: surgery should fix the issue (if conditions require it) and you can return to normal activity, but don't do stupid stuff afterwards.
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Re: Dealing with sciatica

Post by koeffling » Sun Jun 17, 2018 7:33 am

Sorry to hear about your leg pain. I'm a physical therapist and see this quite frequently. Sciatica is a broad term for any pain down the leg. If it's true sciatica, doing some soft tissue work (massage, foam roll, stretching) can help. I'll mention that nerve roots from the lumbar spine can also have specific patterns of pain running down the leg (can also include some weakness, tingling or numbness or burning or really intense pain). Some of the above mentioned exercises can help this too, also some back motion exercises or decompression positions.

I'm biased, of course, but I'd recommend seeing a PT. Your MD will likely send you there anyway, they can do an exam and give you some guidance on things to try or refer out to a surgeon if needed. A lot of times this can get better with conservative treatment (both true sciatic but also nerve root compression from bulging discs), I always encourage people to try PT first. The pool is a great option for getting some activity in the meantime, it's buoyancy is a little traction-like for the spine. And not just swimming, but you can do some great core, upper body work, cardio, and lower body against resistance. Go see someone! I can't tell you how many people wait for months and months. There's likely something that can be done.
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Re: Dealing with sciatica

Post by powhound » Sun Jun 17, 2018 8:01 am

First time I had it was three years ago. In addition to leg pain, the bottom of my foot got really hot. So weird. The doc prescribed stretches - and when it still wouldn't completely go away, a dose pack of steroids. It eventually did go away after six weeks. The last two years it started up again at the same time of year, late spring. Mud season - after skiing and before summer hiking, when my activity level isn't as much. I recognized it early, and more importantly, what would cause it to flare up. The culprit … too much time sitting at my computer. The remedy for me is too get up and move around frequently, sit on a big bouncy ball instead of desk chair, and walk. At the first hint of it, I go out for a brisk two mile walk. When hanging around the house, not using the computer, I realized my leg is sensitive to the pressure various chairs put on the backside of my thigh. I found kicking back in a recliner feels best. These last two years, it never got too bad and was gone in a couple of weeks. Everyone is different, but that's what has worked for me - so far anyway. Good luck.
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Re: Dealing with sciatica

Post by MtnHub » Sun Jun 17, 2018 10:08 am

First of all macgyver, I feel your pain. Literally!! I've been suffering with sciatica for the last 10-12 years and it's only gotten much worse. This past fall it was so severe it really bothered me when I walked, and sometimes I couldn't even sit to relax. Sometimes I had to stand up to even read a book.
koeffling wrote:Sorry to hear about your leg pain. I'm a physical therapist and see this quite frequently. Sciatica is a broad term for any pain down the leg. If it's true sciatica, doing some soft tissue work (massage, foam roll, stretching) can help. I'll mention that nerve roots from the lumbar spine can also have specific patterns of pain running down the leg (can also include some weakness, tingling or numbness or burning or really intense pain). Some of the above mentioned exercises can help this too, also some back motion exercises or decompression positions.
As Koeffling states, sciatica is really just a broad term to describe pain in this general area. My pain is due to arthritic spinal stenosis in the low lumbar region pinching the nerves coming from the spine. Over the years I've tried most everything -- chiropractors, acupuncture, massage therapy, physical therapy, TENS units, yoga, Tai chi, etc. -- but they all had no true effect and some just made the pain worse.

Epidural steroid injections initially helped a couple of times, but they have no effect anymore either. OTC pain relievers never offered any relief so I don't even bother trying them anymore. I'm not one to take any medication, but my local Pain Clinic prescribed prophylactic use of a narcotic, 1-2 tabs a day to stay on top of the pain and control it up to a point. Although they only work about 50% of the time, I do see some relief from them occasionally. I'm scheduled to have a Radiofrequency Ablation in a couple of weeks and it sounds promising, so I'm hoping it will offer enough temporary relief for me to get some hiking and climbing in late July and early August.

I agree with some of the above to keep checking with your local doc/Pain Clinic to find out exactly what your pain is from and see if anything can help. As there's so much variance with this kind of pain, no one can really diagnosis your problem except a professional medical team. Don't give up! Good luck!
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Re: Dealing with sciatica

Post by macgyver » Sun Jun 17, 2018 9:59 pm

Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback and experiences. Everything posted so far has been both helpful and encouraging. I never knew there could be so many variances for this thing & attempts to research have been more difficult than I would’ve imagined. I knew the community would pull through with real world answers!
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Re: Dealing with sciatica

Post by esskay1000 » Mon Jun 18, 2018 5:35 am

I'm dealing with a very mild sciatica right now, nothing compared to what you've described but still annoying. Mine is probably from a herniated disc in my twenties, or at least that's what the doctor told me. I find that the main culprit for me is too much sitting as someone else described above. Like most I'm a white-collar jockey at my job, and also admittedly spend too much time sitting when I come home.

Even though I'm very active as far as cycling and running, those are no more than 2 or 3 hours or a day, and not enough to counter the effect. I find that I have to stand up at my computer, and generally just make a habit of being on my feet most of the time and not sitting. When I do this the pain subsides, almost automatically.
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Re: Dealing with sciatica

Post by highpilgrim » Mon Jun 18, 2018 7:34 am

I have a badly broken lower back with two vertebrae 3/8 of an inch out of alignment. There is no disc left between them. At times, the sciatica it causes has been quite bad and I have found various strategies to alleviate the pain. One, shown below, is about kneeling down and spreading my legs widely. This stretching exercise helps if done frequently. My repetitive stretching on a trip to Mount Wilson became known as the Deuce which later became the screen name for a member some may remember. We certainly had fun with it on several trips. Obviously, seen below, some people are better at this exercise than others. :mrgreen:

deucing.jpg (598.71 KiB) Viewed 1082 times
I've had this issue going back to at least 2006 and probably longer and the problems it causes are cyclical. Sometimes bad and sometimes not. And it has become clear that the bad times are when I have been lazy, gained a few pounds, and spend too much time sitting on my ass. The more I exercise, the stronger my core is, the less it hurts. It especially responds to long distance biking which seems to focus a lot of energy on the muscles around the injury and when they are happy, the rest of me is too.

When the damage was first seen on an xray, the doc was amazed that I was not having much more severe problems with it but when I shared my exercise habits she encouraged me to continue. Her opinion was surgery was a last resort and everything else should be exhausted first. Seemed like good advice to me.
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Re: Dealing with sciatica

Post by pmeadco » Mon Jun 18, 2018 9:05 am

Lots of good advice in this thread. As was alluded to before, it is hard to give advice without know what exactly is causing the pain. Have you seen a specialist? Is there any obvious cause that they can see? That is really critical if you want to do more than toss darts at a treatment recommendation dart-board.

My story is similar to others: lots of years slouching in front of a computer monitor, compounded by lots of pounding moguls on skis, and other insults to my back. One night the pain wouldn't go away, and I could not even stand up. After spending the 4th of July in a hospital bed, waiting to hear the results of my MRI, wishing the pain would go away, I learned that I had a ruptured disk, and a fragment was embedded in my spinal cord. No amount of therapy was going to cure that. I went in for a discectomy, which in my case amounted to about a one-inch incision. They peeked in, picked out the fragments, did a good rinse, and sewed me back up. I was home that afternoon.

After recovering from the surgery, and patiently following the prescribed therapy for recovery, I've been mostly pain-free for decades. I have learned how much I can lift without causing pain (I won't pick up anything more than about 50-60 pounds) and what motions cause inflammation (no golf for me, but backpacking is OK; mountain biking on twisty terrain that forces me out of the pedals and to work the bike helps a lot; I can't sit in the same position for too long), so I haven't induced any pain in years. Staying active and in reasonable physical condition is critical to avoiding pain. I'm told that as the remains of the disk fade away I'm destined to have arthritis, but as I approach my seventh decade I'm still doing well.
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