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  1. #1
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    Sciatica is a Cruel Mistress. Does it ever go away??

    Hi Everyone,

    Sciatica is a cruel, hard, mistress. Its been 4.5 months since it set in, and although its getting better overall, I’m still having problems.

    Can I ask those of you that have gone through it to share what it felt like as things were healing?

    Over a period of weeks or months, it seems to be constantly changing. In the beginning it was all numbness and tingling, and horrid shock-like pain after sitting and then standing. Then these symptoms settled and it changed to pain when I sit down, and lower back pain that moves all over the place.

    The last 6-8 weeks, its been a couple good weeks with only a little light lower back pain, then it will get bad again for a few days or a couple weeks, and then the cycle continues.

    Now its burning and aches in my calf, and the usual “fragile” feeling in the back.

    It constantly changes! I’ve been off the bike for all serious riding for 4 months and I am going mental. Walking is my exercise and it helps. Doctors and PT all conclude “unlikely to be a herniation”.

    What was it like FOR YOU as you recovered? I guess I’m looking for some shared experiences to benchmark myself with. Without ever having a problem before, and perhaps expecting too rapid a recovery, I’m finding this quite frustrating.

    Thanks,

    CK

  2. #2
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    Have you had an MRI done on your lower back? If not, how could a doctor or a PT make the assessment that it's not a herniation or bulging of a disc? Something has to be pressing on the sciatic nerve in order to cause the problems. Can you go back 4.5 months and clearly indicate if there was an A-HA moment that caused the onset of the symptoms?
    It sounds to me as though either the sciatic nerve was damaged by some event. Nerves do take a while to heal, how long I'm not 100% sure. My experience has been with a ruptured disc that originally caused massive lower back pain and some sciatic issues. The first surgery to the disc alleviated all problems until it ruptured again. This time, my right leg went completely numb and I started getting "drop foot" issues. After the second surgery, I haven't had any more issues with sciatic problems. However, this was due to a traumatic injury.
    I'm not an MD, but my recommendation would be to get an MRI, if you haven't done so already, and then consult with a neurosurgeon or someone of the like that can interpret why the nerve is having issues.

  3. #3
    AZ
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    FWIW, walking is not the normal course of action for rehabbing Sciatica . I agree that a Neuro Surgeon or Neuro Therapist is probably a good next step .

  4. #4
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    Well, walking helps! I do a fair bit of stretching as well.

    I'm well past the acute stage. I had a back injury that bothered me for a week or two in Feb. The sciatica started at the beginning of March. I was shovellign snow, then flew to the West coast, and the next day, had the sore back. It wasn't bad enough to keep me from work though.

    MRI's were deemed not necessary since my symptoms have been "mild". I have full range of motion, just a variety of aches and pains that come and go.

    So what does a herniated disc feel like a few months out?

  5. #5
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    I have had sciatica twice the first time about 12 years ago when it looked like i had worms under my skin with the nerves working away on there own,doctor presribed complete rest where i spent 4 weeks laid flat on my back,i cannot remember the healing process.
    The second time was 6 months ago,bent over to talk to my friend in his car and back went again,went to doctors and nowadays they prescribe rest for the first 48 hours and then you have to get yourself mobile,i found i was most comfortable on my bike so just did some gentle riding and within a month it had cured itself.
    I only had trouble with my leg and didnt really suffer with my back but the healing process was quite quick and the the pain just slowly resided until i was left with just a weak ankle which i dragged around or so it seemed for a week or two after the pain had gone.
    Im by no means a Doctor but i was led to understand that sciatica only affected the back of the legs although i could be quite wrong on this.
    Try and keep yourself mobile as much as possible and i wish you the best of luck in a speedy recovery

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by nth_dimension
    Well, walking helps! I do a fair bit of stretching as well.

    I'm well past the acute stage. I had a back injury that bothered me for a week or two in Feb. The sciatica started at the beginning of March. I was shovellign snow, then flew to the West coast, and the next day, had the sore back. It wasn't bad enough to keep me from work though.

    MRI's were deemed not necessary since my symptoms have been "mild". I have full range of motion, just a variety of aches and pains that come and go.

    So what does a herniated disc feel like a few months out?
    In my case, my disc was just bulging at first. It felt like something was not right, just a slight bit of pain, but nothing too serious. Of all things, I was bending over to pick up an RC car and POW! it popped and I thought that I was going to throw up. I had to ride in an ambulance to the ER and get some good drugs. It was a long process that I still deal with today...
    You'd know if it was ruptured. However, everyone is built differently, so even a slightly bulging disc can put pressure on the sciatic nerve if the pocket between the nerve and the bone is not very large. A disc doesn't have to fully rupture to put pressure on the nerves.

    Personally, to me, if the problem is still ongoing, and the treatments that your doctors have not worked, then I'd request that a doctor prescribe an MRI to get a better look at what's happening inside. If your doctor is not willing to prescribe one, then find another doctor. If you're having that many problems with it, obviously that tells me there's something wrong that needs to be fixed. Sometimes rest can't fix everything. Take charge of your health and demand that something be done. Ultimately it's your body and if you're okay with being uncomfortable(which you wouldn't have posted up on here if you were), then by all means just keep doing the same old same old. However, if it was me and I was not comfortable, and what you've been doing hasn't worked, then do something different. The old adage is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and always expecting an alternative outcome.

    However, just my $.02. I've been dealing with lower back problems for the last seven years.

  7. #7
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    I have something related, but not sciatica: piriformis syndrome.

    It sucks big time. I've broken my wrist in three places, ripped my left ACL, have meniscus damage, and damn, I've never had such pain.

    I thought I was better, but dang, I was wrong. Went for an easy ride yesterday, maybe a mile, but I couldn't have done anything more stupid. I'm hoping to take it easy and get on the bike next week, but with pain I've been having, I really need to get on the PT and stretch with this one, as painful as it is.

    Anyone here go through piriformis syndrome?
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  8. #8
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    Not I .... unless that is specifically what ails me.

  9. #9
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    Your meatball doctor acts like he's flipping the bill for the MRI.

    Find a new doctor, there's enough of them out there.

    Hell, a good PT can look at your MRI and tell you what's going on. Just remember, if you can get one done, be sure to keep the films, they are yours.

    Hope you feel better soon

    Mojo

  10. #10
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    those symptoms hardly seem mild.

    I did have severe pain for a few days and only very little scatia, and my MRI showed that I had 1 herniated disc, 1 torn disc, both of which are ruptured. For you not to get an MRI is silly, they are fast and easy.
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  11. #11
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    Cruel, yeah. But there is hope.

    I watched a taped microdiscectomy for sciatica on closed circuit tv in the hospital about 10 years ago.

    Through a one-inch incision, you could see the sciatic nerve (the thing's huge) begin pulsing with blood as soon as the offending disc material was snipped away.

    Under local anaesthetic; the patient walked away that day--immediate relief.

    If that could work for me (my problems are complex), I'd go for it in a heartbeat.

    You'd need the MRI to know. Best wishes.

    Doesn't sound like piriformis stretching would do it for you. It's unusual for it to work.

  12. #12
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    There is hope.......I Had some bad sciatic about 10 months ago at one point I could not walk more then 100 feet without scorching pain in my buttocks and lower back. Sleeping at night was awful.
    Eventually it went away after 6-8 weeks of complete rest.

    It's not pleasant.Something was pinching a nerve in my lower back.

    MRI showed four bulging discs but total rest allowed me to heal. The activity that helped the most was immersion in a pool. After the 8 weeks I started to strengthen my core and do pilates 2x a week. Now I do 20-50 cobra stretches every day and have not looked back or had any real pain to speak of.

    My advice.....Get a MRI then hook up with a good Physical Therapist that can do traction and start a strenghening and stretching regiman.

  13. #13
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    I feel your pain.
    I had sciatica for about two weeks. I was crippled. Could not lay down, stand up or do anything to relieve the pain. Felt like I was being stabbed in the back with a hot knife, pain shooting down my leg. Probably the worst pain I ever felt. I've had back spasms, I thought those were bad, but nothing compared to sciatica.
    Pretty sure the whole ordeal was caused by a couple weeks of sitting on my butt in airplanes and vehicles. Move it or lose it.
    I hope you get better. See a doctor and have an MRI if you can afford it. The human body is a wonderful thing, usually it just takes time to heal. With sciatica, every day seems like forever.

  14. #14
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    Did you read the book I recommended in your other thread?

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    adoble - yes, I read Sarno's book. I agree that the mind has a role to play, but I am not yet sold on the idea of TMS.

    All - I have not gotten an MRI, simply because based on clinical signs and my history, 2 doctors and 3 PT's do not think I popped a disc. I have full range of motion and all that jazz. I never missed so much as an hour of work.

    I think its healing (whatever it was). Its just in the long recovery phase where stuff still hurts to a degree here and there.

    Anyway, I'm mostly curious about how people, in particular serious cyclists, recovered, and what the recovery was like in terms of symptoms, etc. I have non-athletic friends who say that after a disc injury, it was 1-2 months of major pain, followed by 5-7 months of intermittent stuff. That's all fine, but thet never had the need to get back on a mountain bike!

    Thanks again for sharing.

  16. #16
    Hud
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    I had sciatica once after crashing sideways onto concrete (new to clipless) I had increasingly bad pain. Eventually it was a chiro who fixed me permanently after 2 visits - jammed pelvis.
    I realise this is very simplistic post compared to the others above, maybe shovelling snow had a similar effect.
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  17. #17
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    I had sciatica really bad. I have a herniated disc between S1-L1. The thing that got me back on my feet was Lodine (an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen) and exercise.

    I had a bad case, sitting for more than 20 minutes was excruciating and my 50 minute drive into work was pure torture. At work when I got up from my desk I would have a bad limp until things loosened up. The doctor insisted on surgery but let me give physical therapy a try first. Physical therapy wasn't that effective until I started adding core strengthening exercises like leg raises and sit-ups. I also started doing a lot of biking. That’s when things really started improving. On the biking end I did lots of steep hill climbs and a good bit of that was mountain biking. Cycling I've heard is one of the best things for your back.

    You need to use it to get better. Inactivity will only make things worse.

    A consistent dose of anti-inflammatory is very important. Don't just take them when it hurts you have to take them every day like you would vitamins. I would take them twice a day. Immediately when I woke up in the morning and an hour before my drive home from work. A regular does is really important to get the inflammation pain cycle under control.

    When you have an injury like a herniated disc your body naturally moves away from the pain and you no longer sit/stand properly. This causes misalignment and this in turn puts more pressure on other parts of your body. This starts a vicious downward cycle of misalignment and pain and everything begins to get all out of wack. Your spine, hips, knees all kinds of problems. That’s why the anti-inflamatories are really important. Everything needs to calm down and get back in place.

    One other note. I was told by an orthopedic specialist that the cause of the pain is a build up of fluid that causes nerve impingement. He said eventually the body will absorb that fluid and the pain will subside. He said very few discectomy surgeries were truly needed. Take that for what it's worth. In my case I suffered for nearly a year.


    All that said if I had it to over again I would have opted for the surgery. I don't stay up on my core exercises so the pain returns now and then (mild) and seem to be developing arthritis in that leg. Get pain in my knee and foot. I also avoid one my favorite things, skiing moguls, quite frankly because it hurts.

  18. #18
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    10 years ago I had a ruptured - fractured disk with a few floating pieces in L5 / S1...used heavy doses of Motrin, ice, heat, decompression therapy, stretching. Next step was laminectomay and doc was talking about fusion....nope I took the conservative approach.

    Read Sarno...self talk (yeah it sounds wacky and mumbo jumbo) drank lots of water, LOTS of fish oil...light exercises. Took about 6 months but was back up and active. If you were to live in Europe a doc would first recommend what I went through as about 90% of all disc problems will take care of themselves in about 6 months.

    If you are pooping our peeing yourself demand a MRI and sometimes a disc repair is necessary....by all means try and avoid fusion, as I have yet to talk with someone who has remained pain free after having one.

    So ten years after foot drop and pain so bad I was in bed for over a week I have the occasional numbness, and slight pain but at 47 feel great 95% of the time.

    If you have true peraformais syndrome I would think that a high anti-inflammatory diet may help. Try lots of fish oil (1 tablespoon a day for at least a month, I take Carlsons), ginger...as much as you can tolerate, curry ( I add it to everything) and water, water, water.

    Good Luck...you will feel better soon!!!

  19. #19
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    Thanks so much for the comments. Other people's experiences are so helpful in this mess.

    4-5 months ago I had nasty pain when getting up after sitting. I would be a like a tazer shot into my thigh or something like that. Only walking a little could loosen it up. My foot was numb (the outside edge mainly) and tingled all the time as well. Pins and needles. I'd get a periodic blast of pain and numbness in the calf area as well.

    Now, after a few months, the only real symptoms are some calf aches that come and go, with the odd sensation in the foot. I still have a loose feeling in my back as well. Its hard to describe, but it just feels fragile. Flexibility is back to 99%. (ie I go to my PT and when he does the leg raise test, both legs go to 90 degress)

    I guess that's progress!

    The hardest part of an injury like this, other than the fact that your normal routine (for me 4-6 days of hard cycling) is upset, is the fear of making things worse. I have seen people knocked out for weeks with a disc. Its tpugh finding the balance between doing enough to recover, and not doing too much to cause further damage.

  20. #20
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    I second the book by Sarno, believe it or not (still find it hard to believe myself)) I stopped lifting weights 2 surguries and 15 years ago because of shoulder pain from lifting weights, even moderately. Guess what, I've been lifting everyother day for about 6 weeks now w/o any pain. The only thing I did was read "the book".

    Similar with lower back pain, chronic since 3 years ago. After MRI's, x rays, stretching, inversion, herbs, antiflamitory's, acupunture, P.T., chiropractic, core training the pain never really went away, just got worse it seemed. This year I serriously thought about quitting mtn biking (a great passion of mine) and all physical activity.

    Guess what, after reading "the book" my pain reduced better than 80-90%

    I still stretch and w/o my core regulary and take a natual anti inflamitiry suppliment called BCQ (do a google on it). But I don't think about my back anymore. After all your back is actually a very strong structure and it can really take a beating, so why all of the pain? The book helped me understand this.

    Anyway, it's working for me (knock on wood) so far, and I hope it continues.

    Good luck again,

    David

  21. #21
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    Yep What everyone else said PT is the key. Ice helps too when you get sore.

    If your symptons are not constant and don't involve any weakness, then surgery is not necessary. Surgery can fail during the procedure or after and then you are in far worse condition than before, its a risk.

    Try different PTs if you can, because in my expierience all their programs are different and that is one of the keys to strengthening muscles and limbering joints -- VARIETY of excercises.

  22. #22
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    Homer8: I have true piriformis syndrome. I'm on the anti-inflammatory diclofenac sodium, just started it tonight. PT starts tomorrow.

    Been icing, stretching, doing as much PT as I can, and it's still excruitating to get on the bike, much less sit in the car.

    I'll definitely work on an anti-inflammatory diet too, and see if that helps. ANy other suggesitons or how long this misery will last will be a big help.

    I have a kneeling chair, which is great for home and work, but it doesn't help for riding in the car or on the bike.

    I also found lots of recommendations to lay on hard surfaces (than a soft bed or sofa) and lay on a tennis ball in the inflamed area (on the back pocket so to speak) when sore.

    My friend also sent me this, which helped initially, but I'm back to pain again today
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFtUgS69rPk

    Everyone else: What's the Samo book? Looking up Samo in Amazon.com doesn't really help.
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  23. #23
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    It took me over 1 year to start to do normal stuff with little pain.
    And over 2 years to have no pain. Sciatica is really really painful. Hope u get better
    i choose mountain bikeing because i cant aford an engine

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stripes
    Homer8: I have true piriformis syndrome. I'm on the anti-inflammatory diclofenac sodium, just started it tonight. PT starts tomorrow.

    Been icing, stretching, doing as much PT as I can, and it's still excruitating to get on the bike, much less sit in the car.

    I'll definitely work on an anti-inflammatory diet too, and see if that helps. ANy other suggesitons or how long this misery will last will be a big help.

    I have a kneeling chair, which is great for home and work, but it doesn't help for riding in the car or on the bike.

    I also found lots of recommendations to lay on hard surfaces (than a soft bed or sofa) and lay on a tennis ball in the inflamed area (on the back pocket so to speak) when sore.

    My friend also sent me this, which helped initially, but I'm back to pain again today
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFtUgS69rPk

    Everyone else: What's the Samo book? Looking up Samo in Amazon.com doesn't really help.
    http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Back-P.../dp/0446392308

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  25. #25
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    Shred303 and Homer8: After seeing an ortho sports back specialist, I have a thinning disc at L5-S1, not piriformis syndrome. The doc was able to see something in the crappy X-ray that the chiros and GP could not: the very small space between L5 and S1 that wasn't really clear because my hip bones were covering it in the X-ray.

    It was my PT (my GP gave me a PT prescription, he would prefer to do that than meds where possible) who figured out I was inflamed at the L5-S1 area (OMG, he is a godsend), and iced and e-stim'd the low back, not the right glute where the pain was. Guess what? I was feeling better and not in tears after seeing him and getting PT.

    My PT also told me to see a specialist (turns out the one I saw is a friend of my PT's, so he wrote down more specific instructions), and I'm set for an MRI tomorrow, and the diagnosis/prognosis Tuesday.

    I've been icing and doing PT (planks and crunches, because the doc said "do anything that doesn't hurt") 4-5 times a day. The pain is almost gone, except for the illiopsoas (front hip muscle), which was contracted to prevent me from torquing myself to the right.

    I've also taken up an anti-inflammatory diet (thank you for recommending it here!), which was ordered to me by my plastic surgeon (breast reduction, 7 lbs of breast tissue is too much for any back to remain healthy, over half will be removed in January). I've only been doing that for a few days, but I'm feeling better on it (no acid reflux or allergies is a nice side effect of it).

    So even though I'm not the OP, I really appreciate this thread.. because it's what I have (not what I think I have). The back doc says it should be another 4-6 weeks (that was last week, so the MRI may say differently) before I can get on the bike again.

    My body took well to PT for my healing broken wrist a few years ago (I have almost full extension ), and it helped with my knee (complete tear in my left ACL, ugh, I'm a wreck). So the doc is hoping that PT will be all it takes, and I won't need any shots (he said something about a cortisone shot, which I've heard mixed results with for most folks).

    Locally, I asked what helps with back pain:
    - Do your PT, everything and then some.
    - Strengthen your core/abs
    - Get a more back-friendly bike position (more upright in most cases)
    - Lose weight (I'm down 7 lbs in 6 weeks, and that's before the diet changes)

    I'll keep you guys posted on the MRI. Having the X-ray I thought was originally the chiro being a quack, but it turned out to be a good thing for the back doc. In this case, the better diagnosis tools you can get access to (x-ray, MRI, etc), take advantage of it. It's your body, you should be able to see what's up with it.
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