View Full Version : Sciatica

Apr. 9, 2010, 09:27 AM
I am currently dealing with a lot of pain from sciatica on my left side. When my doctor diagnosed me with it, the pain was manageable, so he just told me to "take it easy" and let it at that. But for the last week or so the pain has gotten very bad. It wakes me up at night, and I'm in almost constant pain no matter what I"m doing.

A little back story - I've had this sciatica since the end of October, so about 5 and a half months now. At first, I tried to strike a balance between staying active, but not over-doing it. After trying to do that for a while, I thought perhaps it would go away faster if I just don't work out. I was never given any rehab exercises/stretches to do, so I just stopped working out, but continued to ride and do barn work, because that's a huge part of my life.

Now, after about a month or 2 of not working out, I'm feeling this extreme pain. I don't know if this is normal or not. I had a friend tell me he's heard this type of thing hurts more when it's in the healing phase, so he thinks this is a good thing. But I'm wondering if I should go see my doctor again.

This is especially concerning to me, because for the first time since I've had it, it affected my riding during my lesson this past weekend. I never had it hurt while in the saddle before. But now it's gotten to that point, and I don't know what to do to fix this so I can continue to grow in my riding pursuits without having to worry about the sciatica pain.

*Any* advice, words of wisdom, or suggestions would be much appreciated - I'm just becoming so drained from the lack of sleep and constant pain that I'm not sure what to do with myself. :no:

Apr. 9, 2010, 10:20 AM
Please search & read all the threads on back pain, herniated discs, epidural injections etc. both here and on Off Course.

Sciatica is the radiating pain (pain going down your leg/butt) caused by an irritated/inflamed nerve. It causes strong muscle spasms & pain. It's caused by nerve irritation at the site on your spine where the nerve leaves the spinal canal. The most common cause is a herniated disc. You need to be evaluated for a possible disc or the cause. Get thee to an orthopedist.

Until then; take nsaids around the clock, ice your lower back, stop lifting, stop riding....for now. You could be causing more damage. Damaged nerves don't always repair.....

Stop anything that causes concussion to your spine until your symptoms resolve. No sitting trots, jumping. Wear good sneakers to absorb shock when walking. Avoid sitting long periods.

MANY of us have been there and done this....best wishes on a quick recovery. We KNOW how it feels and it is terrible. GitRDone!!

Apr. 9, 2010, 12:02 PM
definitely need to find out what is causing the sciatica. Mine is helped greatly by visiting the chiropractor.

Apr. 9, 2010, 12:22 PM
If you take nsaids, also take tums to coat your tummy. Make your dr. write you a scrip for physical therapy, and get or re-learn core strengthening exercises. There are many websites that list pretty standard sciatica stretches. First though, you need to be evaluated, like WG said, as to what the cause is.

My doctor too pretty much blew me off as "oh this is sciatica" and sent me home early on in my own plight. He was deaf to me telling him how debilitating the pain was, that it was so bad I saw stars etc. This was my cue, after 30 years of seeing him, to finally go find someone else who dug deep and found 4 bulging discs. So, get to the bottom of this as soon as you can, then stick to your exercises every day! Good luck!

Apr. 9, 2010, 01:20 PM
Mine is helped greatly by five minutes on an inversion table.

Apr. 9, 2010, 01:56 PM
I've been blessed that mine doesn't hurt riding, but I believe it to be one of the sources of my stiffness in the saddle as I am still protecting myself. I find stretches help and avoiding certain methods of lifting altogether.

In your case I would get back to the doctor - having enough pain to not be able to sleep will have such a negative effect on your quality of life, and does seem to be one of the things that a doctor will pay attention to.

Apr. 9, 2010, 02:43 PM
I saw a chiropractor who was an active muscle release practitioner. The work was painful (I called her office Nancy's House of Pain), but the pain went away.

a pox on doctors who don't dig into pain to help.

Apr. 9, 2010, 02:48 PM
I thought I had sciatica and on a hunch, my doctor ordered xrays of my hip. Turns out, I had severe arthristis in my hip with bone spurs. I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who did arthropscopic surgery on my hip to shave the bone spurs and repair a torn labrum.

My remaining pain is due to the arthritis, which I must live with until I have my hip replaced. I have a prescription for Celebrex which helps me ride.

Best of luck to you.

Apr. 9, 2010, 04:05 PM
Sciatica can also be caused by a very tight piriformis muscle if the sciatic nerve happens to run through that muscle.

Chiropractic helps.
Massage helps.
Acupuncture helps.
Correct use of the body (back, core, legs, etc.) helps. This means PT, Pilates, yoga, etc. Not just working out.

Core stability is the most important, not core strength. There is a difference between the two and completely different approaches to each.

Core stability work is low load, low number of reps - Pilates.
Core strength work is high load, high number of reps - typical weight lifting mode.

I got over my sciatica by increasing the curvature of my lower back. I used a rolled foam in a tube tied around my waist to help me assume that position.

Apr. 9, 2010, 04:54 PM
Wow - all wonderful replies here. Thank you all so very much for the words of wisdom.

I've decided based on your suggestions to stop doing *any* activity (including riding) until I can get into my dr's office to at least have a good look-over and try to ID what's causing the sciatica. I'll proceed from there once I know what I can safely get back to doing.

I've been looking for an excuse to go to the chiro and get a massage anyhow, so maybe this can be my excuse. ;)

In the meantime, I got some aspirin, have Tums, and will be using an ice pack on my back in the evenings. I'm trying to sit and stand as straight as I can (although I want so badly to compensate that it's very difficult), and will do stretching every chance I get when it starts to feel tight/sore.

Ugh - I have so much pain right now that I feel half sick to my stomach. But, now I know that I'm certainly not alone in this. Thank you all so very, very much for giving me some direction to work toward! :) And I'll keep you all posted as I get answers.

Apr. 9, 2010, 05:54 PM
My sciatica was caused by bone spurs at the L4-L5 level pressing on the nerve. The pain was incredible - comparable to childbirth. I had a neurosurgeon remove the spur on one side (the first one to give me trouble) and a couple years later had pain on the other side from another bone spur and had to have another surgery and a spinal fusion since my spine had shifted some (when they remove the spurs it weakens the structure and you can get spinal collapse). I still ride (but lightly - mostly trail) and live on Celebrex. But at least the sciatica is gone! My advice would be to get thee to a good neurologist or orthopedist and get a diagnosis. Then you will be armed to figure out how to best treat it. Hope you are over the sciatica soon.

Apr. 9, 2010, 05:56 PM
I would definitely see an MD. Chiropractors are fine but you need to know what is up (you could have a compression fracture, a disc issue, arthritis, who knows what) first and foremost.

I have a disc herniation (L4/L5) which is not all that bad 3-4 cm but it has caused me terrible sciatic pain. I tried everything (chiro, PT, acupuncture, the alexander technique, myofacial therapy, rolfing) before I finally broke down and got an epidural. For me that was the thing that allowed me to move on with me life. Riding actually helps my back. If I don't ride, I actually start having sciatica. Go figure.

Good luck.

Couture TB
Apr. 9, 2010, 09:05 PM
I have sciatica problems also, all I know is that my doctor injected something in the most painful area and it feels so much better.

Apr. 9, 2010, 09:56 PM
Please see a neuro-spinal surgeon.

I went through 3 primary doctors, who thought I was just whining and doing the reflexes as well as could be expected for a "normal lady of my age". I finally found a physical therapist who actually listened and evaluated. She has advanced certification in neurology and orthopedics. She also is a very competent rider.

I had mulitple compression fractures in multiple vertebrae, some placed in novel locations and nerve and disc damage. Then there were the hyper-extended ligaments that held my pelvis and back together. I have not had surgery, I found a stem cell guru and regenerated my back. I am doing well, so there is hope!

Apr. 10, 2010, 04:06 AM
I Second the PT motion! I had sciatica when I had lymes- muscle relaxers + physical therapy made a HUGE difference.

Apr. 10, 2010, 10:24 PM
The orthopedist wanted to cut but the chiro, massage therapist and pain management center have kept me riding for about 3 years since that day. Don't believe the first opinion(s)!

Apr. 12, 2010, 09:46 AM
Wow - thank you all for such amazing advice - it's wonderful to have knowledgable folks to get info from!

Do you all want to hear the weirdest story about this? I went to the stable on Saturday just to see my horses (no riding because I don't know what's causing the issues). While leading my greenie mare, she got strong and started prancing/pulling a bit on the line. I thought, "Oh, great - this is the last thing I need right now."

I lead her to the barn, giving her tugs every now and again to get her to stay with me, and taking good sized strides to keep up with her. By the time I get to the barn, I realize... "Holy s@*t! The mare fixed me!!!"

My sciatica isn't completely gone - but it's how it was *before* this recent flare-up - it's quite manageable and only somewhat tight and sore. How odd is that? It makes me think I had a vertebrae or two that were just slightly out of whack, and the yanking pulled them back into place.

Based on that, I'm thinking maybe I should just call a chiro and massage therapist and go that route. Although, it would probably be a good idea for me to still see an MD and/or Ortho... My wallet doesn't know how much it can take. But because it's my health, I'm going to have to suck it up.

Apr. 12, 2010, 11:01 AM
Think you had a good stretching experience!! :winkgrin:
Muscles being stretched have difficulty spasming and causing pain so often gentle, steady, repetitive stretching or muscle movements can stop spasms (hence pain lessens). Keep moving, gently!

And yes, I found a nice walk on a horse loosens my pelvis & lower back and stops spasms for awhile. Get your pelvis pumping & rocking with the walk stride. Bend forward some. Ride short or in 2 point. Every so often stop and bend over onto your horses neck. Touch your chin to his neck. Bring your knees up to your chest. No reason you can't stretch or exercise on the back of a horse. NEVER BEND backwards. Rarely helps and can hinder.

Also when sitting/driving; put a small pillow in the hollow of your back. Also when typing on your keyboard to Coth!!

And I'm not high on chiropractors for backs with true pathology. You can pay your hubby or boyfriend to do a back massage for "free" ya know!! :eek::yes::cool::cool::cool::cool:

Apr. 12, 2010, 11:35 AM
Quite right, Wateryglen! I do believe I'll take your advice. ;)

From everything I've been reading/hearing, I believe I may have caused the flare from my *inactivity* - thinking perhaps sitting and resting would help it heal faster. But, in actuality, it made it tighten and spasm!

Back to gentle work and stretching - keeping with the NSAIDs, and ice at night. And I do believe I can find something to support my back when sitting/driving.

Oh, and my sweet BF has already been doing a little bit of massage here and there for me - I'll have to tell him that a lovely RN from COTH "prescribed" me regular back rubs from him. :winkgrin: lol He'll be happy to do it, I'm sure. ;)

Apr. 13, 2010, 10:53 AM
Woops! I can't "prescribe"!! Only tell you....that from my experience.....in my humble opinion.....that SO's doing back massages are a good thing. But of course, the golden rule is....if it hurts=don't do it!!! :yes::D If it helps, do it!

Believe it or not; there's an art & science to massage. Different kinds for different boo-boos!!! :winkgrin: As spasming muscle should not be roughly handled! Gentle, slow is best. Even a steady firm pressure with the palm of a hand over the back/butt muscle can ease a spasm. Press & release slowly. Repeat, press/hold for 5 seconds(or as long as you like) and slowly ease off. Repeat.

Hi, I'm Wateryglen....and I'm a Massage-a-holic.......:uhoh::rolleyes:

Apr. 14, 2010, 04:46 AM
Sciatica is literally.....a pain in the ass!! I know how bad the pain can be.....almost debilitating at times. When I had sciatica due to a ruptured disc, it was one of the most horrible pains I have ever experienced! Icing the area will also help the nerve pain simmer down as the nerve tends to get inflamed and more irritated sometimes after activity. I always found my pain to be at its worst in the morning when I woke up. Walking does help relieve some pain in less severe cases and gets the blood flowing but just be careful not to overdue things. Good luck to you!