Last May, I got married. A week before my wedding, I was struck with crippling pain from my left hip / glute muscle down through my hamstring in my left leg that made it hard to walk, sit, or stand. As an active 20something who works out 2-3x / week and appreciates having the ability to be active without pain (let alone wanting to get married in peace!), this was beyond frustrating, mostly because I'd never experienced this kind of sharp pain in my back before and had no idea what was going on. Of course, (eu)stress was a factor, but there had to be a deeper problem--which I found out, after visiting Ducat Chiropractic in Bloomingdale, Ill., three days before my wedding (I found them thanks to a Google search and 5-star reviews from customers!), was called "sciatica." There was intense pressure on my sciatic nerve (the largest and longest spinal nerve in the human body) resulting from muscle tension that needed to be resolved.
Dr. Ducat gave me two chiropractic adjustments and a bottle of supplemental muscle relaxants before my wedding weekend, and I made it through--though I did suffer from quite a bit of pain on the plane ride and while sleeping some nights. I continued visiting Ducat for chiropractic adjustments 1x/week and for physical therapy 2x/week for about six months, and the pain mostly subsided by the end of my treatments (I continue to visit for monthly chiropractic adjustments and recommend their office highly if you live in the Western Chicago suburbs).
Much to my dismay, my sciatica pain flared up again in February after I incorrectly used a foam roller on my middle back (totally my fault...bad form.). I had several more chiropractic adjustments, one session of massage therapy, and begin physical therapy again this week after a few months of intense pain at random times (as mentioned previously, sciatica flares up due to bad posture, twisting incorrectly, or a host of other reasons hard to pinpoint at each instance).
Because I have read a lot of depressing blogs that say sciatica is a chronic problem that will stick with you for life, I wanted to write a blog to help and encourage those who also suffer with lower back / sciatic nerve pain. I have experienced healing to a degree and want to share that truth with others! So here are seven tips that have helped me immensely:
Last month, my sciatica pain came to a point where I was tearing up when I did small things like get up out of a chair or to try to get out of bed. Like I said, this deep, sharp, shooting pain wasn't something I'd ever experienced before, and it was scary. So I asked my husband, my family, and my church to pray for me. Believe it or not, the pain subsided quite a bit for the days immediately following my request for and reception of prayer from my pastor and friends, and continues to improve slightly as time passes.
2. Chiropractic adjustments.
I grew up going to chiropractors, and swear by them. Not to mention, according to Prevention magazine, "Sixty percent of people with sciatica who didn't get relief from other therapies and then tried spinal manipulation experienced the same degree of pain relief as patients who eventually had surgery, found a 2010 study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics." Dr. Ducat has helped me immensely, especially in the early stages of my sciatica pain, and spinal alignment is very important to overall physical health. So if you've never been and you suffer from chronic back pain, go. But make sure you go to a doctor you, or someone close to you, trusts.
3. Physical therapy.
The professionals teach techniques for healing much better than un-professionals ever could. So it is my sincere encouragement to get a prescription from your doctor for AthletiCo or other trusted physical therapy office ASAP if you struggle with sciatica pain. I learned many things at physical therapy, including the importance of...
The stretches I have learned at physical therapy so far include the "Chair Stretch" (video at this link): sitting tall and straight in a chair, sticking your butt backward, crossing your leg at a 90 degree angle over your opposite knee, and leaning forward slightly while sticking your butt out; the "Wall Stretch": laying down flat on your back in a door frame and lifting one leg at a time straight up to rest your heel against the door frame at hip height, then lifting the opposite leg 10 times, stretches out the hamstrings; and the "Double-Leg Wall Stretch": laying down flat with your butt against the wall, putting your legs as straight up as possible against the wall and letting it stretch your hamstrings, have all helped me immensely. They all work best while paired with...
5. ...A foam roller.
This foam roller has literally saved my sanity at various points over the last 12 months. With proper use (VERY important--DO NOT use without learning proper technique!), it will loosen up your muscles and give you sweet relief like your tight muscles have never experienced.
6. Staying active.
Blogs and doctors everywhere say the same thing: laying down for hours, sitting still for hours, and/or just plain giving up are not helpful antidotes to sciatica pain. The best solution is to stay active--for me that has meant exercising on the elliptical, lifting light weights, taking walks, and stretching every day.
7. Proper posture.
Slouching is horrible for sciatica, either while sitting or standing, because of the pressure it puts on the lower back / lumbar region and sciatic nerve. To ease the pain, get a standing desk at work if you can, and buy a lumbar support cushion to use at work (I recommend this one). These two things have made a huge positive difference for me.
I hope this helps encourage you, or someone you know who suffers from lower back pain! I am confident I will be back to normal soon, because our God is our healer and a God of daily miracles. :)
"Like" A Daily Miracle on Facebook, Follow on Twitter @adailymiracle, and sign up for "A Daily Miracle" posts sent directly to your email inbox! Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.