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“It is when you leave everything that is familiar, and venture into the unfamiliar. This is when you find your truth”. -Melissa Jennewein
Flying 20,000 feet in the air is not where you want your sciatica to strike you. I wiggled and wormed in the seat, yet I couldn’t seem to find a sweet spot where I had no pain. The gentleman next to me simply nodded with a sideways glance when I said “I seem to be having a problem with my nerves” and continued with the seat acrobatics.
Sciatica is a condition where the sciatic nerve is being pinched. This sends pain down the leg from the lower back, and it can travel as far as the foot. It is not to be wished upon your worst enemy. It is not fun, it is not easy, but the experience can educate. Let me explain…
There are many cases and treatments for sciatica. I tried almost all of them before I finally found my final thing. (Or perhaps the series was part of the learning?) Here they are in the exact order that I did them.
Day One: Steroid shot in the bum.
Steroids are meant to reduce inflammation and may help ease sciatic pain. It did absolutely nothing for me. Zero. Zip. Nada. The burning sensation stayed and so did the pain level of 10.
Days Four through Eight: Chiropractor.
My chiropractor gave me my first clue about what was happening when he noticed that my lumbar disc was slipped and feet and hips were off by two inches. I went in every two days for four visits and felt the adjustments helping my alignment, but not really touching the pain. I was advised ice therapy and no heat, and homeopathic topical ointments.
Ongoing: Ice therapy.
Ice feels great on the sciatica. It literally was the best thing I had found to help with the pain pretty consistently thus far. I had a nice big icepack and placed it on my lower back where the pain originated and alternated 15 minutes on and off. I did this throughout the entire 8 week process. Yep. 8 weeks.
Ongoing: Topical Creams.
Arnica Gel is a homeopathic medicine used for pain relief of muscle pain, stiffness, and swelling from injuries. It worked ok for me – but only lowered the pain level from an 8 to a 7, which didn’t help me to sleep. I also tried Aspercreme which is a topical analgesic used for temporary relief of minor pain associated with arthritis, muscle strains, and simple backaches, and although there was no smell from the cream, Aspercreme did nothing for the sciatica pain I was experiencing.
Days Ten through Fourteen: Epsom Salt Baths.
It was suggested that I take an extra heavy half gallon epsom salt bath from a friend who also battled with his sciatica. I tried this as well, every other day for four days and I was relaxed and practically pain free in the bath, but once removed it did not continue to soothe the pain in my bum, leg and foot.
Ongoing: Robot Massage.
Several devices were tried. The vibrating heat pad (which heat is BAD if your sciatic nerve is inflamed! It makes it even more angry!!), the Shiatzu rolling back massager (that you grip with your arms as it rolls around), and the hot/cold vibrating pad. These worked to relax me periodically, but again, did nothing lasting for the pain. I feel I made the mistake of using heat too soon and upset the sciatica even further by keeping it inflamed with the heat.
Day Fifteen: Meditation.
It was difficult to be still when my sciatica was all on fire. I attempted to meditate several times but the pain was so intense I couldn’t get still. I must say though, sciatica pain naturally kept me in the present moment because it demands it. Perhaps that is why. A still, silent meditation wasn’t really needed to practice presence under these circumstances.
Ongoing: Anti-Inflammatory Foods.
Turmeric and Ginger are the foods with the highest anti-inflammatory agents contained within them. I had smoothies, teas, soups, and even ate raw roots and did not experience any significant change in my pain/inflammation level, but did enjoy learning how to use these foods.
Day Sixteen: Hot Whirlpool Therapy.
A friend invited me to stretch in a heated whirlpool, so naturally, I accepted. The warm water made it easier to do some deep stretches that I was unable to do otherwise, but ultimately the pain remained only slightly less, and still not enough to sleep.
Day Seventeen: Sciatica Yoga (for real, it’s real)
The piriformis muscles, the hamstrings, the glutes and the calves can all play a role in this drama. But there are ways to stretch it all out. Click here for an article with photos on how to do those poses. I found that the yoga helped some when I listened carefully to my body and did not over do it.
Day Eighteen: Electro Acupuncture.
Now this was interesting. I came into this Chinese mans office hunched over and crying all over myself. He quickly brought me into a room, stuck a needle between each toe, one on my ankle, and a whole gang of them in my upper left hip and buttock. Then he put some electricity in them. Then he gave me a panic button, dimmed the lights, and left the room. I fell asleep during that 30 minute session and felt amazing afterward. My pain had gone from an 8 to a 3 in just half an hour. I scheduled two more visits but ultimately the pain went back up to 8 and stayed there. The man suggested I let go of anger. I told him I was angry because I could not sleep.
Day Nineteen: Emergency Room Visit – Pharmaceuticals.
After having roughly three weeks of non stop pain, and very little sleep, my psyche was suffering. I was angry, tired, weak, and felt helpless. I went to the ER because I simply did not know what else to do. They took some Xrays, said my back looked fine and attempted to sedate me. A valium, percocet and shot of morphine in the three hours that followed didn’t do anything other than create a ten minute window where I did sleep. Interesting… I would have thought I would be comatose, and was hoping for such.
Days Twenty through Twenty Two: Muscle Relaxers.
The doctors prescribed muscle relaxers and percocets for pain. They only worked on the first day – which was great, because I finally slept a full 8 hours. But that happened only once, and the times I attempted to take them again resulted in no changes whatsoever.
Day Twenty Three: Cough Syrup.
Or should I say, sleep aid? I was desperate to rest and the pain was becoming too much to bear. I started chugging NyQuil and it worked for two evenings worth of sleep, but came with hot/cold sweats and I think I even was grinding my teeth which was weird. After two sweaty jaw clenching nights I gave it up.
Day Twenty Four and Twenty Five: Fasting and Self Massage.
I had run out of options. Everything I tried was temporary, and nothing brought me close to lasting relief from this pain. I decided to fast and massage my body with coconut oil as it had my full attention and apparently I needed to hear what it had to say. I spent 24 hours in a room in solitude and drank only water while I talked to my body. Caressed my toes one by one, my heels, behind my knees, my lower back, arms, neck, chest, hair.. I did it all. And it was amazing. I have never given myself a full body massage in such a way, and it ended up being not only what took the pain from a 8 to a 3 and kept it there, but also something that would become part of my ritual.
By the end of the 4 weeks and all of these treatments, I was finally able to fly back to the east coast. My pain was holding steady at a level 3, and I was able to sit in a chair for more than just the 20 seconds I started at.
Arriving back on the east coast I was feeling ok for a couple of days, and the sciatica struck yet again. The pain went from that steady 3 back up to a restless, sleepless 8. I was advised this time to see a ROLFING® healer close by and did some research. Because what is ROLFING® anyway right?
What I found would be the most profound lesson I have had yet concerning the body and how it works. After my sessions I understood more about my body posture, my communication with it and it with me. I also learned what 2000pds of pressure in one point really means. This would be the thing that ended up assisting in dealing with the sciatica pain, and also teach me some valuable lessons.
Click here for the full article on the ROLFING® experience.
(*NOTE: This article is for educational and entertainment purposes. If you feel after attempting to find relief holistically and with no success, do see your medical doctor as it could be something else such as a benign tumor on your nerve or a herniated disc causing your sciatica pain)
Have you had any experience with Sciatica pain? What did you learn from that trip? Do share your tips, stories and insight on this topic if you like in the comments section below!