The evils of sciatica

Sciatica sounds so 19th century, like dropsy, consumption, and shingles. A quack term for something that today would be referred to as neuromyathomalgia or “demeaning plebney.”

I have it in a bad way, have had it for the past three weeks, and it feels like a javelin has pierced my left buttock and emerged somewhere deep down on my leg. It makes sitting a total torture, bringing tears to my eyes. Muscle relaxants don’t help it. Advil is my new vitamin. Stretching, hot baths, lying flat on my back on the floor do nothing to help it.

The chiropractor, a diminutive woman, tried to “unlock” it on Friday by folding me into a pretzel and then leaping on me; but alas, she wasn’t hefty enough to produce that satisfying cosmic knuckle pop from spine that always makes paying the chiropractor fee so easy. Lying in bed won’t help it. So, it’s off to work I go this week, hunched over, my posture like a human S, standing in meetings, lying on the floor of my office with the door closed, avoiding sitting and therefore avoiding my keyboard unless I absolutely have to. Three weeks, and according to the online experts, maybe three weeks to go. This sucks. My productivity has gone away, I hate making people wince when I try to stand up, and I haven’t had a stitch of exercise since it first occurred while sculling three weeks ago today. So, with teeth gritted, I am trying to recover something productive other than trying to read the Sunday paper on my back with an ice back shoved down the back of my pants.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “The evils of sciatica”

  1. Ouch. My massage therapist has some wierd method of sticking her elbow right down into the trigger point where the javelin goes in and then leaning her weight into it while she rotates that area around. Sounds painful (and it is), but it’s instant relief when I have a flare-up.

  2. I am not a doctor, but I can talk like one. I’ve had to go through this kind of pain since the early 1980’s and here is what I’ve learned.

    Doctors, Chiros, etc. will take xrays and MRI’s and cluck and tsk and tell you that you have degenerating disks. What tyhey don’t volunteer is that about the time we get our wisdom teeth in the spinal disks lose al direct blood supply – so guess what? – they degenerate since the only nourishment is through ozmosis.

    Without a doubt the best thing you can do for back pain, including sciatica, is walk. Painful as it may be – get up and walk around the block, the house, down the street, etc. and that will get you back to normal faster than anything.

    The worst things to do:


    Whether flying, driving, phoning, emailing – sitting is tough on our backs.

    Lying flat on your back

    If you must get relief and want to lie down then lie on the floor with your knees bent up. This will get hard to do for long periods so shove a pillow up inder the knees to keep them bent. Try not to prop your head up with pillows.

    Too much cold – too much heat

    The ice packs and heat are good, but must be used constructively. Your muscles have reacted to pain messages from nerves and the natural reaction is to “splint”. That is where the muscles do their best to lock up and imobilize what they perceive as a troumatic event. They are trying to protect you. To ease them out of their protective state you should alternate between cold and heat. Not much more than ten minutes of either one.

    Crossing your legs

    Especially with Sciatia – crossing your legs while sitting is a no-no. This is hard to fix when you are asleep and on your side to enlist the aid of a pillow between your knees when you sleep on your side. That will keep you from crossing your knees in your sleep.

    Not walking

    Walking forces the muscles to get out of their locked state in a gentle way and also allow your skeleton to adjust to the ravages of executive life.

    When I first had my bouts it was awfull. It would feel as if someone had taken a bare lamp cord and touched it to my lower back. I would crumble and colapse with pain and end up curled like a pretzle. They would give me muscle relaxants, pain relievers, anti-inflamatories. By the time I had all that in my system I felt like I had the IQ of a soap dish and didn’t have the ambition to walk three feet. No the only things I ever take is Clebrex. I don’t take it more than 3-4 times a year but it goes right to the problem and doesn’t leave me in a drug stupor.

    I walk. Cotuit is a pefect place for walks, You are lucky there. This business environment stresses our bodies to do things it was never designed for – at least not for the extended times we subject them too.



  3. David:

    I can cosign everything Jim says. I’ve had sacral/lumbar pain since being diagnosed with degenerative disc in ’02. Walking keeps the joints flexible and mobile. Also stretch!
    Much back pain is caused by tight core muscles in the hips, quads, and hamstrings. Stretch gently as often as you can. Keeps the lumbar area from getting compressed/constricted. by these muscles.

    Take the pain reliever you need to feel better! My physician cousin told me, “they are not handing any awards out for pain tolerance.” You can take 800-1000mg of ibuprofen without a problem. Step up to naprosin if need be.

  4. They are right, the quickest route for recovery is activity. Walking is great, but developing your core muscles will keep you pain free in the long run. I have had some great luck working with the folks at Cape Cod Rehabilitation in Mashpee. They helped me avoid having back surgery and thought me the tools to be able to keep my back in check.

    Good Luck,

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