Greetings Spine Health forum members! I have been reading a lot of your forums and thought this would be a great place to get some outside counsel. I must say that my condition doesn't sound nearly as serious as most of you, and I hope that you all continue to fight valiantly against your conditions. Here's my wrap up:
I am currently a 31 yo male. I experienced low back pain for the first time in my life on 10/12/08. In depth lumbar x-rays taken by my primary care physician are all completely normal. Even though my low back pain is now pretty much gone, I have been fighting either sciatica (right leg) or a pulled hamstring? for almost two months. I will try to explain my condition (sciatica) clearly and with brevity:
-I have been very active my entire life...competitive year round swimmer from 5-19.
-Ran A LOT (a few miles several times per week) in the army and stayed in great shape. Continued to run until just recently after getting out of the army in 2005.
-I have taken up swimming again (April 2009). We're talking about one mile per day.
-Jumped out of airplanes 5 times in the army, 2x per year 15 mile road marches, etc.
Sequence of Events leading up to sciatica:
Since leaving the army in 2005, by Oct 08, I unfortunately gained 30-40 pounds and was not exercising as frequently (core became weaker)...maybe a clue, who knows. I am 6' tall, and when my back pain began I was probably somewhere between 220-225 lbs. I am now down to 205 lbs. and want to get to 175-180. So, here's what I think happened that led to the low back pain (again, i never had back pain before all of this):
September 27, 2008: took my son to six flags. he was tall enough to ride a couple "grown up" roller coasters. as a concerned father, during the ride i literally leaned over and held him as i was facing the same force of the coaster from the front. No back pain yet but I do remember some upper neck pain that only lasted a couple days after that...on to the next weekend...
October 6, 2008 - Did some pretty intense gardening by removing 5 or 6 eight year old bushes. A lot of downward force to remove root balls, etc. I even cracked the shovel in the process. Again, no back pain yet.
October 12, 2008 - Pruned a Japanese maple by squatting, twisting, and then finally shearing for about 10-15 mins. Not 30 mins after pruning, I began the trip to take my son to an Atlanta Falcons game. We stopped at McDonald's. As I was walking out to my car, I noticed just a tiny bit of pain in my back and thought nothing of it. When we arrived at a rapid transit station, I got out of my car and had terrible pain in my low back...I literally could not really straighten my back to walk. It was bad, but somehow I made it through the game. I even stood up for touchdowns and big plays, etc.
I didn't think much of the pain since I never had experienced back pain. I tried to tough it out for a few days and even went to work (i haven't missed any work due to any of these problems).
After the pain did not go away, I saw a chiropractor.
He said that my x-rays looked good, but noticed my right hip was a little higher than my left hip.
After a few adjustments, I was able to start going to the chiro only once per month by February. I did continue to run about 1 1/2 mile a few times per week from Dec-Mar or so. The extent of low back pain was simply that I was sometimes not able to straighten my back as quickly as I would like and bending over was a little difficult. This was not excruciating or constant. Still no sciatica pain yet...only mild back pain.
From 31 Jan to 5 Feb 2009, I drove down to Orlando with my family to Disney World....I drove the entire 400 miles or so one-way from Atlanta to Orlando both ways. Walked around Disney, etc. Also walked around the Atlanta Zoo on 7 Feb. Still no sciatica pain yet...
In mid to late Feb 2009, I noticed that after rising from a seated position, it would take me about 10 steps before I could take a normal stride with my right leg (it was like it was tight). After I reached the full stride, everything was normal.
I did consult with my chiropractor and he thought the stride issue was from the piriformis and gave me some stretches to do. These really didn't help much.
April 2009 - I gave up running to start swimming again (a mile or more per day) as I was still a little scared of running and its purported impact.
Early May 2009 - Attended a concert in which I stood most of the time (maybe a clue).
Mid to late May 2009 - Got lost on some hiking trail with my wife and what started out as a 1-2 mile hike turned into a 3-4 mile hike up and down a small mountain (less than 3-4K ft). Again, maybe a clue. I did not stretch much at all before or afte the hike.
In late May-June 2009 is when what I call the true sciatica pain began. By this time, I didn't have much lower back pain and it was mostly non existent. I am a property manager for high rise office buildings, so I sit a lot throughout the day. During this time period I noticed that when I would walk or stand, I would get a pain that started where my butt meets my thigh, down the back of the leg to the knee. It was painful (a "5" or "6"), but not excruciating. What is key here for me and differs from what I have read about sciatica is that my "sciatic" pain absolutely does not start in the low back or butt. It starts precisely where there hamstrings start at the bottom of the hip and top of the high. I do not have pain when I sit or lie down (have not lost sleep over it, thank god).
July 2009 - I went in to see the chiropractor for a normal monthly visit and he thought it was the hamstring. That didn't make total sense, so I decided to see my family doctor last week who I have seen since a child.
He said it was sciatica and I am currently on Day 11 of a 15-day tapered prednisone prescription, as well as meloxicam. He said if the pain did not go away after that regimen that he would order an MRI. Again, he had a series of lumbar x-rays taken and absolutely no abnormalities were found. I have experienced instant relief with the prednisone and for 10 days life has really been back to what it was before all of this crap began. I have been stretching 2-3 times per day, as well as using McKenzie Method exercises, and have continued to swim.
I even went to a podiatrist to rule out foot problems/misalignment since I wore orthotics as a kid. She said my feet were fine, but that my right calf was really tight and that my hamstring could be stretched a little more.
So, that's my story. Again, my lumbar x-rays turned out to be completely normal for a 31 yo male. The optimist in me says that due to a series of unfortunate events and not serious conditions like disc herniation, I tweaked my back, didn't lay off of it enough, and then have something tweaking my sciatic nerve, or maybe that's something else altogether. Maybe it's a pulled hamstring? I have no idea. I have been filling my mind with too much stuff by searching the internet, so I thought this forum would be a good idea to get some insight.
Any help is truly appreciated!