I am 46 years old and began having sciatica pain in January (it was thought to be a symptom caused by something I ended up needing abdominal surgery for). After recovering from major abdominal surgery in March, I still have the sciatica. I don't need to tell anyone how painful it is; if you have/had it, you already know. There are periods during the day (maybe an hour to a few hours) where I am almost pain-free, but evenings are the worst. I have trouble getting into bed, just barely moving my leg or the slightest bending or turning of my body causes excruciating pain. I have a great deal of pain in the left buttock and hip, side of left knee and down the side of the leg. (Incidentally, I have no insurance and am already in debt from the surgery. During my last post-op exam, I told the surgeon I still had sciatica and she said I would need to see another doctor and get an MRI to find out what's causing it. But I have no way to do this.)
My sister, who has insurance, had some pain in one leg and has been to a spine specialist. She's had Xrays and an MRI and is now in physical therapy. Her problem is caused by a muscle imbalance/muscle weakness and she is having to do stretching exercises. She does not have sciatica; they said it's some kind of muscle strain or something. She insists that I just need to do the stretching exercises she is doing and it would help. I have tried to stretch but any bending or moving to stretch causes tremendous pain in the left buttock/hip area. I tried doing core strengthening exercises on a stability ball and it made my sciatica worse. I'm still baffled by what I've read saying it responds to exercise, because short walks do not seem to help my problem. If I walk during the day, by the time I go to bed at night I'm almost crippled.
I have read that without knowing what is causing the sciatica, it's probably not a good idea to attempt stretching exercises because you could make the problem worse. (I tried telling my sister this, but she disagreed.) I think eventually, if/when I get health insurance and can see a specialist and have access to physical therapy, maybe a healthcare professional can guide me as to the proper course of treatment and show me how to move without causing pain.
Just wondering what your take is on this. Do I stretch through the pain, as my sister suggests? (How do you strengthen weak muscles if you're unable to move without causing more pain?) Is it possible to make things worse, or will it eventually get better because of the exercise?
I'm getting so desperate that I would do almost anything at this point for life to return to normal.