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I'm 42, very active, I don't smoke and eat relatively healthy (sometimes I'll find myself elbow deep into a Doritos bag)
While exercising, I did something very wrong. After performing a series of sit-ups (sit-ups are bad for the back) I did some weight lifting where I threw out my back. The next day I flew back home from Tokyo, a 13 hour flight where I remained in a twisted seated position which severely furthered my back problem. Once home, I experienced for the first time in my life the excruciating pain known as sciatica. It had completely debilitated my ability to move. It was the worst pain I ever experience in my life. I still remember the extreme difficulty in just taking a shower. I was literally shaking and sweating from the intense pain. I figured if I rest for a week, the pain would go away, but it didn't. Two weeks in, not even a sliver of reduction in pain.
I'd try to walk and within as little as 2 minutes, the pain on my leg was simply far too intense, My pinky toe was completely numb as was a large portion of my left leg. Sleep was my only refuge and waking up scared the hell out of me as I knew what awaited me. 3 weeks in and the pain persisted so I made a trip to my doctor. She explained that I had torn a disc and it was pushed out pressing on my sciatic nerve and the numbness in my toe and leg might remain for life due to nerve damage. She was blunt, this could be something I may have to live with and manage the pain with medication, or it could go away within a year with physio.
This really got me concerned so I started reading up on my problem, and as I sifted through all the quackery and sleazy sites selling milk shakes that will cure sciatica, I came across this site which made me feel even more depressed.
After reading the forums of so many people who have been bearing this pain for years, some even for 10 years, something within pushed me to find a solution to my problem. I was now 3 weeks in and my pain, which was a genuine disability, didn't just make me want to cry, it also angered me. There was no way I was going to accept this and live the rest of my life popping pain killers which would only end up poisoning my body in the long run.
So I researched as much as I could and came across a medical journal in the library about nerve regeneration by taking magnesium. So I bought a bottle and started taking it, one a day.
Next I came across some excellent articles regarding the sciatic nerve and exercises to help with people suffering from sciatica. These exercises are known as sciatic stretches and there are many different kinds, I found one which seemed to work best for me and began to do the stretches regularly.
And finally I discovered the Mckenzie exercise (you can look it up). Definitely the best exercise for lower back pain. It helps massage the disc back in place, no longer pushing on the nerve.
I started doing the exercise and stretches regularly everyday and within a week, I found that I was now able to walk for 5 minutes rather than 2 before the pain kicked in forcing me to stop. This is how bad it was where I now felt joy in being able to walk for 5 minutes. I kept taking the magnesium and doing the stretches and exercise and within a month of starting this new regiment, I was 70% better. By month 2, I was 100% better.
And now that I am completely pain free and mobile, it doesn't mean I've stopped doing the stretches and exercise. I now do them everyday as a form of preventative maintenance. The stretches and exercise is very simple and easy and takes up only 3 minutes of your time. I do it once in the morning and once before going to bed for a grand total of 6 minutes of your time. I now take a magnesium tablet twice a week, just to help maintain good health.
It's now been over a year since that dreadful day. I never even went to see a physio therapist. The numbness in my leg and toe is completely gone, I'm back to hiking and mountain biking, but I am more mindful whenever I need to bend over or lift something heavy. I also stopped doing sit-ups and instead do planks which is not only excellent in building a firm tummy, but it also builds muscle around your lower back, acting as a natural back brace.
Basically a lifestyle and mindset change is what's needed. Never go back to your old ways if you find yourself getting better. Watch your weight! For all those who have suffered for years, is it because you're overweight? Do you smoke? Smoking is extremely bad for joints and nerves. You must get rid of all your bad habits! Keep doing the exercises, they're simple and easy and exercise is good for you anyways.
Progress takes time, but if you keep at it, you will definitely see an improvement.