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Non surgery stories



  • hi i am new to the world of sciatic pain. it seems there is no one way to deal with it. i have a herniated l3-l4 disc, and 2 other bulging discs. my journey began in february 2009. so far i have had 2 epidurals and am having my third in about 1 week. i also had a course of oral prednison in march. it helped but the pain came back as soon as i went off. now i am taking ibu in all crazy amounts. any suggestions on how best to take ibu? also throw in a tylenol every now and then and valium as a muscle relaxer. i do have a tens unit but am not sure how often to use it. the pain in unbearable in the morning. i was feeling great for about month but have been back down the dark side the past week or so. am currently going for pt. sometimes i wonder if that makes it worse. should i be stretching even when in pain? i am so confused. help...
  • Hi and welcome to the website -- I've been suffering with severe sciatic pain in my left leg from herniated disc L4/L5 since October of 08 - had 3 epidurals and am now going for a second opinion with another ortho doc recommended by my primary care physician. You didn't mention if your doctor has put you on something like Lyrica for nerve pain or tramadol (for pain). That's what I'm on right now. And yes, I've had several prednisone packs before my three epidurals. If you have questions about how to dose yourself with the ibu my suggestion is to check with your pharmacist (I find mine so helpful -- he's my "go to" guy) or your doctor. I've heard it can cause ulcers if taken for too long in high doses.

    I feel your sense of frustration with trying to cope with pain, pain meds, tens, exercise, heat, ice, massage, chiro, acupuncture -- it's quite the merry go round! I've had a flare up this past week that's had me bed bound for the most part and I know how it gets to your emotions -- To answer your question about exercise (stretching) while in pain -- I did some specific sciatic stretches - gently -- while in pain and it didn't hurt me -- I, like you, can't for the life of me figure out why some weeks the pain is manageable at about a 4 or 5 and I can have a little normalcy to my life and then it flares up and I feel like an invalid.

    I find comfort switching been heat and ice on the parts and pieces of me that hurt --

    Take care and hope your're feeling better real soon!
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  • One thing I've learned is to appreciate improvement but never claim victory. I haven't had explosive pain for about a month now. Some nights I can sleep on my side, other nights I can't. My overall pain range is about 1-4 vs. 4-10 about 2 months ago.

    I use as much ibuprofen (200mg) as I need. I now take one before bed, one or two in the morning, depending if I'm riding my motorcycle to work. Two around 2pm so my ride home is comfortable. And that's about it.

    I've figured out one neat stretch. I lay on my stomach (on carpet for friction), tuck my elbows under my chest, raising my head, then slowly pull forward while completely relaxing my torso and legs. I concentrate on feeling my low spine stretch. It usually pops once or twice.
  • Well i have had my third esi today and so far i can't see any help from it the last 2 the relief was immediate..... i popped some vicodin because i just need some time without pain. last night was awful with out anything. i saw on orthosurgeon about a week ago. he said no surgery. my pc dr wants me to see a neurosurgeon so that will happen in about 2 weeks. thia has been going on since february and i can stick it out if there is an end in sight. i really don't like to take the meds. but maybe i should just take them and get relief rather than try to take very few and not have the relief i need? my pt said that it didn't seem to be helping me so we put that on hold. i do walk on my treadmill 30 minutes a day. if the weather ever gets warm i will try swimming too. i guess i am just really depressed today because i was hoping for more relief than i have gotten today. it is nice to see that people actually improve though without surgery and that taking meds is not so awful....
  • You know what I'm suspecting? The best thing to do is take ibuprofen (master this), walk, don't lift anything, and just accept the reality of doing nothing for 6 months. I'm really suspecting that stretching is bad. pt and inversion are bad. I'm suspecting that stretching is good injury prevention, but after injury it just inflames and prolongs sciatica. Just a suspicion.

    Tricks I've learned:
    If my leg is about to throb, look down.
    If I have to sneeze or cough, stand and push my hips forward.
    Forget speed walking or running. Slow walking is my friend. Great time to bond with my dog.
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  • I've been told (by PT and other research) that stretching (particularly hamstrings) can indeed inflame sciatica.

    As you said, it's great before the sciatic inflammatory cycle begins, but can make things worse once you are already in pain.

    Exercise (gentle walking or, even better, walking in water) is good as long as you aren't in excruciating pain. In general, my PT lady says just changing position throughout the day can help (sitting stinks... for me and many sciatic patients, any forward bend -- which includes sitting if you think about it -- is the worst).

    The PT I've chosen (McKenzie Method certified) doesn't do any agressive stretching. So far, big changes just from her educating me on posture, how to get out of bed, up from the floor, in and out of the car, put on my socks, etc. And I always considered myself pretty knowledgeable about this stuff... am a part time yoga teacher (well, I was!) and a very active (hike daily and swim 3 x a week) person. But I'm learning a lot about how to get a flare up (when the pain goes up above a 4, which happens all day long currently) and then stay out of it and keep things at a 0 or 1 to 2.

    Good luck!

  • I agree that stretching when you are in acute pain is not good, I tried it and it always seemed to make it worse (or when my PT would try streching me I always felt worse after) . However once the constant pain settled down I think that light stretching has really helped me. The last couple days I have added some hamstring stretches and I must admit that I think it really has made a difference, I feel almost normal again. I still have a little pain when walking or sitting too long but it's tollerable.

    I think every person is different and needs to listen to his/her body. That's the most important thing I have learned the past 2 1/2 months is to slow down and listen. If I am starting to feel pain I stop what I am doing. If I am sitting and start to feel stiff or pain I get up and move, if I am moving and it starts to hurt I sit down or lay down.

    I have a little "emergency" routine that I do when I start to feel like I am going to have a setback. For me it's a few minutes of extension exercises (Mckenzie method) followed by 5 minutes of laying on the floor with my feet up on the couch followed by 15 minutes of ice on my back. And depending on how I feel afterwards I may take some motrin. Usually if I do this I feel much better and knock on wood it's been working.

    Some tips that I found help me
    * Avoid bending forward at all costs
    * when I have to pick something up I go down to one knee keeping my back straight
    * I Fixed my posture sitting, sleeping and walking(Mckenzie Books helped)
    * I am careful when I sit or strand up especially getting in and out of the car
    * I use a rolled towel behind my back when sitting at work or driving in the car (again Mckenzie trick)
    * Ice on my back seems to really work for me
    * Always look up and do a quick back extension when I have to sneeze or cough

    For some easy stretches that have helped me look up books by Robin McKenzie and Pete Egoscue.

    Hope this helps someone.

  • For me the trick was realizing they weren't the same thing. My protrusion is definitely better but the sciatica was persisting due to my 'get it fixed' attitude. It's like developing pneumonia after the germs are already gone.
  • seems the 3rd esi has kicked in. whew. at least a little relief for a while. the last one lasted about 6 weeks. Hope this one lasts as least that long. i can stretch now without too much pain. i guess i just have to be careful not to overdo. am going to a neurosurgeon for another opinion on monday. the ortho surgeon said no to surgery. that is all well and good but that doesn't help the pain. i am taking 2 aleve twice a day and have vicodin for any pain that the aleve doesn't get. i spoke to a radiologist i work with about herniated discs and sciatica. he had this situation a few years ago. he opted for no surgery. did light stretching, lost weight, strengthened his core muscles, and did lots of extensions and watched his posture, no bending. said it took him 6 months to feel better and a year to be back to normal. now it is just a be careful game for him. that was very encouraging. i am curious what the neuro guy will say.
  • Can't speak for everyone, but the natural way is working for me and I had a hell of a protrusion. The hardest part was not letting it get the best of me. Many times I thought, "I'm just getting this thing out of me!" so I know what everyone is going through. A living hell. I look at everything differently now.

    Week 1: Why does my butt hurt?
    Week 3: I really need to see a doctor.
    Month 2-3: Living hell. I'm permanently broken.
    Month >3: I can sleep pain free! I can even ride my motorcycle to work! I just can't overdo it.
    Month 4: ?
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