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Sciatica? And mysterious pain. Please help

Almost two years ago I was working out heavily and one morning ran outside to drag the recycling out before I missed the pickup time. As I set down the second bin, it felt like I got shot in the right buttock. The pain was immense, and I actually had to crawl back to my front door.

For a few days I just laid in bed, hoping for improvement, but I eventually went to my PCP, who told me it sounded like sciatica from either piriformis syndrome or a herniated disc. As a recovering alcoholic, I was leary of doctors and pain meds. So he gave me rx anti-inflammatory meds (ibuprofen) and prednisone. Weeks of suffering went by with little relief.

Eventually the pain isolated into the top of my right foot. The rest of my leg was asymptomatic, the top of my right foot felt like it had red hot coals on top of it 24/7. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't work out (I was previously a jiu jitsu martial artist and a runner). I was miserable. And I couldn't sleep due to the pain.

Eventually my PCP sent me to physical therapy. This helped a lot. In the end, I got rid of the pain and replaced it with persistent numbness. I figured this was nerve damage due to a delay in proper care stemming from compression on the nerve. In the mean time I had an MRI that showed L4/L5 was ruptured, but not compressing anything. L5/S1 was herniated .9 cm and causing stenosis on the right and left sides, though I only felt it on the right.

After almost a year I was back working out, though I have not been fighting, limiting my workouts to running and cycling only.

Two weeks ago, I had pain in my right hip while cycling. I figured I was working too hard, so I decided to head home. When I got off the bike,my whole lower back was immobilized, and I couldn't stand up straight. I immediately tried to relax and stretch.

Two days later, the back pain and immobility was gone but my hip pain was worse. I went back to work and then my other hip started hurting. Had a chiropractor adjust me and then the unthinkable, the pain which was initially only in my hips went down to my left foot as well. Now the tops of both of my feet are on fire again, but I have pain nowhere else.

I did a week of spinal decompression on the VAX d machine, and it was useless. I've been using the same exercises my physical therapist gave me the first time, but they don't seem to be working as well as before.

My question is, why the heck am I only experiencing pain in the top of my feet? From what I've read true sciatica radiates down the entire buttock and leg. My pain is only on the tops of the feet but is unbearable.

Has anyone else had this experience? It doesn't seem to fit with the usual sciatic nerve pain symptoms.

I'm sorry for the long post. I just wanted to give my whole story. Thank you for any help or advice.


  • If I was experience what you are experiencing and suspected my back, I would see a spine specialist. No one's past experience is necessarily a predictor of what you are going through. My PCP at first did not suspect anything serious about my situation. After going to a spine doctor, I end up in a pain management program for a few years. Eventually I had lower back surgery and later neck surgery.
  • What were the results of ur surgery? What was your diagnosis? Did you have radiculopathy?
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  • Hi there, sciatica can be a really mysterious thing. I have had two bulging disks L4- L5, L5- S1 for the past 18 months. You can read it in my previous post in back and neck surgery. I am seeing my surgeon tomorrow to make a final decision to go ahead with decompression surgery.
    From the very beginning the pain was always in my right leg and started in the piriformis and then the back and front of the calf and finally into the toes and base of the foot. I had to change my positions constantly to find a comfortable position where the pain was bearable. Sometimes I knew the nerve had a lot of compression, like you said, I would feel like someone had put hot coals on my feet. I was told by all the professionals when you get to that point you need to change your position immediately as there is severe compression to the nerve, and if prolonged could lead to permanent nerve damage.
    I suppose my point is that with my experience I would have the classic symptoms but other days it would flare up in a different spot like on the hip or in the groin. Very frustrating and I feel your pain.

    One thing that really helped me was swimming. It would just really loosen me up and for a little bit of my day I would feel no pain at all. Apart from this physical benefit, I also had some positive head space for a while.
    Best of luck and let me know how you get on.
  • dmo177, it is a common misconception that sciatica radiates down the entire leg. I mean, it *can*, but it doesn't have to in order to be sciatica related pain.

    It's time for you to get to a neurosurgeon. You need a complete neurological examination. The doc will most likely order new imaging, too.

    Get to a doctor. Fast. Like stop reading this, and make an appointment.
    L3-4 - L5-S1 Lumbar fusion (3 levels)
    L3, 4, 5 Laminectomies
    L3 - S1 bilateral partial facet resections with grade 1 osteotomies
    L2 left hemilaminectomy
    L2-L3 left foraminotomy
    L3 -S1 posterior instrumentation (looks really cool in the avatar xray)
  • I am back to being able to walk normal again. I am not nearly as strong as I used to be pre-surgery but am working on getting stronger. I still have some coordination issues. Also, I need to loose some weight that I put on during my non-walking period. As you get older, it is harder to drop the pounds. It does not help that I also need to develop the strength again so that I can exercise enough to get myself in better shape.
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