It’s now going into my 5th week of dealing with this “mystery pain”. I call it that because I still have not seen a doctor to properly diagnose my condition. Not because I didn’t WANT to, but with NO medical insurance or extra money set aside, I know I would not be able to get the expensive MRI, which is the ONLY proven method to correctly diagnose a true spinal issue that could be causing my pain. If I would have had good insurance, I would have not hesitated to see a doctor, if only to get an accurate diagnosis, although I may not have chosen to rely on strong drugs or surgery as treatment options. However, due to my diligent research, I am 90% confident that I have assessed and diagnosed my condition to my best satisfaction, and the little improvements I see week by week confirm that self-diagnosis. As long as I don’t get WORSE, I feel like I can monitor AND treat my condition with the methods I am currently using.
Among my NEWEST (and most helpful) holistic treatments are the addition of mega-doses of Vitamin C. I read about its powerful ability to successfully treat acute sciatic conditions during one of my website researches, and was so impressed with one woman’s testimony, (read her story here), that I drove myself to the local dollar store about two miles down the road and picked up a big bottle of it. Over the next few days, I took 8000-10,000 gms of Vitamin C a day. By the third day, I could tell a BIG difference in not only my pain level, but my overall mental and physical state. Everyone knows how Vitamin C can knock out a cold, but not many know what a potent inflammation fighter it is when it comes to sciatica! Well,it made ME a believer, and I am still mega-dosing going on almost a week now. Even though I’m still not pain-free, I can attest to the remarkable difference just adding this Vitamin C protocol to my treatment regimen has made to my healing and recovery process. One word of caution if you try this: although it is non-toxic, high doses of Vitamin C can cause bowel issues, so make sure you don’t exceed YOUR bowel tolerance levels! You’ll know when you do, in which case you just need to back off to a lower intake.
Another helpful treatment I’ve recently added is specific stretches to treat the muscle spams, tightness and pain in my leg that comes from the sciatic nerve inflammation. I learned that some of the stretching I was doing earlier (like most hamstring stretches) were actually making my condition WORSE, and counterproductive to my healing. Instead, I started doing some light yoga stretching, piraformis stretches and neural flossing. You can research these yourself and find the ones that you like the best. They are really helpful in keeping your muscles and joints limber, and help decrease the pain, even if its only temporary. However, the long-term benefits are eventual LESS pain and a less likelihood of having another sciatic attack! I make sure to do these 3 or 4 times a day, as well as try to incorporate short walks into my day, whether I’m at home or away. Yes, its painful to walk around in the grocery store or go shopping, but I’ve found if I lean on a cart, it makes the trip much easier to bear. My goal is to eventually be able to walk pain-free, but in the meantime, most all the information about this condition I’ve read suggests to stay active as much as possible. That’s pretty hard to do when you’re hurting, but “no pain, no gain”, right? I just try to balance it out and not overdo it, and make sure if I do, to use ice/heat to help relieve some of the added inflammation.
Finally, at this stage of my treatment, I’ve decided to STOP taking Aleve, an OTC pain med, that I’ve been using for the past five weeks to deal with the pain, and rely solely on the all- natural and holistic treatments I’m currently doing. Besides the irritating gastric side effects, I realize the long term damage of taking NSAIDS on a daily basis is not WORTH the minimal pain relief it gives, and may in fact be HINDERING my recovery. Again, in my own research, I have found more than one study suggesting the long-term use of many OTC pain meds can actually cause tissue damage and impede your body’s ability to heal inflammation on its own. That just reinforces my determination I to deal with this condition as holistically as possible, and weaning my body off ANY kind of unnatural or man-made pain meds. Instead, I will rely on the Vitamin C, magnesium and other natural supplements that are proven to be effective pain relief options. As with the decision to stop taking the opoids I was consuming earlier, I fully expect a positive outcome from dropping the Aleve from my treatment plan.
UPDATE: “Never say never.” Something happened a couple of days ago that not only sent up a red flag, but sent me to the nearest walk-in emergency clinic! I was on the floor doing my usual stretches lying on my stomach, face down. This one particular stretch I was doing was a torso press up. Basically, you just lie on your stomach, prop your upper body on your elbows and try to lift up and back as far as you can. I’d done this stretch several times before and could finally get to the place where it didn’t hurt as much. However, this particular morning as I lifted up and back, I felt a strange sensation quickly travel from my spine to my head, causing extreme dizziness. I quickly jumped up (probably not the smartest thing to do) and felt like I was going to pass out. My hands got sweaty and my pulse jumped sky high. I was SURE I was having a heart attack, stroke or a blood clot had burst. Panicking, I called my husband at work and told him what had happened. He was out of town working and couldn’t get home fast, so he called his mother who lives nearby, to come get me and take me to the walk-in emergency clinic. I paced nervously until she arrived, praying to God to let me make it to the clinic “in time”.
"A Twinge Turned Terror" - Part 5 Coming Soon....
It’s going on three weeks now, and while I’m MUCH better, I still have lingering pain, numbness and weakness in my right leg and foot, and still walk “crooked”, and can only walk for short periods at the time. I’ve lost about ten pounds due to a loss of appetite from the constant nauseating pain, and have only ventured out of my home with my husband on two occasions. I sleep with a pillow between my legs at night, and alternate between cold packs and a heating pad to temporarily relieve the pain. Up until a couple of days ago, I had to give up doing any kind of housework or sitting at a computer for long periods of time. And I am STILL not able to drive due to the partial numbness in my right foot. According to the information I’ve researched about sciatica, my situation is somewhat “normal”. In fact, most articles indicated recovery time on average is between 4-8 weeks, unless it gets worse which indicates another underlying problem that could require more aggressive treatment. Sometimes even surgery. I can only hope and pray I’m one of the “average” statistics.
Besides the overwhelming pain that comes with sciatica, I feel like I’ve been robbed of a life that was active, happy and full. I can no longer talk my dog on long walks around our farm, or even for a short jaunt to the mailbox down the path. I’ve fallen woefully behind in my housework and laundry duties, not to mention just being able to do “general cleaning” on an as-needed basis. And without getting too “personal”, let’s just say that my husband is a VERY patient man! ;) Thank God I married a man who is not only a wonderful and loving husband, but who can cook and clean just as well! In fact, he has been a Godsend these past few weeks, and I don’t know where I would have been if he hadn’t been here to take care of me! This is definitely ONE health issue you can’t bear all by yourself, and if you do, you’re a better woman than me!
It’s nearing almost four weeks now and I’m starting to see a tiny glimmer of light shining at the end of that long, dark wall of misery I’ve been painfully traveling through. I finally got out and drove for the first time, and while it wasn’t painful at the time, I paid for it dearly later that evening when the pain in my leg flared up like fireworks on New Years Eve! Fortunately, before I returned home, I managed to drag myself to a local drugstore to pick up a few items for my “sciatica self-help arsenal” that I had been reading about on the internet. Those items included valerian root, alpha lipoic acid (ALA), a TENS unit, (TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation),and a large bag of epsom salt. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the valerian root helped to quell the rebellious nerves in my leg and helped give me a restful night’s sleep, but I was unable to find any real satisfaction or pain relied with the TENS unit. In fact, it was more a nuisance than help, and the constant “pulsing” of the electrodes was MORE irritating than the pain itself! Even after trying the unit on different areas of my body, and different pulse patterns, I quickly tired of this intrusive treatment, and finally just gave up on it altogether.
This morning, I added some ALA to my yogurt, and will continue taking this supplement three times a day to see if it gives any added relief. There have been numerous studies done about the positive efficacy of ALA to treat sciatic nerve pain,so I am very anxious to see if it gives me the same results. I also take the following supplements on a daily basis: multi-vitamin especially for women over 50, MSM, magnesium, ginger, Triple Flex (a glucosomine chondroitin MSM supplement), Aleve gel caps, and enteric coated aspirin. I also take a warm epsom salt bath either nightly or every other night to soothe and ease the nerve pain before bedtime. I try to eat yogurt 3-4 times a week and drink lots of bottled water throughout the day. My goal is to slowly but surely transition from taking ANY kind of RX/OTC pain medication to taking nothing but all natural supplements to ease and control my sciatica condition, AND help prevent future occurrences of this intrusive monster! In fact, I read an interesting article that said when taken, certain opiod pain meds (i.e., oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc.) actually stimulated pain cells in the spinal column and created MORE pain, creating the need for MORE pain medication! This vicious cycle explains why so many people find themselves addicted to these type pain relievers. Even I was finding myself in this same vicious cycle after taking oxycodone for only two weeks, and knew I had to find an alternative method of pain relief.
"A Twinge Turned Terror" - Part 4 Coming Next!
The next few days were a blur. None of the pain medication I was so generously given brought any kind of lasting relief, although some of the stronger drugs did help me sleep fitfully through the night. Still, the moans and groans of pain kept not only myself awake, but my poor husband, as well. I finally decided to sleep in my chaise chair in the living room, so as not to keep him awake. After all, he was the main breadwinner and HAD to go to work every day. I was fortunate enough to be able to work from home, although I could only manage to work at my computer a few short hours at a time. Constant pain is a selfish companion, and DEMANDS your undivided attention!
As the days passed slowly and painfully by, other things were now happening - not only to my body, but to my mind, as well. Severe constipation from a steady intake of opioids combined with cold, damp rainy weather made the perfect storm for a case of mild depression to settle in. And although my husband was was being super supportive and even took over ALL of the cooking duties and some of the cleaning duties around the house, I was depressed that I couldn’t even so much as straighten my back, much less walk ten steps from the chair to the bed. My whole “normal routine” as I knew it was in a tailspin, and about as ABNORMAL as it gets. In short, I felt like I was a prisoner trapped in someone else’s body. I hopelessly wondered if I’d EVER walk again, and feared I may even end up crippled in a wheelchair and disabled for life. That thought TERRIFIED me, as I was used to being super active and always on the go. I took my dog on long walks around our small farm - sometimes even twice a day, worked in my small herb/flower garden out back, took care of all the housework, laundry and grocery shopping, and traveled long distance several days a month to visit clients. But suddenly, all that came to a screeching halt, and I was as clumsy and helpless as a newborn calf - wobbly legs and all!
As is my curious nature,I frantically began searching the internet for any and everything I could find on my condition, which I finally self-diagnosed as “sciatica”. It would later be determined medically that my diagnosis was correct, as I had ALL the classic symptoms. I poured over medical, holistic and self-help websites soaking in every tidbit of information I could find on the cause, treatment and ultimately cure for this savage affliction that had taken a young, healthy and active woman to down to her knees. All in one quickening breath!
As the meds kicked in and took a thin edge off my pain, I started trying to implement some of the other treatments I had found on the internet for sciatica. Most suggested light stretching, which was a challenge when you can’t even stand up straight! But I was determined to get better and was willing to do almost ANYTHING to get rid of the nagging pain that was literally a pain in the butt! So every morning, I’d drag myself to the kitchen, fix a cup of coffee (thank God for Keurigs!) grab a container of yogurt, and hobble back to my chair for a light breakfast After the caffeine from the coffee kicked in and I had something on my stomach, I took a pain pill and waited a little bit longer for that to ease the pain before doing my floor stretches. At first, I couldn’t hardly get down on the floor without writhing in pain, but I soon learned the more I did, the easier it got. I also learned it didn’t take ALOT of stretching - just the right kind. I firmly believe the exercises I started doing was instrumental in helping me regain not only some function in my now defunct body, but was a tremendous help in relieving some of the mental stress that comes with sciatic nerve pain.
Along with the stretching exercises, I started taking a Super Magnesium supplement and just recently added a combination glucosamine chondroitin, MSM and Vitamin D supplement, along with my daily multi-vitamin. I also tried some of the highly recommended holistic treatments such as turmeric, apple cider vinegar, and grape juice, but can’t say I noticed any distinguishing benefits from them, although I may not have used them consistently enough to reap their benefits. A kindhearted Facebook friend even sent me a jar of an all natural pain relief ointment a friend of his makes, but unfortunately, it didn’t give me the long lasting relief I was hoping for. Still, I believe that ALL these natural treatments working TOGETHER, along with daily stretching and a positive mental attitude, are what got me through each painful day.
"A Twinge Turned Terror" - Part 3 Coming Next!
If you've been following my blog, you've probably noticed there hasn't been much to "follow" lately. That's because for the past 2.5 months, I have been dealing with an extremely debilitating health issue: sciatic nerve pain. Anyone who has ever had this condition already knows how painful and life-altering it can be. But more than the physical limitations causes, it also challenges you mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. Sciatic nerve pain can come on suddenly and without warning, cause months of agonizing pain and then leave just as mysteriously as it came, leaving behind months and even years of physical AND emotional damage. Yet, the condition is so common that you'd be hard pressed to find someone who HASN'T struggled with it.
During my journey through sciatic nerve pain, I researched many websites in search of not only health information and answers to my own questions, but support from others who had been through the same thing. It was in my research that I found hundreds of sciatic nerve pains sufferers who were desperate for information, answers and emotional support -just like me. It was then that I decided to journal my experience and eventually share it with others who may be facing the same debilitating condition. It is my hope that through sharing my experience, it will help someone else who may also be looking for answers and support.
Over the next series of blogs, you will read my raw, unedited account of my journey through sciatic nerve pain. With the exception of the first one, the entries are not dated, yet chronicled by the passage of days or weeks. I have decided NOT to edit any of my journal in order to present my experience just as I was living it. If you have any questions about any part of my journal, please feel free to post comments or questions and I will be more than happy to answer as completely and honestly as I can.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or other health care provider, and the information presented in the following series of blogs is not intended to diagnose or treat sciatic nerve pain or any other health related health condition.
The first journal entry starts below...
A Twinge Turned to Terror- Part 1
March 19, 2018
It’s been one week ago today that a simple “twinge” in my back turned into a sharp, searing pain that literally knocked me to my knees and sent my body into a vicious cycle of tremendous physical, emotional and mental agony. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was suffering from a condition commonly known as sciatica nerve pain. But what I didn’t realize is how such a “common” condition, could turn my life upside down in just a matter of a few short hours and make everyday, ordinary tasks literally impossible to perform. For anyone who’s ever experienced sciatica, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t ever experienced it, I hope you NEVER do, as I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy!
I’m still not sure just WHEN it happened. Or even HOW. The last “normal” thing I remember doing is something I do every day - fixing my bed. But as I bent down to retrieve a pillow from the floor, I felt an innocent little “twinge” go up my spine. Nothing really “painful”, just noticeable. After about an hour, I noticed a little soreness in my lower back, so I took an Aleve, and went on about my normal routine the rest of the day,with no other real side effects. Until a few hours later. I had been sitting in my chair doing some jewelry crafting and went to get up. And THAT’S when it HIT me. The twinge that had spoke so softly earlier in the day was now growling like an angry bear through the tender nerves that ran from my lower back and down into my right leg. I hobbled to the living room where my husband was, barely able to straighten my now painfully crooked spine. Hunched over like a hundred year old woman, and moving at a snail’s pace, my lower back and leg seethed with more pain than I ever thought imaginable.
My husband helped me to the couch, then quickly brought me a couple of ibuprofen, which I was sure would ease the pain and give me lasting relief. But sciatica doesn’t work that way. It’s more like a rude, uninvited guest - eager to stay and in no hurry to leave! (In fact, my obnoxious guest has been here eight days already, and shows NO sign of going ANYWHERE!)
After a restless night, gingerly tossing and turning to find a comfortable sleeping position, I awoke the next morning expecting to be blessed with an “overnight miracle”, and have my “normal” body back. Instead, I was even WORSE off than the night before. The whole day I spent scrunched up in my chaise chair with my knees rammed into my chest. It was the only position that seemed to bring any short term relief. I continued to take ibuprofen throughout the day and napped when possible. Later than night, screaming and crying for ANY kind of relief from the unrelenting pain that was now ripping up and down my right leg, I begged my husband to call SOMEONE and get some stronger pain meds. Fortunately for me, but not for him, my father-in-law had been through the SAME misfortune a year earlier, but was unable to take the strong medication the doctor had prescribed for him, and was glad to send them my way. Likewise, my Mom who was afflicted with muscle spasms a few months earlier, also had meds she thought might help. Finally armed with some potent weapons to counter-attack my ruthless attacker, I looked forward to a less painful and more restful evening - SURE relief would now come quickly. Only I was painfully WRONG - AGAIN! Part 2 coming soon....