Severe sciatica pain relief can never come fast enough. Described as the worse toothache in your whole leg and lower back, those who have experienced acute sciatica and this type of back pain like me will know and understand the deep sharp pains through your whole body from a simple body movement coupled with a constant dull ache down whichever leg (or both) is affected.
This blog article will hopefully help those who haven’t made it to the point of no return, validate those who have it now with a process, and probably highlight uncomfortable memories for those who have been on the sciatica journey before.
Sciatica affects people in various ways and to various degrees, this article is based on my experience and how I seemed able to reduce the unbelievable pain in a reasonably short time. I’m not a trained medic, so I’ve had my professional physiotherapist review and edit this article to ensure medical purpose. However, as described in our disclaimer, you should always seek professional advice.
The Most Common Causes of Sciatica:
- Herniated discs – A herniated disc can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, resulting in mild to severe pain.
- Bone Spurs – Bone spurs can occur due to age or degenerative conditions and can compress the sciatic nerve, leading to pain and discomfort.
- Lumbar Spinal Stenosis – This condition occurs when the spinal canal becomes too narrow and puts pressure on the nerve roots as they exit the spine, causing pain and numbness along with sciatica symptoms.
- Spondylolisthesis – This condition is caused by an injury or misalignment of a vertebra placed out of alignment with its adjacent vertebrae, again putting pressure on nerves which often manifests as sciatic pain.
Sciatica Pain Relief
I believe the cause of my acute sciatica is closer to Spondylolisthesis, or possibly piriformis syndrome. I was working in my yard in very muddy conditions when a foot stuck in mud twisted my left leg and tweaked my buttock and hamstring muscles. It didn’t hurt too much so I pressed on, and although I seemed to tweak it a few more times that day it was never that painful.
Over the coming weeks, it would come and go, sometimes aching, and other times I seemed to have full mobility. Over a couple of weekends when I had extended periods in the car the pain in my left buttock and leg became worse. By the Sunday night of another long drive, I admitted myself to Cambridge Addenbrookes A&E, the pain was unbearable, and I was virtually immobilized.
On arrival at A&E, once seen by the obliging triage nurse I was immediately on liquid morphine, funny enough it didn’t seem to make a difference! The pain was unbearable, but part of me ponders how much worse it might have been without the morphine.
The A&E doctor was excellent in diagnosis, he suspected sciatica almost immediately and related that he had also suffered a week in bed with sciatica (this was before the prognosis was that activity was good for remediation). The doctor then proceeded to run several un-flattery and inglorious tests around my nether regions, timed perfectly as the attractive young nurse stepped into my booth to witness me at my least flattering position. As sciatica can have serious implications for your bowel and bladder function. The sciatic nerve is connected to various other nerves throughout the body, including those that regulate bladder and bowel control.
If the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or irritated it can cause a loss of sensation or even paralysis in certain areas, leading to difficulty controlling the bladder or bowels. Some of the common symptoms include incontinence, constipation, fecal urgency, and urinary frequency. In some cases, surgery may be needed to correct any structural problems with the spine.
After the tests and leaving me for half an hour to stew a little more, the A&E Doctor returned to give the prognosis and send me on my way. Essentially, it was re-iterated that should I suffer any bowel or bladder issues I was to immediately return to A&E. I was given an oral morphine prescription and told to seek physiotherapy in the first instance. I managed to get home, into bed, and find a reasonably comfortable position which was on my front with a pillow under my pelvis.
Luck begins to fall my way the next day, Monday morning; on my second call, I get a physiotherapist appointment for the same day at 1 pm. Louise at Ed Kirby Physiotherapy. This is where I should mention my diligent and extremely supportive wife, who has helped me every step of this bloody painful journey, she gets me to the physio appointment.
Louise was fantastic, I’d asked how many sciatica patients she had treated and the response was over 30 years of physiotherapy meant way too many to remember. It was a painful struggle to get on the bench with my tracksuit bottoms up, but we managed it with a lot of screaming pain. Louise began her only limited testing due to pain.
The prognosis was confirmed as acute sciatica. At this time I’d mentioned I was starting a new job the following Monday, which I had every intention of turning up to. All the medics I’d spoken to up to that stage were betting against me!
However, what Louise did was the piece of magic needed to get me right again. Louise wrote a letter to my doctor, and encouraged me to see them ASAP. Louise gave recommendations on the best medications, highlighting a antineuropathic and a prescription anti-inflammatory.
My second piece of luck kicks in, although I had pointed out the schadenfreude my enemies were enjoying at this time on Facebook, things were moving back in my direction. My impregnable wife secures an appointment with a doctor at Elsenham Surgery that afternoon, unheard of at the time she called. A couple of hours later we roll up to the doctor with the physiotherapist’s letter, which also includes a note to put long odds on me turning up for my new job the following week.
Our Elsenham doctor was very much on the conservative side, so didn’t want to give me all the medication the physiotherapist recommended. With gentle persuasion, we managed to get all the drugs from the doctor, albeit on reduced dosages. My philosophy is to have all the drugs, and not take them if not needed, rather than needing the drugs and not having them. The doctor added in something to help my digestion against the heavy duty anti-inflammertries.
This is the critical piece of information for this article, ensure you are on the right medication to reduce inflammation and pain as soon as you can, however you do it.
With the doctor’s prescription, we made our way home. I started taking the medication religiously. Fortunately, a few years earlier I had purchased a Weyron Monarch Massage Chair – which gave me a very comfortable position with reduced pain.
That night I found a comfortable position in my bed, laying on my front with a pillow under my pelvis, drugged up on morphine, anti-inflammatories, and nerve pills I slept for nearly 12 hours, only needing the little boys’ room once, which was still a very painful challenge.
It is very frustrating when you can’t negotiate to get into bed without incurring excruciating pain at every movement. You try different angles and entry points, most times ending with a sharp pain and falling back to the standing position and looking at the bed again. Keeping the leg as straight as possible seemed to just about work with the least pain.
Tuesday saw a little improvement, but improvement. Staying in the massage chair and watching movies all day and night (and ensuring taking my drugs).
Wednesday was further improvement, but still, some pain moving in and out of bed, sitting and standing. Not sure what constitutes too much information, but I’d not any movements since the last Saturday night in Manchester. Wednesday afternoon saw the movement happen, and with my crutches and deliberate aim I managed to negotiate said activity (#2) with minimal pain and discomfort.
Thursday was the metamorphosis, my sciatica pain relief was happening. Waking with virtually no pain I was almost on my feet and moving straight away. The drugs had weaved their magic, didn’t even need to take any morphine, walked the dogs in the afternoon, and generally progressed through the day with a euphoric mindset being able to move about with virtually no pain. To be honest, it was a life-affirming experience and highlighted how lucky one is to have all limbs functioning, and re-affirming David Attenborough’s view that painkillers are humankind’s greatest invention.
Two weeks later at my follow up appointment with Louise, I walked in easy and passed all testing. The only time I felt a slight return was spending a few hours in the car again. Louise Kirby was really happy with my progress, and after a nice little chat and session I was sent on my way.
In summary, I defiantly left it too long to see someone, I should have gone after the first weekend I had pain even though things seemed to be better. However, a bit of luck fell my way. Firstly, going to A&E at Cambridge Addenbrookes, Dr Vaz Ahmed was excellent and very helpful. Secondly, getting a physiotherapist appointment with Louise who really knew her stuff. Next was being able to get a same-day doctor appointment and then talking the doctor into prescribing all the medication the physiotherapist recommended, albeit at reduced dosages. In my case, I believe it was the medication that relieved my pain quickly.
My final piece of fortunate luck was having a fantastic supportive wife who was really helpful and ensured I was heading in the right direction.