sciatica three weeks

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sciatica three weeks

Postby cygnet » Mon Dec 25, 2006 8:29 pm


I injured my back (well, it wasbuilding up over several months before becoming acute) on December 1st - had severe lower back pain. I couldn't get off the floor for the first day. One week later, it turned into severe sciatic pain down my left leg. I had shooting pain in my left buttock, and along the side of my calf, with tingling and some numbness along the top of my foot and in my toes. No significant loss of reflexes or strength. Doctor diagnosed a pinched sciatic nerve probably due to a herniated disk.

Last week I learned that this has also happened to my mother, aunt, and grandfather - so obviously it runs in the family. My mother had it 16 years ago. Fr three weeks she couldn't walk, and it took her six months to recover fully.

I've had the sciatica for three weeks now. I have intense nerve pain along with painful cramping of the muscles in my buttock, calf, and to a lesser extent, my lower back. I no longer have lower back pain, although the muscles are rigid when I try to stand or walk.

Finally, just a few days ago, I noticed that the nerve pain was becoming less intense. I still cannot walk more than 8-10 yards without doubling over in pain, or stand upright for very long. It has started to improve just slightly. For a week now I've been doing lumbar stabilization exercises and abdominal strengthening exercises. I try to walk but it just isn't working yet. So frustrating!

I had no idea this acute stage where mobility is severely limited could last so long. Is this typical? Someone please tell me that soon I will be able to walk without limping and all bent over. I can tolerate pain, but when it is so bad that I cannot walk normally it's extremely depressing.

I cannot do the cobra pose at all yet. The only progress I've made with any back flexion exercises is the Cat and Camel. This week I'm able to arch my back a bit without inducing the nerve pain. It's some progress. When standing or walking, I still cannot get my back to be upright with a neutral pelvic tilt. It's stuck in a "C" shape.

At this point I need to hear some encouraging words. By the way, I have no health insurance - so MRIs and surgery are not an option even if I wanted to go that route.

Thanks all. I'm glad this forum exists.
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Postby randolph » Tue Dec 26, 2006 8:40 am

Hello Crygnet!

Great description of your symptoms. Yes, sounds like typical sciatica (some Christmas present ...). I was laid up for almost 3 months, being able to just crawl on my hands and kness, before I could even attempt to stand for more than a few seconds. It does get better, slowly. From week to week, you'll be able to walk more, stand straighter, do more of the exercises, have less pain.

Yes, it's very depressing, frustrating, confusing, infuriating, overwhelming, this new, but temporary, limitation on your life. Thankfully the worst is at the very beginning ... and you've been thru the worst already, probably, by the sounds of it in your post. Recuperation time varies by individual. Impossible to predict how long it will take till you are recovered like your mother.

I wouldn't worry about not being able to afford an MRI or surgery (see the article "A Knife in the Back" @ to read about the limitations and dangers of some of the aggressive treatments of back problems). Sounds like you did the sensible thing: saw a GP just to make sure no alien life force is living in your lower back. A competent GP can make a fairly good diagnosis without all the imaging technology, to eliminate the possibility of your pain and disability being caused by tumors, or other more serious dysfunctions that would require immediate, aggressive medical attention.

Use your down time to scour the web, libraries, bookstores, other back pain sufferers for info on sciatica. There is a lot of conflicting thinking out there about exactly what sciatica is and what to do about it. We're still learning here. RYB has helped a lot of folks, not been helpful for some. You just don't know till you try.

May I speak from the heart here, and tell you something I'm just beginning to learn after 18 months into my adventure with sciatica? One of the initial human responses to a big crisis in life (I would guess not being able to walk qualifies) is to find someone who will take your hand and point out the yellow brick road back home. Unfortunately, our fairy godmother doesn't exist. The best you can realistically hope for is finding out what others have done in a similar situation, gleen what seems useful from their experience, then take a deep breath, choose your poison, and see what happens. In fact, I'd say, anyone who claims that their way is the yellow brick road back home, is leading you on a path straight to their bank account so you can make a deposit. But the good news is, we are the end product of people who were the best at surviving ... whatever the challenge. We actually don't need someone to hold our hand ... not for very long anyway ... and we each got the brains and guts to meet this challenge successfully.

Keep in touch, Randolph
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Postby cygnet » Tue Dec 26, 2006 12:17 pm

Thank you Randolph, your insight into this condition is very helpful.

But still, I just want to know...MOST cases of sciatica do resolve in 6-8 weeks, right? That is what several books I've read have said. By resolve I don't necessarily mean being completely pain-free, but recovered enough to function normally - go to work, walk where you need to go, etc.

If I go by the posts on this forum, I'd guess that sciatica doesn't usually resolve in 1-2 months. I just hope thatmany of us posting here are the exception, not the rule.

I lost my job as a result of this episode. No insurance, no job, no spouse. I HAVE to recover within the next month in order to begin working again (probably as an office temp).

Also, I live in New York City, where people walk everywhere. It is very difficult to do anything when you cannot walk here. Most people, me included, don't own a car. Going to work involves standing on a crowded subway train for 30-40 minutes, followed by walking about half a mile to your workplace. At this point, standing and walking are still very limited for me.
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Postby randolph » Tue Dec 26, 2006 1:26 pm

Hello again Cygnet ... sorry for messing up your beautiful name in my first post, Swan (Lady .... I presume ... for no real good reason, since the famous swan from the ugly duckling story was a male, right?)

Really hard to say how long before you're up and ready to start working again. (It's in situations like this, not being prophetic, but feeling like I ought to know a lot more than the little I do, that I feel dreadfully impotent.) All I can say is ... it varies greatly by individual. Hopefully others will give their experience; I'll give you mine.

I had enough saved so I wasn't under the same pressure you are, to get back working ASAP. So I took 4 months off before working again ... and that first month back in the truck, driving the interstates, was pretty tough. I suppose if I'd had to get working again ASAP, like you do, I might have been able to start again a month sooner. When my sciatica symptoms began, I was 53, in the best shape of my life, and had always taken real good care of my body.

I'm finding out that there are apparently two different approaches to treating sciatica (and related disorders): the cause is some structural, physical problem ... and you can find a myriad of different treatment options by clicking on Dean's RESOURCES; or the cause is psychosomatic (the pain is very real, but the cause lies in the brain, and thus treatment must begin there) ... and apparently Dr John Sarno is having some success with this approach.

Since you are in NYC, you are close to Dr Sarno (see His fees are stratospheric, now that he's gotten national media attention for helping Howard Stern ... but having the best libraries and new/used book stores on the planet around you, you might be able to read his books and gleen some help that way. Apparently, if the comments on their forum at the above web address are at all truthful, many people have recovered rapidly from sciatica using his treatment, without being treated personally by the doctor.

Hope this helps some. Randolph
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Postby cygnet » Mon Jan 01, 2007 2:57 pm

Hi Randolph,

I just came back to the forum and reread the responses again (for moral support).

Yikes. Three months before you were able to stand. That puts my month-long sciatica in perspective! Were you able to do any exercises or stretching in the beginning?

Dean's RYB book does mention that sciatica takes longer to heal than muscle or ligament injuries. He says six weeks or longer, for some. I guess this condition requires a looottt of patience. You have to take note of really small improvements, and recognize that as progress.

I was able to find a health insurance plan through a professional association that I belong to. The coverage will start in Feb. One less thing to worry about! I just hope that this country does the right thing, soon, and gets all it's citizens covered by health insurance. Universal health insurance.

I read one of Dr. Sarno's books many years ago, back in 1994 when I had a bout of lower back pain. I see how his ideas might apply to some cases of lower back pain, especially those that have become chronic. At the same time though, I'm not thrilled by the implication that back injuries are psychosomatic. I've had back pain for many years, and always just worked through it and went on functioning, and eventually it went away. It's possible some of those episodes were TMS. But this time was different, and I just don't see how it could be psychosomatic. I so clearly have a pinched nerve...and that isn't caused by tension.

I'm more inclined to believe Dean's ideas that a back becomes deconditioned over a long period, and it's exacerbated by lifestyle and bad posture. That combo can set us up for injuries like ruptured discs. The other thing I like about this perspective is that it doesn't treat your personality as a factor in causing back pain the way Sarno's book does. Who wants to hear that an amorphous thing like attitude is causing your back problem when you're already stressed out and in pain? And lifestyle is so much easier to change than personality or outlook...

What's been frustrating lately is that I can tell that part of the problem is piriformis muscle spasms. When I first get up in the morning, there's a ten-twenty minute window of time when my muscles are relaxed - I guess from sleep - and I can walk almost upright and with less pain. But in very little time, the piriformis scrunches up again and starts to hurt bad. Then I can't walk upright because my lower back muscles become rigid in response to the clenched piriformis and hamstring. The muscle cramps in the buttock seem to aggravate the nerve inflammation. It's a catch-22. Argh. No relaxation or stretching or ice has been able to interrupt the muscle spasms.

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Postby randolph » Tue Jan 02, 2007 5:46 am

REALLY great news, Cygnet, that you are getting financial help! Fantastic!!!!

I started with 2 months doing the basic exercises, at first being able to do just a few minutes at a time, a few times during the day, building up gradually. Very limited flexibility. After those two months, with increased flexibility and endurance (before the pain would flare and I'd have to stop moving), I added the advanced exercises at a rather furious pace. I was still having difficulty standing in one spot for more than a few minutes for several months (standing in lines was the pits), and until just the last week, had difficulty walking for more than 30 minutes before the hip pain got too bad. This was all pretty frustrating. I'd been exercising and stretching regularly for 30 years prior to this sciatica adventure ... so yeah ... patience. It was particularly frustrating to have that "got to call it a day" pain (when your muscles are all scrunched up and you can't do ANYTHING) come up at lunch time ... but it did give me a lot of time for reading ... which turned out to be a real blessing. Learned a lot of other useful things (can't read about backs all the time)

It seems to be a common, but incorrect, first impression of Dr Sarno's theories, that part of his treatment includes monumental behavior changes. I was initially turned off to his work thinking similarly. But he says in the book of his I read, that he'd be the last person to add to some poor back pain sufferer's stress by perscribing such incredibly difficult (and thankfully unnecessary) tasks. I think the misintrepretation can pretty well be laid at the doorstep of his rather poor writing style (Dean spoils you). Sort of like being Dorothy in the land of Oz, trying to get back home, and for some reason, your good witch of the east has marbles in her mouth and you hear, "bake the jello thick toad". You strongly suspect there's some information there, but .... huh? I had to read his stuff over several times till I got enough ah-ha moments together to get it.

It was pretty much a no brainer for me to plug into the TMS diagnosis. After 15 months of rollercoaster pain, I could safely assume physical healing was completed, and that my pain was quite likely psychosomatic in origin. The dramatic improvement I've experienced the last week since applying Sarno's TMS treatment recommendations seems to bear that out. In your case, with symptoms beginning just a month ago, you may indeed need more time for physical healing. But I'd put the TMS treatment option on the back burner, ready to fry up if you're still not well recovered in 6-9 months. You know your body best; all we can do as forum friends is gleen what little info we can from posts even as well-written as yours, make some suggestions based mostly on our own limited, personal experience, then, of course, it's your baby.

I hear you concerning that glorious 10-20 minute window of pain-free life you get upon waking up. Thankfully, that time increased steadily for me week-to-week as I did the exercises. That was one of my barometers of how well I was improving. There would be occassional dips in that pain-free time if the previous day had been particularly stressful or busy.

I'm still fence straddling on that universal health care issue. I haven't resolved the war raging inside. My brain grew up in a politically conservative household (small gov't GOOD, big gov't BAD, big business GOOD, socialized medicine BAD, etc); but my heart soars with appreciation for the state medicaid plans that paid for $30K of medical care that I could not have paid for, that saved the lives of two of my kids. Since leaving home, I've recovered some political sanity, get really ticked off about seeing our tax dollars building bridges to nowhere and funding corporate global empires that have no problem turning this planet into a landfill, but I still wonder ... geez, how are we going to pay for this thing, as good as it is? The voodoo economics advocated by most in both parties seems dunderheaded (plans like Neal Bortz is pushing for a national sales tax make perfect sense to me ... but get real ... politicians are going to abolish the IRS?).... so I end up scratching my wooden head a lot these days.

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