First Experience with Sciatica

I am in my late 40s and recently had first experience with sciatica. I have had a few episodes with lower back pain in the last 15 years or so, but this sciatica is the worst episode of pain to date. I will try to share all I can recall and maybe it can help someone else.

This started about 5.5 weeks ago, so this is recent. In the past, I have been prescribed some pain killers and muscle relaxants for lower back pain and that has helped me get on my feet and at least move around during healing. With this sciatica, I first noticed pain down my left leg going to bed one night and it got so bad it woke me out of a sound sleep several times. I tried to massage the muscles and took some ibuprofen. The pain was mainly on the left side of my leg, below the knee and into my foot.

I went to the doctor the next morning and was prescribed steroid pills and physical therapy. I went home, started taking the pills and the pain got worse and I could not sit in a chair, drive or ride in car or get to the PT.

The pain was bad and the thought of moving around and stretching at the PT was out of the question. The area behind my big toe got very tender to the touch and it became very sensitive. I could not stand on that leg.

Once I got up from bed to go to the bathroom a short ways away and returned to bed in deep pain down the leg. I kept thinking if I rested a bit over the weekend and kept the pain under control (i was prescribed some pain pills), I could get up and keep my strength up. It got worse and I had several episodes with pain in the lower leg that were just agonizing.  I could not get comfortable and could only tolerate laying on the right side. This increase in problems and pain was very worrisome and I had to get help in communicating with the doctors.

It is hard to describe, but this sciatica really puts you down hard and you must stay positive and seek help. It is a nagging, intense pain. You should know that it is going to take some time to deal with this, maybe weeks or several months, so once I got that in my head, I could deal with it easier.

I was prescribed pain medication and with transportation help, I got in a wheelchair and made it to the emergency room.  An MRI showed a herniated disc in the lower back pressing on the nerve.

I went to a orthopedic specialist and was given epidural block shots that were 10 days apart. At the time of the first shot, I quit taking any prescription pain meds immediately and switched to over the counter pain medications, mainly acetaminophen and aspirin combinations.

I got a lot of relief from the first shot and the second shot provided more relief. The thought of the shots is not pleasant to most people but it is brief and I only felt a little pinch and some pressure and it was over quickly. It was hard to get on that leg and walk more than 10 or 15 feet without discomfort.

I was getting little jolts down my foot from time to time and I could feel the weakness and tenderness in my muscles. At first, I used crutches to provide support while I walked, first two then one crutch, but have slowly gotten strength back.

I have been doing physical therapy now for two weeks and gradually get better every day. The healing and strengthening is slow, but each day I get a little better and stronger.

I think I would have been able to deal with this better if somebody had told me at the beginning that this is going to take a long time, perhaps months or more, to work out.

You are going to be up and down and it will be frustrating, and we are not sure of the outcome, only time will tell us more. I hope this helps somebody out there.

- Steve

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