Lifelong Sciatica

I am a victim of lifelong sciatica.  Well actually, I did not have pain when I was a child, but have suffered it every day since I was about 15 years old.  I am now in my 50s.  I truly feel as if sciatica is a part of who I am, since my entire maturity process was influenced by my daily pain.  I really would not recognize my life if the pain were not there, although I still hope and pray for it to end every day.

I began to get pain in school in my tenth grade year.  It basically began for no reason, usually hitting me at night in bed.  I would get leg cramps and pain shooting down one or both legs.  When one leg was affected, it would sometimes be the left and sometimes be the right.  During the day I was usually fine and unaffected by the pain.  However, since the symptoms came on at night, sleeping was difficult and I began suffering from another lifelong problem, insomnia.

Being young and innocent, I never sought medical attention for my problem, since I was functioning ok and was not disabled in any way.  When I got to college, my roommate begged me to see a doctor, since I was often awake at night and therefore had a tendency to wake him, as well.  I went to the campus doctor and he told me that I probably just still had growing pains and that these should pass with time.  

Fast forward several years and I was employed in my field and finally had some good health benefits.  I still had nightly pain, but now I also seemed to get pain in the mornings and evenings for several hours after waking and before retiring to bed, respectively.  Only the middle parts of my days were pain-free.  I sought a consultation form a local doctor who specialized in back pain and sciatica.  This was in my middle twenties and MRI technology was just becoming available to the general public.  The doctor took advantage of my extremely generous medical benefits to get me tested using the new scanning technology. 

I was given an MRI of my lumbar spine and it showed nothing unusual.  I was told that my lower discs were thin, but that there was no neurological problem seen or any reason to think that my pain was of spinal origin.  When I met with the doctor again, he told me that this is good news.  I asked what could be done for my pain and he told me nothing he could do would help.  He was not sure why I had pain and why it had endured for so long.  He told me to see a neurologist to determine if there was some problem with my sciatic nerve or the other nerves in my legs.  I was happy that I did not need surgery.

I saw the neurologist soon after and was given a battery of tests and diagnostic procedures.  To summarize, despite the high cost of treatment, luckily covered by my insurance, no definitive results were achieved.  My neurological anatomy seemed sound and normal according to the doctor.  Once again, I was relieved, but by the time I was 28, my pain was worsening again.

Now, my pain was there most of the time. When I sat, it began to hurt and when I stood for a long time, it hurt more.  I had shooting pain down both legs about 70% of my waking time and virtually all the time when I was, or was supposed to be asleep.  My work was suffering, since I was slowing down physically and the sleep deprivation really took a toll on my cognitive abilities.  I am employed in a cerebral vocation, so this was bad news for me and my chosen career path.

I do not know if this downturn was related to my marriage and maybe the responsibilities associated with it.  Maybe.  All I knew was that I was getting desperate and was in lots of pain on a daily basis.

Over the next 25 years, I saw many doctors, chiropractors, therapists of all kinds.  I tried exercise, diets, TENS, ointments, drugs, injections and anything else short of surgery.  I am sure that if something was found that could have been operated upon, I would have tried that also.  Luckily, that was not the case.  Not a single treatment did much to affect the pain positively.  I felt resigned to suffering at this stage, which somehow actually seemed to make things better for me.

My pain got slightly better, then slightly worse, but was basically there chronically and around the clock. Sometimes I had flare-ups that put me in bed for a day or two and sometimes I felt good enough to actually sleep well or to be more active.  I got quite fat and out of shape, since I did little in the way of fitness activities most years. The added weight definitely did not help my condition, my life or my self esteem.

Now, my life is boring.  I work and I sit watching TV most nights.  I still can’t sleep well and probably have missed whole years of cumulative sleep in my lifetime thus far.  My work never progressed to the heights I once imagined, mostly because I have difficulty concentrating due to pain and my chronic lack of rest.  My family feels bad for me and I feel bad for myself.  I really do not know what to do at this stage.  I feel like sciatica has been the defining force in my life and has kept me from realizing my potential. While it is not too late, even if I enjoyed a miraculous cure tomorrow, there is no denying that the almost 30 years spent suffering would always be the most memorable part of my entire life.   

My sedentary life did lead me to this website and I am still reading lots of information here.  I like the refreshing tone, compared to the usual medical sites with technical information, but no idea of the experience of pain.  Thanks for that.  I do find it disturbing that I had a hard time finding this site, which is all about sciatica. Meanwhile using search engines, I see many results from general health sites ranked high that had one stupid and useless article on sciatica.  What BS that is.  Well, eventually I found something that seemed to reflect my experience and give me hope for the first time in a few years.  I hope that some of my research here might lead me to try something different that might just make a difference in my pain and in my life.

Thanks, Timothy

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