My sciatica story is a long and winding tale of fear, frustration and suffering. I began this journey at the age of 16, when I suddenly developed acute lower back, buttocks and leg pain. I endured this torture for weeks before I finally broke down and spoke to my mother about it. She brought me to visit her chiropractor, who began to lay the foundation for what would turn out to be decades of progressive agony.
This is my true story. I am sharing it so that the lessons contained herein will help others to avoid making the same mistakes I made when seeking treatment. I hope that your experience will be better than mine.
My first chiropractor examined me and took preliminary x-rays. He diagnosed me with scoliosis, muscle imbalances and degenerative disc disease at L4/L5 and L5/S1. I was shocked by the very sound of these conditions, since they seemed so serious for a 16 year old to have. Degenerative disc disease sounded especially scary and I really felt I was irreparably damaged.
I remember thinking to myself:
I have a disease?
How did I get it?
How do I get rid of it?
It was horribly traumatic.
The chiropractor began treating me with regular spinal adjustments. He said this would relieve my pain, but never explained when or how. I continued under his care for several years, but my back pain never got better. It came and went and changed often in symptomology, but never truly disappeared; not once.
Eventually, due to this chiropractor’s incredible greed for ever growing fees, I was unable to remain with him any longer. I moved on to a new chiropractor and began seeing several orthopedic surgeons, as well.
Over the next few years, I tried many sciatica treatments, including acupuncture, continuing chiropractic, exercise therapy and even dietary changes. Nothing worked and my pain was still a most unwanted and uninvited guest in my life.
In my 20s, I was diagnosed with 2 herniated discs at those two same degenerated vertebral levels. This diagnosis came after experiencing an utterly debilitating attack of lower back pain while teaching a martial arts class. I was out of action for months and could barely move. This is when I became obsessed with my back and all the things which seemed to be wrong with it.
I began to seek treatment from literally dozens of different doctors and therapists. There were many theories thrown about as to why my back was so incredibly painful.
Most of the care providers blamed the herniated discs, even though the symptoms did not exactly match the diagnosis. Some doctors thought my lack of lumbar and cervical lordosis was to blame for the symptoms, while others considered this a sympathetic muscular response to the pain. A few doctors were still considering the scoliosis diagnosis, although most said my spinal curve was tiny and did not even qualify as true scoliosis.
I was very confused and was growing very frustrated that no one could seem to cure my horrible pain.
It might be worth mentioning that my limited insurance provided virtually no benefits for me and I paid for the vast majority of this care out of pocket. At one point I was working 4 jobs just to pay my medical bills. This financial hardship brought a whole new meaning to the words sciatica agony.
Just when it seemed that it could not get any worse, I suffered my worst back pain episode to date when I was about 30 years old. I was literally struck down with an attack so severe that I was rushed to the hospital and admitted. This followed a chiropractic adjustment which left me crippled from the waist down.
I was in so much pain that I was literally wishing for death. My family was devastated and I really thought this event would be the end of me. The misery was indescribable and I still have vivid nightmares about it to this very day.
I can still feel those deep surging muscle spasms when I close my eyes. This memory alone makes my teeth hurt when I think of clenching my jaw so tight to avoid screaming in that hospital emergency room. Trust me; this was hell. There could be no worse punishment in this life or any other.
Amazingly, I recovered much faster from this occurrence than from the previous ones. In fact, despite the constant urging of many doctors to perform spinal surgery, I managed to be up and around in a few weeks. This was a big surprise to all and especially me. But, I was permanently altered by this event. This bitter pain scarred my heart and soul, far more than my body. I began to live every day in chronic pain and was really considering a surgical solution.
Now all along, I had been learning about back pain and the various treatment options. I was always anxious to find a cure and tried so many modalities, but nothing had worked. Now, I poured myself into research full time, in an effort to find anything which might help me.
During these dark years, I learned a lot about the complete failures of the medical system and how it was simply impotent in treating virtually all forms of chronic pain. I realized that I had been a pawn of symptomatic treatments for many years and never really had any hope of recovering using the therapy options provided to me.
I became enlightened, empowered and full of anger when I considered that my life was being stolen from me day by day because of this unending pain. Regardless of how much I learned, I still found my pain was a daily concern. My symptoms no longer came and went, but instead existed every hour of every day.
I felt my pain first thing in the morning and it was always the last sensation before I finally went to sleep at night. Is sciatica worse than back pain or the other way around? This was a common question on my mind during these years of dual torture.
Are you sure that you know the difference between sciatica and lower back pain? If not, your hopes of finding effective treatment are slim to none.
Along the way, I had read many things about mindbody medicine and how the subconscious could produce what was called psychosomatic sciatica. I never gave this any thought, since I had actual damage to my spine which was diagnosed by many, many different doctors. Surely this idea did not apply to me at all. Then, I discovered the works of Dr. John Sarno and learned the real facts about sciatica. I was born again in this knowledge and knew I had found something which might actually fix my back.
I immersed myself in his treatment program called knowledge therapy, which actually consisted of learning the true nature of back pain. The treatment taught me what did cause back pain and more importantly, what did not.
I made an appointment to see Dr. Sarno, but by the time I actually met with him, I was virtually cured of pain. After 18 years of pure torment, I was free.
Dr. Sarno works out of the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at the NYU Medical Center in New York City. Surely, this is one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the entire world. However, he is a mild mannered and soft spoken man.
He did not care at all about my minor scoliosis. He cared even less about my degenerative disc disease or my 2 herniated discs. He told me that these conditions were normal and not the reasons for my pain. He even explained how the symptoms I had were far too widespread and diverse to possibly come from these spinal structures.
Of course, after practically memorizing his written works, this all made complete sense to me. Within the next couple of months I was able to permanently banish the very last remnants of pain from my back.
In addition, my long standing sensitive stomach completely healed, as did my recurrent battles with minor neck pain and serious knee and wrist pain. I had come full circle, from a condition of utter dis-ease to a condition of optimal health in under 2 months.
Learn more about the illogical inconsistencies associated with the common diagnosis of sciatica nerve compression.
After healing myself, I realized how many other people were still suffering. I love Doctor Sarno’s work, as well as the work of many other excellent mindbody professionals, such as Dr. Andrew Weil. However, speaking to many patients made me realize that some people just did not understand what knowledge therapy really was. They had a hard time comprehending the medical point of view provided in the books and were just not getting the true benefits of the treatment. This is why I wrote my first back pain book. This book began the foundation for what would become the most respected holistic pain relief program in the world today.
Fellow patients who read my book always tell me that I had a way of making them understand exactly what they needed to do in order to heal. I considered this a great compliment and decided to begin work on what would eventually become the Cure-Back-Pain.Org website.
Although originally founded as a self-help resource for psychosomatic back pain, I soon realized that this approach did not help every patient. In order to leave no person without hope for a cure, I expanded the site to become the largest and most comprehensive back pain information site in the world.
This site is not sponsored by doctors or medical corporations and presents honest and understandable information about all types of back pain and treatments from an objective and realistic point of view. Most importantly, I made sure this site would reach an international audience and would always be completely free to use.
I have learned much from my correspondences with all of you and through the interactive tools on the site, such as the forum, the sciatica survey and the Q & A section. You have helped me to build the site and I promise to continue to help all of you to recover from your pain. It has become my life’s work.
Well, to wrap up this chapter of the story, 2 years later, I began work on Sciatica-Pain.Org and Herniated-Disc–Pain.Org to provide specialized and highly detailed information on these 2 very common diagnoses.
After spending 3 more years working on these three sites, I developed Spinal-Stenosis-Treatment.Org and Neck-Pain-Treatment.Org to be added to what had now become a vast online encyclopedia of dorsalgia information: The Cure Back Pain Network.
As always, these sites are made just for you. You are my fellow patients and will always be my friends. The editorial board writes these articles with every intention of helping you to find that missing piece of your pain relief puzzle. As I always say: "If I can help just one of you, it is worth everything".
Well, tens of thousands of recovered patients later, this thought still means as much to me. Suffering from excruciating sciatica? There is help.
After 2008, I started to get pain all over again. It began as low back and sciatica symptoms and steadily grew to encompass much of my body. I detail the progress of this second round of pain on some of the other sites, but will summarize it by saying the following:
I now have a total of 12 herniated discs in my spine. Every disc in my neck, and the first 4 in my upper back, are herniated. That is 10 in a row. I still have the 2 lumbar herniations, as well. There was talk of a possible spinal syrinx at T8. I am still being monitored for this condition.
In addition, age and injury have continued the arthritic processes and of course, the stresses of life have never improved. All in all, I am in pain every day, but am handling it much better this second time around, without any medical or complementary care at all.
I see a neurologist twice yearly to monitor the progress of some serious spinal issues, including one herniation which is drastically affecting my cervical spinal cord. Learn more about the neurological effects of sciatica that can occur from a variety of causative conditions in the central nervous system.
I continue my patient advocacy work, my participation in many clinical research projects and my devoted study of back, neck and sciatica pain. I hope these efforts will help you and me. Thanks for reading my sciatica story.
With much sincerity, Sensei Adam Rostocki