Sciatica from Motorcycle Riding

I began to suffer sciatica after 20 plus years of motorcycle riding.  I am a normal guy, 42 years old, and never hurt my back ever.  I am an engineer and do not do physical work.  I sit much of the time and get to work and all of my projects using my motorcycle.  I love being a biker and enjoy the lifestyle in every way.  I guess I am what some people would call a “gear head”.  I like to fix and customize my bike, as well.

I have been an active rider for years.  I started in college, which was a major problem for my family, who worried about their son incessantly.  I have never been in an accident or even fallen.  Bikes have been an important part of my life and I own several at this point.  I actually like to think of them as an investment and I must admit to having quite a bit of money tied up in them also.

So, anyway, on to my problem.  I began to get pain only while riding my bike, about 2 years ago.  I did not have the same pain when sitting in a normal chair, such as while working.  I did not think much of it for a couple of months, since it was just annoying and not too severe. Then things began to worsen for me.

The pain grew quite acute and would come on quickly as son as I began to ride.  Since I did not have a car, and rode my bike everywhere, this became a real hassle.  The pain was in both legs, starting in the middle buttocks and going down the backs of both legs.  It soon grew worse in the right leg, for no apparent reason.

After a few more months of suffering quite badly, I finally made an appointment to see my doctor.  He performed a quick exam (worthless) and referred me to see a neurologist.  I was a little worried, so I put off making the appointment.  The pain continued, so I eventually acquiesced.

The neurologist examined me and ordered several tests, including an MRI of my lumbar spine.  I told her that I had no back pain at all, but she still wanted the test done.  A week later, I went back to see her for the results.  My lumbar MRI was fine.  She said that the test showed normal changes for a person my age.  Nerve conduction testing showed normal signal in both legs, with no abnormalities.  She asked me how I was feeling and I told her that nothing had changed.  If I rode my bike, I got pain. I I didn’t, I was generally ok.  She told me that she had no explanation for my pain, and suggested that I stopped riding for a while.

I took a few weeks off work, since I had lots of vacation time due.  I relaxed, did not ride my bike and felt great.  Then, the weeks passed and it was time to get back to work.  I really did not even think about it.  I just got on my bike, same as I did every day for years and immediately felt the pain in both legs.  In fact, it seemed worse after the weeks off.  

I sought out another opinon from an orthopedist and he saw no evidence of any process that could be causing the pain.  He told me to see a physical therapist and thought the pain might be originating in my sacroiliac region and traveling down my legs. He informed me about a theory called piriformis syndrome, which originally led me to this website for research online.

Well, I could go on and on, but what is the point?  I saw the physical therapist and a chiropractor.  A series of spinal adjustments were worthless and the massage therapist recommended by the chiropractor was great, although treatment did nothing to relieve my pain.  I am fine, as long as I am not on my motorcycle for more than a few minutes.  I certainly can not ride the hours I do usually, to work, to projects and for enjoyment.  I actually had to buy a car, which I despise.  Strangely, I can ride a normal bicycle, which I do on occasion now for exercise.

None of my doctors have any idea what is wrong with me and some have even begun to eye me suspiciously as though I am nuts.  The truth is I feel like I am going crazy, because the pain is bad and I am anxious at the now very real prospect of losing my life’s passion.  What do I do?  Could my pain be somehow related to an emotional process?  I wish I knew the answer.

- Henry

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