What is it like to have sciatica? This question might be asked by patients who are just beginning to suffer symptoms in the lower back, buttocks, legs and/or feet and are not sure if the term applies to them. The question might also be asked by people working in the care sector, in order to better understand patients’ needs by questioning them firsthand about their suffering. Finally, the question might be posed by long-time sufferers who simply want the general population to understand the horrors that they must endure daily, since sciatica is an invisible burden that does not provide visual evidence of its impact on life, function or psychological outlook.
We are fully immersed in sciatica care from every relevant point of view. Therefore, we offer this patient guide as a tribute to the brave souls who must endure, despite their pain, and the people who help to treat them. However, we also will use this opportunity to warn patients that some caregivers are not interested in anything except money. In essence, they profit from your suffering and want to be sure that you continue to suffer so that they can make more money. This dark side of medicine exists in highly conspicuous form throughout the dorsalgia sector, with large numbers of doctors, chiropractors and therapists using guile, mythology and virtually criminal tactics to increase their profit, often at direct expense of the patient’s health and best interests. If you want to understand the big picture of sciatica suffering, you simply need to keep reading.
What is it Like to Have Sciatica for Patients?
Sciatica comes in many forms, ranging from mildly uncomfortable and transitory to torturous and chronic. Therefore, patients report completely different descriptions of sciatica based on their own personal experiences. We can provide realistic depictions of sciatica from both our own journeys as patients, as well as the experience of the people we have cared for as healthcare workers:
The most fortunate patients have pain that minimally impacts their lives. These people usually have symptoms that come and go, making particular days at work more challenging or making them think twice before participating in activities that are known to be symptomatic exacerbators. Statistically, most of these patients will progress to suffer worse sciatica and more often recurring sciatica with the passage of time.
Middle ground patients might have minor to moderate pain on a regular basis or might have truly agonizing occasional acute episodic activity in their sciatic nerve. Many patients demonstrate both varieties of pain, with mild pain existing daily and major pain existing occasionally. Once again, statistically-speaking, the majority of patients will progress to the next symptomatic stage within a few years.
The worst fated patients are those with chronic sciatica pain. These people suffer great hardship and are usually functionally restricted. Many of these patients are disabled by their pain and a large percentage is either considering or has already undergone surgical interventions geared towards treating their pain. Statistically, few of these patients will find any semblance of significant or lasting relief from any type of treatment, while even fewer will find definitive cures.
Research evidence proves sciatica to be one of the most difficult pain syndromes to treat or cure. The same research demonstrates very long timelines of suffering for average patients, with many enduring ever-worsening symptoms for most of their adult life. To summarize sciatica from a patient’s perspective: It is a torture that usually begets worse torture. There is little hope that pain enduring for more than a year will ever truly leave.
What is Sciatica Really Like? A Caregiver’s POV
Sciatica treatment is a huge industry. There are many traditionally-trained physicians who specialize in the condition, including several medical focuses, including orthopedics, sports medicine, physical therapy and neurology. There are also complementary service providers who concentrate their treatment efforts on sciatica patients, including chiropractors, massage therapists, Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine and many other healing professionals.
Many of these caregivers are mystified by the cruel nature of sciatica. They might have a difficult time understanding how or why the pain is so severe based on the anatomical evidence collected during diagnostic processing. They are often confused that most sciatica patients have basically normal spines for their age.
Most patients will demonstrate the usual varieties of spinal disc desiccation, intervertebral herniation and osteoarthritis in the lumbar and lumbosacral regions, but these factors are known to be innocent and incidental to most pain syndromes. However, there is no doubt from clinical exam that the patient is suffering, so these scapegoats will usually shoulder the blame for creating symptoms, despite little evidence of any relationship and no pathological process being observed. Doctors look to history to provide answers and unfortunately, the Cartesian medical model still serves many diagnostic needs today despite being found to be faulty in virtually every case. Most sciatica is proven to be non-spinally sourced and much is completely non-structurally-motivated, as well.
Some doctors are aware of alternative explanations for pain, but still find themselves not sure of how to treat these issues, since they were not instructed formally during medical school. This idea holds particularly true for the many psychogenic manifestations of sciatica that exist in chronic sufferers. Doctors are hesitant to even suggest the word psychosomatic, since many with financial motivations have made sure that this verdict is received as an insulting term by patients. This explanation undercuts their profitability and so they have made sure that patients would never accept it easily, if at all.
Speaking of these financially-motivated individuals and companies, they view sciatica completely differently. They see lots and lots of money in the condition and will use whatever means necessary to be sure that they get their share of the fiscal gains.
Some doctors misdiagnose patients, or simply do not bother to complete any form of comprehensive and objective diagnostic process, in order to move the patient forward into profitable treatment. The journey usually will keep the patient in conservative care for as long as possible, before recommending that care be escalated to include invasive interventions. Once sciatica surgery is performed, rehabilitation needs place the patient right back into profitable conservative care. After all this, statistics still show that few patients enjoy good treatment outcomes. Meanwhile, more than 8 times this benefited number reports continuous suffering post-surgical care.
Add to the above scenario that fact that countless drug manufacturers, surgical supply companies and various medical and complementary medical support services are also financially-invested and it becomes clear that sciatica means only one thing: Money. In essence, your suffering directly profits so many people that they do not want you to find relief now or ever.
What is it Like to Have Sciatica for Society?
Sciatica most often leaves no visible evidence. It does not make a person appear sick or injured, yet so many patients can barely stand, sit or even recline without terrible pain. Therefore, we remind the lucky ones who do not suffer from sciatica that the face of an average patient is best represented by looking in a mirror. Anyone can suffer terrible affliction from sciatic nerve symptoms. There may not be obvious outward signs, but this does not undermine the extreme nature of the anatomical torment or functional loss.
Sciatica is a major source of disability claims, insurance bills and drug prescriptions. The collateral health risks of these drugs go on to further degrade patient’s lives, killing some and further disabling many more. Sciatica costs everyone a huge toll. We all pay for its effects and should therefore be both sympathetic to those who suffer with it, as well as interested in ending it. We at The Cure Back Pain Network have been advocating for sciatica sufferers for over a decade. We understand their needs and have made it our mission for provide educational resources for patients, care providers and the general public in order to diminish the burden of this misery on each and every person who must endure it, as well as society as a whole.
If you really want to learn all about sciatica, we suggest that you are already in the right place and on the right path. All you have to do is read the information on sciatica-pain.org and you will be fully up-to-date on all the latest news, treatments and research from the preeminent minds in the dorsalgia field. We do not expect any financial reward for our work. We are here for you and not your money. We are satisfied if our efforts help bring us all a bit closer to a pain-free world, without the need for dangerous drugs or unnecessary surgeries.