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Sciatica advice

  1. #1
    Lifer tsorfas's Avatar
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    Sciatica advice


    My mom is suffering really bad with pain from her lower back down to her left leg.
    All signs point at sciatica and nerve damage.
    She didnít have a primary doctor. We finally have an appointment for this coming Wednesday.
    The pain is really bad and itís now 5 months. She tried all sorts of pain killers. Nothing works more than an hour.
    She just completed 20 visits with a chiropractor and although there was slight improvement in the beginning the pain is now worse.
    She needs a MRI no doubt about it. Should we go to the ER or wait to meet the primary a week out?
    Any advice for pain management? I hate seeing her take Alene, etc. she canít smoke marijuana because the smell and taste make her vomit. Any advice would be greatly appreciate. There are days that she can barely stand. I canít keep seeing her like that. She finally had enough listened to to see a real doctor but now Iím also worried about what nerve damage has happened in the 5 months she didnít do anything other than pain management about it.

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    Lifer loudbeard's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    1.) Physical therapy. I find chiropractors to be...fucking quacks.

    2.) You can eat pot now. Does wonders, particularly if you don't like to smoke.

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  3. #3
    Lifer
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    Only advise I can give is multiple daily stretching of the body and effected area and some Aleve to numb the pain. You can go online and look up which stretches are best for what her conditions are. Sounds like doctors are needed for sure however so it's possible nothing may help. The chiropractor helps but based on own experiences it's the daily stretching that did the most but it's probably Not as bad as your mum's. I would stretch as much as I could when I could. Little by little it got better. Doing nothing made it so much worse.

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  4. #4

    Re: Sciatica advice

    Has she tried yoga? May sound silly, but it has been really, really good for my mom.

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  5. #5
    Lifer Falko's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    Yes, stretching and Yoga will do wonders for your back. We as a society do not treat our bodies properly in terms of physical use and posture. Many problematic areas of the back can be cured through strengthening and loosening.
    Get your mom a massage to start the loosening, once a week at minimum. Get her stretching and heating pad on the middle of the back. The lower back is typically not the problem area, it just transmits the pain as the middle back pulls on that area when it tightens.

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  6. #6
    Angry Gumball RandyO's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    Quote Originally Posted by loudbeard View Post
    1.) Physical therapy.
    this is what cured my sciatica. about 20, maybe 22 years ago, I had sciatica bad. My orthopedic doc didn't send me to a physical therapist though, he gave me a little booklet that had pictures of exercises & stretches. circled 5 or 6 , had me do em once in his office, then wrote the number of repetitions. Told me to do em once a day, couple months later I felt good as new, 6 months later I had lost 50 lbs a year later 100lbs. Unfortunately medications for seizures and I gained it all back. different meds now, I'm loosing and only 50 lbs away. No sciatica, the exercises, build your core strength and straighten out your posture. Weak core and bad posture is what causes your sciatic nerve to be pinched

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  7. #7
    Lifer loudbeard's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    My physical therapist is great. She's seen me through my shoulder surgery, and if I manage to do something stupid to my back I go and see her for 2-3 sessions and she gets me straightened out. She incorporates a lot of yoga into my "homework" and lately has been advising me on how to modify traditional weight training exercises to be more effective for strengthening my deficiencies.

    Most physical therapists tend to operate under the premise of give you the tools to be successful yourself. Chiropractors...well, they're fucking quacks.

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  8. #8
    Lifer
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    Quote Originally Posted by tsorfas View Post
    My mom is suffering really bad with pain from her lower back down to her left leg.
    All signs point at sciatica and nerve damage.
    She didn’t have a primary doctor. We finally have an appointment for this coming Wednesday.
    The pain is really bad and it’s now 5 months. She tried all sorts of pain killers. Nothing works more than an hour.
    She just completed 20 visits with a chiropractor and although there was slight improvement in the beginning the pain is now worse.
    She needs a MRI no doubt about it. Should we go to the ER or wait to meet the primary a week out?
    Any advice for pain management? I hate seeing her take Alene, etc. she can’t smoke marijuana because the smell and taste make her vomit. Any advice would be greatly appreciate. There are days that she can barely stand. I can’t keep seeing her like that. She finally had enough listened to to see a real doctor but now I’m also worried about what nerve damage has happened in the 5 months she didn’t do anything other than pain management about it.
    Stretching / yoga / simple core exercise is the usual path and is likely what a doc will recommend anyway. However, if it results in increased inflammation of the nerve, this can be difficult. Some people benefit from walking, which might seem counter-intuitive.

    I assume she's already kinda 'reassessed' her daily routines? E.g. if she's sitting in a poorly fitting chair all day, or hunches over a counter.

    As for the pain, in between exercises, avoid adding additional inflammation of the nerve. Don't try to 'suck it up' and ignore it. If the current position is causing increased shooting pains, avoid it. Experiment with laying on the floor and using rolled up towels or pillows to see if the body can be supported/propped up in a way that gets the weight off the nerve. Heat, cold, and various topical creams can help to basically distract from the pain.

    Sudden weakness in the leg/foot, and foot-drop I believe are when they want you to go to the ER asap. If she stands on the good foot, can she modulate her foot up and down, side to side, or hold it outward etc. You can probably confirm this with a call to the receptionist at the primary's office first thing in the morning. Sciatica doesn't always mean nerve damage, even if it's over a long period of time. But the possibility of permanent nerve damage does exist. The 'straight leg raise' test can help aide in confirming your suspicions of her having sciatica. Although after 5 months of limited mobility, she'll want to focus on exercise asap. Her core is probably already weaker, and increases both the pressure on the nerve, and increases the likelihood of disc rupture.

    Are you on an HMO which will need referrals from a primary? If not, I might be looking to skip the primary and go straight for a specialist. Especially if there's a high degree of confidence in the cause.

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  9. #9
    Lifer Rosco61's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    The above is all great advice.
    I had that same condition and it is super painful. I had PT as well as stretching and other treatments. The PT I was seeing also had me use one of these to good effect.
    It was amazing and started helping me immediately.
    I hope Mom feels better soon and my best wishes to her for a speedy resolution.
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    Lifer tsorfas's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    Thank you all for the advice and feedback. It’s a miserable situation. It legit has taken happiness away from her. She sleeps less than 4 hours per day because of the pain.
    Of course there’s no emergency and quick solution to this. She’s afraid to stretch now in case she does more damage.
    I really hope we get some solid guidance from the doc. Whatever it may be. Hopefully PT and stratching is where it’s at.

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  11. #11
    suburban ghetto living... black's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    Quote Originally Posted by tsorfas View Post
    Thank you all for the advice and feedback. It’s a miserable situation. It legit has taken happiness away from her. She sleeps less than 4 hours per day because of the pain.
    Of course there’s no emergency and quick solution to this. She’s afraid to stretch now in case she does more damage.
    I really hope we get some solid guidance from the doc. Whatever it may be. Hopefully PT and stratching is where it’s at.
    one things she could do prior to yoga... is tai chi. they sell 'senior level" tai chi videos. My mom does it. it "connects" the muscles lack for a better word
    even for PT you can simply look up PT exercises / stetching for sciatica for seniors and have her start that prior to the PT.

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  12. #12
    Senior Member Tas's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    I highly doubt the ER will prescribe any real pain reliever/opioid so Takes Duncan’s 2 advice for a temporary pain reliever

    Physical therapy after seeing the doc. They typically like to try the conservative approaches with MRI/rehab/injections then resort to surgery if there’s little to no symptom relief with rehab. There’s good outcomes if her pain is that bad with surgery but everyone’s response is different.

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  13. #13
    Lifer tsorfas's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    She went to Dr Turner of Westborough Spine Center. 20 appointments there. He said he had treated several people with her issue. 20 appointments zero progress. Several people from her job told her he’s the man and saved them. No luck with her unfortunately. I really was hoping it would work since he came recommended from people who do the same job as her.
    Now it’s just dealing until we see the doc, find a therapy to follow and hope for results.

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  14. #14

    Re: Sciatica advice

    Can't say enough about staying away from Chiropractors. Short term gain at the expense of masking long term damage. (From my trip down this path)

    MRI 1st to make sure she doesnít have a ruptured disk or issue from separation of fused vertebrae or bone fragments. MRI reviewed by a neurosurgeon. If the MRI comes back showing no damage then sheíll likely end up on a PT program including:
    - X minutes stretching
    - X minutes Core exercise
    - X minutes on a cold pack

    Heat helped loosen the muscles but slow, gentle stretching did better as it reached more of the area and helped mobility. Its scary to do some of the stretching initially as your sure youíll make it worse. As others have said core strength was the answer (again assuming no disk existing disk damage). Laying on a towel wrapped cold pack after the PT regiment was the highlight of the day.

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  15. #15
    Lifer Falko's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    From my personal experience, it is very difficult to stretch a cold muscle. A heating pad will soften the muscle to make stretching more productive. Gentle massage will help loosen and ease the pain to make the initial stretching more tolerable. When I went straight at exercise and stretching with the tightness and pain, the effort was short lived. When I had really bad pain I started with seeing a masseuse 2 days a week for 2 weeks, then started a stretching routine. The masseuse probably helped me the most in pinpointing the problem area and she was a physical trainer as well and helped me with some stretches. Everyone's problems are different, but sometimes the best solutions come from where we do not expect.

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  16. #16
    is not wearing pants Point37's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    i agree with what everyone else said...my mother had this condition...she is now going to exercise classes a couple times a week and goes to a chiropractor here and there as well

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    Re: Sciatica advice

    If she is experiencing nerve type pain, and its due to a disk related issue, in my own experience, not much is going to help without an injection. Before going to my pcp, i also did chiropractics, and while I think it has its place, this one was not it.

    Mine ended up being a herniated disk in my neck that gave me so much pain in my shoulder, neck, and down my arm, that I was certain at the time that hacking my arm off with a chainsaw would have been much less painful. I could not even lay in bed, I had to sleep in a chair, in a very specific position. It was terrible. This was the path the PCP put me down:

    - xrayed it, go to PT. gave me muscle relaxers/pain killer (tramadol) (they did not help one bit)
    - PT made it worse, did it for 3 weeks
    - No amount of stretching/exercises helped
    - Heat pad made it unbelievably worse - only did it once
    - In the midst of PT, he put me on gabopentin (neurontin?) since I was still pretty much debilitated. It was the only thing that offered pain relief
    - Finally got them to do the referral to see the spine/neck guy
    - MRI revealed herniated disk (two of them actually)
    - Did a short course of prednisone as I wanted to try and avoid the injection (plus I needed to travel for work) - first time i was able to sleep in a bed...
    - It helped, but effects went away quickly.
    - Finally did injection. Was off all meds within 3 days. 2 weeks good to go with occasional minor pain and such. 6 months, gone.

    I'm 3 years past the injection and I'm starting to have issues again after I think I re-injured myself. Probably going to go down the same rough path of a new MRI and then go from there....

    Only advise I can give you is to make sure she complains loudly and quickly if the PT is either not helping or making it worse. Need to try and get them to do the MRI as that may help avoid the PT portion.

    Good luck to her, i hope they get her some relief - that kind of pain is just awful!

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  18. #18
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    I've gone through some of this, very recently. I have always had chronic back pain, but recently had three catastrophic-level bouts of pain. The first question every doctor asked was "is the pain radiating down your leg?" That's a sign of serious issues that need to be identified before doing anything (yoga, chiropractor, etc.) that could make it worse. Fortunately in my case the pain is not radiating - an MRI didn't reveal anything but an x-ray shows that I have bulging discs in the lumbar section, bad enough that the only remedy would be fusion - which no one wants (two of the discs have actually ruptured the vertebrae walls and when these are compressed they cause my BIG pain). My chronic pain was attributed to inflammation in the joints - the doctor said my body has given up fighting this, and that steroid injections would break the cycle and "explain" to my body what the normal state should be. It knocked the pain out completely, until the last few days when it has started creeping back.

    That being said, I saw many doctors with different specialties. They all looked at it through their narrow scope, but my primary and I were able to piece together everything and come up with a plan of pain management (shots) and core strengthening / stretching to address the day-to-day stuff.

    I'd recommend going to as many specialists as insurance covers for opinions. Good luck - back pain sucks.

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  19. #19

    Re: Sciatica advice

    It definitely sucks when sciatic pain interferes with sleep.

    I have constant back pain which I manage, but only occasional sciatica - and I feel fortunate for that because when the sciatica flares up, there is no sleeping.

    For me, ice is my first step. If no relief, I will take a Prednisone - which so far is the only thing that helps me.

    Not sure if your Mom exercises? I play tennis 3 to 5 times per week normally. If I cannot play for a week or more... that seems to be when the sciatica flares up.

    Good luck, Sav!

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  20. #20
    Lifer tsorfas's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    She doesn’t exercise at all. She works a lot. 65+ hours a week. Lifting stuff at work (packages, etc)

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  21. #21
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    yikes - a BIG part of my rehab was learning how to lift again. I was told if your technique is bad the back muscles take over, and you need to retrain your core to get back involved. There are a lot of simple exercises to do this, none of which take much time.

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  22. #22
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    This video helped me more than chiropractors and TENS unit. Simple and really did wonders in a short time doing every morning for a week. Now I do it if I feel a twinge and it seems to be keeping the pain away.


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  23. #23
    Angry Gumball RandyO's Avatar
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    Quote Originally Posted by tsorfas View Post
    She doesn’t exercise at all. She works a lot. 65+ hours a week. Lifting stuff at work (packages, etc)
    that was me 20+ years ago when I had sciatica, survey fieldwork in undeveloped NH, chucking firewood. unbearable pain anywhere from the tip of my toe up to the top of my leg, all due to a nerve being pinched where it exits the spinal column.

    I went to my orthopedic physician, they did a quick x-ray, and determined all I needed was physical therapy. my ex, had bone spurs, had to have them removed, surgery. Important thing is to get here to an orthopedic doctor.

    on a side note, I discovered that posture on a motorcycle (almost any except a cruiser) is perfect way to relax

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  24. #24
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    Somewhat unrelated thoughts here, Sav. I "finally" ruptured my L5 disk last February helping my buddy move; this after multiple instances lower back pain over the preceding 5-8 years. After 3 months in 2018, I went to physical therapy. After another 3ish months of doing the PT, I went to a back specialist at MGH, who said "ha, you've been dealing with this for 6 months? We usually expect people to come in for an MRI after 4-6 weeks of continuous pain." So if Mom hasn't had an MRI yet, that would be my totally unprofessional opinion.

    My MRI illustrated my ruptured disk, and pinpointed a treatment plan...somewhat. That still had options (6 months PT; steroid injection; surgery to fuse the disk); and nearly six months later, I am seeking another injection.

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  25. #25
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    Re: Sciatica advice

    Pay the money for once a week REAL therapeutic massage at least 4

    Heating pad and fish oil 2000 a day and better shoes/orthodics

    Reaserch Pysical Therapy on the internet

    I assume she does not keep something in her back pocket but if yes stop

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