Having just realized how much pain I was really in and that I did need some help, I now had to figure out what my next steps should be. I didn’t know the first thing about how to help heal my sciatica so what did I do? I went to Dr Google of course. Doing a google search of any kind of illness or health issue can send you down a very deep rabbit hole if you aren’t careful; often what comes up first is the “worst case scenario” surely intended to scare the crap out of you. That’s how I felt when I first started looking at the information. Reading about people who have been suffering this pain for YEARS really put a fear in me….and then I pulled myself back and told myself that I shouldn’t assume worst case and that I first had to figure out the root cause of my pain.
I first started by going to my chiropractor and telling him what I had been experiencing. He recommended I start coming by about 3x a week for a couple of weeks so we could see how things went. For the first few weeks, I felt like I was getting better with each visit and thought “well, this will be over in no time”. Not so fast. After about 3 weeks the pain started to return. After one last visit I realized that this was no longer helping and I was now falling deeper into the pain spiral. I quickly realized this was happening because my muscles were so tight that they were pinching my nerve off and realized I would have to do something more drastic. So I started acupuncture treatment. Most people cringe the minute they hear the word “needle” but it has been a treatment that has helped more times than I can count and I recommend it to many people as an alternative that really isn’t considered often enough.
I happened to have a friend that is an acupuncturist so I called her up and explained what was happening and we scheduled an appointment. After my first treatment she said my muscles were extremely tight and it was going to take some time to progress through this. I started going once a week hoping that if I was consistent with the treatment it would help me get back on my feet again. The second thing I did was make an appointment to see my doctor and explain what was happening. She confirmed that I did have sciatica and was able to prescribe a nerve blocker to help me get back on my feet. With both the prescription and the acupuncture I was hoping that I would soon be on the mend. I need to digress a bit here to explain a few background pieces – at this point I could not drive myself anywhere. I could not sit up for any length of time, I could only stand for about a minute before the pain became so intense that my legs would give out, the only relief was when I was lying on a hard surface on my back. So I spent the majority of February laying in bed and my husband would drive me to all my appointments that I needed to get to. While my husband was driving, I would lay my seat all the way down so I wouldn’t be in pain. When we would arrive, I had to think about how far away I was parked from the door and how long it would take me before I could lay down again. Every movement took so much thought and planning it was exhausting. I could no longer pick the kids up at school, go to the grocery store, make supper, clean the house, do the laundry, walk the dog, I was completely dependant on someone else to get everything done. Even putting on my shoes was a lot of work and I often had to lay down partway through in order to relieve the stress on my back. If you have never experienced debilitating pain like this, I hope you never do – I wouldn’t wish this feeling on anyone.
The good news? The acupuncture started to work. Before long I was able to drive short distances as long as I had my seat tilted back a bit so I wasn’t sitting straight up. I know that the nerve blocker was certainly helping as well, the combination for me seemed to help me get to a point where I could participate in my own life again. When you have been relegated to laying in bed all day because you can’t do anything else, this is a huge accomplishment. I still had to plan things out very carefully – I would drive to the grocery store up the road and then lay back in my seat for five minutes until the pain dissipated. I would then go inside and grab the few things I needed as fast as I could (walking fast was impossible at this point) and then checkout as quickly as I could. By the time I was back at my car I would need to lay down again for 5-10 minutes until the pain disappeared again. By the end of March, I was able to stand on my feet for a couple of hours at a time, though sitting was still difficult for me. This felt like a huge accomplishment.
As the months progressed, things just continued to get better. By the beginning of May I was feeling very little pain but I was still a long way from the end of the journey. I went to an acupuncture appointment one Friday and all of a sudden I was feeling intense pain again the next day. Somehow, the acupuncture had stopped helping and had started hurting. So I stopped going to acupuncture and decided my body was just telling me to take a break and give my body time to heal without any other intervention. It took a few weeks to get back to the point where I wasn’t feeling the pain anymore but time and patience got me there. I was still on medication at this point so I’m sure that was a big part of why I was feeling so little pain but I wasn’t ready to lose my crutch just yet, and I don’t think my body was ready for it either.
One thing I did realize, I really enjoy moving. It doesn’t matter what that movement looks like, I just like having the freedom to move when I want and where I want. When this is taken away from you, all of a sudden you realize how much you appreciate it. Getting back to movement on a regular basis was such a huge milestone for me – celebrating these milestones became very important to me. It meant I was moving forward and getting better. It was something I could measure my progress against. This really helped me keep my mind in a positive place.
Lesson #3: Chronic Pain changes your life. You become a different person; you feel helpless, you feel like you are bothering the people that need to help you do your daily tasks. Having experienced chronic pain has given me a completely different appreciation for how much this can change someones life. Often they will not say how bad the pain is but if you really pay attention, you will see it in their eyes. I have more compassion for people that live with this, who can’t find a “quick fix” like I did with acupuncture and medication.
Lesson #4: Patience is required. I have always considered myself to be a patient person, and then I had kids….haha. And then I had to journey through chronic pain and recovery. Hoping this would be a small blip in my world, I soon learned this would be a much longer journey. I had to be patient with myself and my body. I had to be patient with my expectations of what I was physically able to do, and be okay with a more limited reality of what I could actually do. I had to be patient with people around me, knowing that they really couldn’t understand how much pain I was in and that was okay. I had to be patient with my mind and give myself permission to have good days and bad days. I’m still working on the patience piece, probably always will, but I believe that we are given certain experiences that we need for our souls to learn new lessons.
The final part in this series will be about the final months of recovery and where I am at today. Thank you for taking some time to read about my life and my lessons. I hope they will help someone who really needs them.
Until next time.