I’ve had an interesting journey over the past year and it has forced me to re-evaluate my life in many ways. Life was moving right along; work was busy, family time was busy, I was still able to fit in personal time for fitness, and I felt very happy with my life. Everything came to a screeching halt in January of 2017 (though, if I’m honest, it started long before that), when I ended up in the emergency room one morning. I wasn’t in an accident of any kind, it wasn’t something that was threatening my life, but it was something that was going to take me on new journey.
I had suffered the entire night with intense pain shooting down my leg and across my back. Now, I have suffered from back pain since I was 18 (due to an unfortunate work accident) so I have always been aware of any pain that I feel in my back and always tried hard to avoid doing anything that would aggravate it. For the past year I had been doing workouts at home, specifically focusing on weight training; my goal was to strengthen my body with the thought that it would help with my back pain. Stronger core, stronger back. I was doing really well – finding time to make sure I kept to a schedule that I created, also making it a priority in my daily life. I felt like I was finally putting myself first in a small way and I had never felt better. Towards the end of the year I started to feel more pain in my lower back – something I attributed to the amount of travel I was doing, and the amount of sitting as a result. Thinking I just needed to do a little self-care, I scheduled an acupuncture appointment at the end of December. That felt like it helped a little so as January progressed I just kept moving forward with my life, my workouts, my everyday tasks. And then…..I ended up in the Emergency Room.
Every movement hurt. Sitting was impossible, as was standing, so I was trying to lay down in different positions but the pain just kept shooting down my leg and across my back. I had never experienced pain like this before. I only got about 3 hours of sleep that night as I tried everything to alleviate the constant shooting pain. By 6am, I had to wake my husband up and ask him to take me to the hospital; my first visit to the emergency room in my entire life, this was serious! On the way there, I had to lay in the backseat – that was the only way I could stop the intensity I was feeling. Once there, it took about 40 minutes before I could be admitted and that was probably the longest 40 minutes of my life. I had tears pouring down my face and I could not concentrate on anything, just kept praying for the time to pass so I could lay down again. Finally, they found a space for me and I made my way to the bed. Never have I felt such a relief to lie down again, even though the pain was still intense just taking the pressure off my back seemed to give me a smidgen of relief. They gave me a double dose of some strong narcotic (the first I have ever taken in my life) which made me feel sick to my stomach so they gave me some gravol to counteract that. After all of this they told me there was nothing they could do to help me; the only thing that would relieve the pain was time. I was sent on my way with a small bottle of the very strong medication they had given me and told to go home and rest. Not very helpful and really gave me no clue as to what the real problem was.
I had sciatica, to be specific it was a pinched nerve due to a tightening of my piriformis muscle deep inside my glute on the left side of my body. Sciatica can be caused by the pinching of the sciatic nerve due to a compressed disk, or it can be caused by the tightening of the piriformis muscle in your bum. All of this work I had been doing over the past year had actually been leading me to this “health crisis” rather than making me feel better. All of this information I learned as I investigated on my own – I wasn’t able to find the support I needed at the very beginning of this. Ironically, the day I ended up in the emergency room was also the day I was supposed to go to my Doctor so she could help me figure out why I was in so much pain.
Lesson #1 – Ask questions, do research, but don’t leave a problem so long that it becomes a chronic issue. If I had reached out for help sooner, I might have been able to stop this in it’s tracks and reverse some of the damage I was doing to my body. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength and self-care.
Lesson #2 – If you are working out, make sure you dedicate as much time to stretching as you do to the actual workout. My issue was because I wasn’t stretching enough to actual loosen my muscles after the intense workouts I was doing. I now do stretching on a daily basis, even if I’m not going to be working out.
This is where I going to leave things for this first post, the beginning of a journey I am still on. Next time I will talk about how I made it through this and some of what I learned along the way.
Thank you for reading