Updated: Jan 14, 2020
It happens to the best of us. Whether you are a physical therapist, an athlete, a workaholic, young or old, male or female. Unfortunately, lower back pain has no exceptions.
After years of competitive horse riding, tennis and athletics my time had come. The truth is I didn't have a noble injury to be proud of and tell the story. No. I fell down the stairs. More embarrassing and of course I blame the stairs. To this day.
Weirdly enough everyone's question was not- how did it happen, it was the assumption: "drunk huh?" no. not drunk! just unlucky.
I never had experienced pain like what a prolapsed disc can cause to your sciatic nerve. I have spent hours trying to think for the best analogy and I think I have come up with the best one. It is like barbwire is pulled out of your skin.
I had treated a lot of patients with low back pain and I thought my empathy levels were really high, but now I know. I don't need to assume it is painful. And I have two things to say: 1. all of you out there with lower back pain/sciatica: you are heroes. 2. You WILL get better. Even though it seems like life has ended for those first few months.
The Pain. How does it work?
When the nerve is compressed it causes a dysfunction; compressing a sensory nerve causes numbness and compression of a motor nerve leads to weakness of the leg. Radiating pain is a result of the inflammation of the nerve. This explains that there is little correlation between the symptoms that the individual is feeling and the actual size of the disc herniation. Therefore, what your images show and what your symptoms are can vary considerably. (Foster M.R et al, 2017)
You are in immense pain and want to disappear from the face of the earth. Nothing else is important, work, social life, activities, you name it.
There are so many different papers and studies out there. Some say rest, some move, but in the end of the day what you need to do is get some proper advice. Forget google, what your friend's friend had and how the neighbour got over it.
Get informed as to what is going on and start treatment.
I was lucky enough to be in the middle of the osteopathic world, and continuous treatment helped immensely. I needed to forget what I thought was right and wrong and listen.
Even if you don't have an osteopathic degree, you ll think at some point that "you know best", unfortunately, in most cases, you don't. So follow the advice given to you. Step. By. Step.
A good amount of osteopathic treatment, rehabilitation and a dash of positivity I started to improve. And that's where you think-I can do this. I don't need anyone. I am healed. Nope, you are not, and sometimes you can go back to square one overnight. Do not lose hope, it is normal. And your practitioner will be there to explain that to you over and over again.
The fact is that you have a significant injury, and the sooner you realise that most of the people around you do have some sort of pain, the faster you are on the route to recovery. I spent a few weeks thinking that I am never going to train again, never going to ride, play tennis. And maybe I am not there yet, but I know that I will be and so will you.
So carry on doing all the boring exercises that you have been prescribed, because they help! And do take the anti-inflammatories that your consultant prescribed even though you may be the person that "never takes medication". If you have been in neural pain these ideologies change very quickly. At least mine did.
I am not going to give advice in this page, as everyone's presentation is different and it is not safe to just give generic information. But if you take anything from my experience is that you should seek help from a professional and keep positive because we know you ll get better.
My journey to recovery is still going, but I think it is appropriate to thank
Everyone who treated me and supported me and all of you that are still helping me with my recovery.
Jess, who found me laying at the tube station and got me in a taxi in a time of major pain. And Miranda and Ryan who left the pizza festival to bring me pizza at home-legends.
Ralph Rogers who has been my hero and despite my colossal fear of needles he somehow managed to inject me not once but 4 times.
Ben who supported me even when I should go and hide in a cave with bad mood and tears. You are the best.
So many more people to thank, you all know who you are.
References: Foster M.R et al. Herniated Nucleus Pulposus. Medscape. 2017