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Old 05-20-2010, 02:04 AM   #1
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Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

Hi Everyone:
I have a ruptured S1, and herniations impacting nerve roots at L4 and L5. My first episode of sciatica was 4 years ago - took 6 months to resolve completely, thought I was out of the woods.

Wrong.

This past November it flared again (yoga set it off, unfortunately). 3 months and lots of PT later it was calm enough (I thought) to resume exercising. Well now it's returned WORSE THAN EVER (back to butt to hamstring to calf to foot, constantly). I can't even sit in the car to go for an MRI yet. Getting out of bed is horrendous, I pace the house at 3AM for hours trying to walk off the pain. The only thing that seems to help for a few hours is Excedrin Back and Body (no caffeine). Advil, Aleve no good, Vicodin takes too long to work and only works for 2 hours, not to mention the digestive impact.

My questions are - is waiting a few more weeks for it to calm down to get my MRI detrimental? I'm hoping that I'll be a candidate for the caudal or epidural steroids and not have to consider surgery. Also, has anybody come up with any combo of vitamins/supplements and meds that makes this manageable? Nights are soooooo awful. Besides icing, is there anything else I can do? And lastly, how long can this acute phase last? I seem to remember a couple of weeks, but this time it's worse.

Thanks for listening, reading everybody's posts has made me feel significantly less alone in this. I wish you all good health!

Jewelhound

 
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Old 05-20-2010, 06:20 AM   #2
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

I truly wish there was an easy answer but there is not. After my first Lumbar surgery I was so mad at myself for waiting so long to have it done. I was doing exactly what you are doing. Trying to avoid surgery while in SERIOUS and SEVERE disabling pain. My opinion would be to find a Neurosurgeon that you trust with your life and see what he thinks. The surgery isnt as bad as you might think.
Good Luck, Joe.

 
Old 05-20-2010, 02:55 PM   #3
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

Joe:

I appreciate you responding. It seems that for every 2 people who go in for surgery and find improvement there are 5 that say they've gotten worse. Did you try the steroid shots first, or?

My MRI is scheduled for next Friday - I'm hoping to improve somewhat by then, but who knows....once I have a clear picture I'll go over it with the Orthopedist and a Neuro doc if necessary. In the meantime I spoke with my GP who said switch to ibuprofen 800 every 6 hours and Flexeril twice a day. Let's see how that goes. Hope it doesn't burn a hole in my stomach.

I just wish I felt better when I go to lay down....I'm tired of walking all over this damn house!

Thanks for listening to my gripes!

 
Old 05-20-2010, 03:14 PM   #4
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

I had my second sciatic attack hit me in January of this year (first was in 2007), with pain that literally dropped me to the floor. I was 100% disabled for several weeks, and my recovery has been step-by-step and slow. I'm doing 3 things to help my back.

First, several friends of mine who had back issues (previously and currently) told me to get off my butt (in a nice way). They said exercise was going to be far more effective than rest after the 3 weeks I laid around. So- I started going to the gym. I began by walking very slowly on a treadmill, hanging onto the rails. Let me tell you, it hurt like heck. But each trip to the gym things got better. I added core strengthening exercises because I knew I needed to strengthen my entire core to support my spine, and now I do both full cardio workouts and full resistance training workouts.

Second, I began stretching every day. Hamstring stretches are so important to low back pain and sciatica. Since bending over at the waist was a scary proposition (way too afraid of re-injury) I began stretching in bed before I rose every morning. My first stretch is to pull one knee into my chest, with that leg bent at the knee, and my other leg laying flat on the bed. This provides a really good low back stretch on that side. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs. Then I do two different hip stretches. The first involves laying the heel of one leg on top of the knee of my other leg, and then pulling that knee up into a 90 degree or better angle to stretch the hip of the other leg. The second stretch involves grasping my right ankle with my left hand and my right knee with my right hand, and pushing my knee across my chest to the left. That gives a great hip/buttock stretch in the right side. I do all these stretches with both legs. The fourth stretch is a hamstring stretch. I'm not particularly flexible, so I straighten my leg and lift it up 90 degrees and with one hand behind the knee (but keeping leg straight) pull the leg towards my head. You should feel a stretch in the hamstring, butt and low back. My final stretch is to bend both legs and wrap my arms behind the knees and pull both bent legs into my chest. This fully stretches the low back area.

Third, after having basically zero relief for my back pain despite exercise, stretching, painkillers and wearing a back brace most of the time for 5 months, I started acupuncture. I've had 3 acupuncture sessions and am off painkillers now, I don't wear a back brace any more, and my pain is much less. I no longer have any sciatic pain down the leg, although the affected leg still has some residual numbness (nerve damage?) in places. I have some lower back pain but my range of motion is improved. My back has been nagging me some this week and I'm glad I have a session tomorrow. It beats drugs.

Oh, my doc says that heat is ok on the back as well as cold packs. She said whichever feels better. Cold lowers inflammation, heat brings blood (and all those healing cells) back to the area. You can alternate to get the benefits of both.

 
Old 05-20-2010, 04:36 PM   #5
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

similar to what eaglerock says for me also, i had sciatica for 8 months...take 15 minutes to crawl out of bed, then 30 minutes of pacing to make it managable. I'm lucky in some ways, I can feel sometimes when it wants to come on, and i do some stretchs to stop it. also i do a wierd thing a docotr taught me, press me back against a wall and flatten out the curve. and for some reason, if i stand on my left leg and slowing swing my right leg ( the affected one ) like a pendulum, it helps, every person if different, but i found what works for me. right now im going through some sort of serious strain, that hurts really bad, but at least i can walk. i know, that for me, sitting too long is a garuntee to bring on sciatica, so im careful of it. and walking is waayyyyy better than laying in bed when it attacks. good luck to you.

 
Old 05-20-2010, 04:39 PM   #6
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

[B][I][U]Jewelhound:[/U][/I][/B]

For my first Lumbar surgery in 2001 I did not have any Epidural Steroid Injections. What happened was I was actually home eating an Italian dinner sitting at the dinner table with a few family members. I swear to god I stood up to sneeze and I collapsed to the floor and that was it. I could not move and my friends and family carried me to my bed and I laid on my stomach until the next day. I was only 31 at the time. The sneeze was not how I injured myself. The injury was from my usual heavy weightlifting. Weightlifting is my passion and about 7-8 months before that sneeze I blew out my L4/5 disc doing a back exercise. For 7-8 months I went to a chiropractor for severe sciatica and pain in one of my legs and obviously lower back. Nobody ever mentioned injections to me. After that sneeze I went to my Neurosurgeon the very next day and I scheduled surgery. In my case there really was no other option. BEST THING I EVER DID!!!
Unfortunately, I am going this Tuesday to another Neurosurgeon for ANOTHER Lumbar spine injury. This time my L5/6 disc is 80% gone. I am going to need a fusion surgery. Oh yeah...I also had a 2 level fusion in my neck from a weighlifting injury in 2005.
YES, weightlifting has done wonders for my body!!!

[U][I][B]Thanks, Joe. [/B][/I][/U]

 
Old 05-20-2010, 06:07 PM   #7
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

[QUOTE=jewelhound;4249485]Hi Everyone:
I have a ruptured S1, and herniations impacting nerve roots at L4 and L5. My first episode of sciatica was 4 years ago - took 6 months to resolve completely, thought I was out of the woods.

Wrong.

This past November it flared again (yoga set it off, unfortunately). 3 months and lots of PT later it was calm enough (I thought) to resume exercising. Well now it's returned WORSE THAN EVER (back to butt to hamstring to calf to foot, constantly). I can't even sit in the car to go for an MRI yet. Getting out of bed is horrendous, I pace the house at 3AM for hours trying to walk off the pain. The only thing that seems to help for a few hours is Excedrin Back and Body (no caffeine). Advil, Aleve no good, Vicodin takes too long to work and only works for 2 hours, not to mention the digestive impact.

My questions are - is waiting a few more weeks for it to calm down to get my MRI detrimental? I'm hoping that I'll be a candidate for the caudal or epidural steroids and not have to consider surgery. Also, has anybody come up with any combo of vitamins/supplements and meds that makes this manageable? Nights are soooooo awful. Besides icing, is there anything else I can do? And lastly, how long can this acute phase last? I seem to remember a couple of weeks, but this time it's worse.

Thanks for listening, reading everybody's posts has made me feel significantly less alone in this. I wish you all good health!

Jewelhound[/QUOTE]

 
Old 05-21-2010, 12:55 AM   #8
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

Joe:
I, too was a weightlifter in my 20's....wonder if the damage is cumulative? Anyway, why does walking hurt so much now, when before it was the only thing that lessened the pain? I can't even use a pillow under my head now, just go completely flat on a heating pad and hope the aching stops.

I'm terrified that any little movement I make now is going to paralyze me.....ugh, paranoia is setting in.

Thank you for your help,
Jean

 
Old 05-21-2010, 07:29 AM   #9
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

[B][U]Jewel:[/U][/B]

The damage from heavy weightlifting is definitely cumulative. I have the same problem right now with walking. My Lumbar spine is unstable right now because of the 80% missing disc between my L5 and L6 vertebrae. I read that walking can aggravate for the pain if you have this specific back injury. But guess what...I walk 1 mile every day anyway. I get so stiff after the walk that I cant bend at all. But I am an idiot, one of those gym addicted guys!
My latest lumbar injury is not from a specific incident. It just appeared over time. All of my other gym injuries were specific incidents that happened in the gym and I immediately knew I injured myself. This time I believe it was cumulative due to repetitive wear and tear over years of training with heavy weights.
I would not be paranoid if I was you, just take it easy, dont lay down all day and be careful bending. Avoid bending if possible. I dont know how you tolerate painkillers but if you can handle them and are not easily addicted, you might try them until you see your doctor. Oh yeah... Be careful sneezing!!! Do not hold a sneeze in EVER!!! That could blow your disc right out into the spinal cord.

[U][I][B]Good Luck, keep us informed, Joe.[/B][/I][/U]

 
Old 05-21-2010, 08:04 AM   #10
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

[COLOR="Navy"]You have gotten good info except for meds. There are meds that are for nerve pain specifically. Neurontin, Topomax, Lyrica. Any of these will help with the pain. They are all by script.[/COLOR]

 
Old 05-23-2010, 12:10 PM   #11
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

And also - today in particular I started with the muscle spasms that feel like they are going to tear my hip out of its socket. I scream when I get out of bed, grab the wall and wall until I straighten, but the spasms don't go away for hours. Flexeril and Skelaxin are useless to me. My GP gave me valium (2mg - baby pill), which calms me but does nothing for the spasms. Just laid down on my heating pad for 20 minutes, got up and it was worse. What am I doing wrong?

So basically I can't sleep, can't sit and can't walk. This is absurd. Anybody with some insight please help!

Thanking you all again,
Jean

 
Old 05-23-2010, 03:30 PM   #12
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

[QUOTE=jewelhound;4251610]And also - today in particular I started with the muscle spasms that feel like they are going to tear my hip out of its socket. I scream when I get out of bed, grab the wall and wall until I straighten, but the spasms don't go away for hours. Flexeril and Skelaxin are useless to me. My GP gave me valium (2mg - baby pill), which calms me but does nothing for the spasms. Just laid down on my heating pad for 20 minutes, got up and it was worse. What am I doing wrong?

So basically I can't sleep, can't sit and can't walk. This is absurd. Anybody with some insight please help!

Thanking you all again,
Jean[/QUOTE]

Well, I'd tell your doc to lighten up on his valium prescription- good grief, I take 20 mg so that I can fly, since I have really bad panic attacks when I get on a plane. 2mg? I don't even think I'd feel that. 5mgs never did anything for me, I take two 10mgs at a time. Valium isn't a painkiller but it will help you relax and care less about the pain.

 
Old 05-23-2010, 04:44 PM   #13
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

My doctor gave me Zanaflex as a muscle relaxant. It is amazingly good but you have to want to be resting a lot. It works so well that it makes me a couch potato. I have more luck with Soma during the day (350) and sometimes Zanaflex at night.
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Old 05-26-2010, 12:37 AM   #14
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

Hi Everybody:

I'm back from a 2 day stay at the hospital (just couldn't take it any more). IV Dilaudid did wonderful things. I was able to get around at about a pain level 3....MRI shows reherniation of L5 impinging on sciatic nerve/nerve roots, and some other mild herniations resulting in some stenosis of the lumbar spine. No loss of function, just tons of pain.

The pain management doc sent me home with methylprednisolone dose pak, and said that it should help, but if not, I could come in for the epidural injections as soon as I completed the cycle. Does that sound right - I mean, steroids are a serious systemic drug...

Your thoughts are soooo appreciated - it helps to have a community to sound off within.

Many sincere thanks,
Jean

 
Old 05-26-2010, 05:26 AM   #15
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Re: Recurrent Sciatica - how long can this go on?

I'd also want to see my Orthopedic Spine Surgeon or Neurosurgeon to have them evaluate everything. While the PM techniques mentioned may help, it may be helping th symptom and not the cause.

Epidural injections can be done, in sets of up to 3, 2-3 times a year. For my neck I did them for 2 years to help delay surgery. Finally ESI no longer worked and I then had my cervical fusion (ACDF).

ESI are less sysytemic in terms of the body compared to oral steroids. However, after 2 year of ESI (once every 2 wk, total of 3 shot per cycles, repeated every 6 months) I was having symptoms of hunger and my face became more round "moon face". (This all went away). Now when I get a single ESI I don't have those symptoms so I assume the effects are cumulative and then go away when the meds are removed.
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