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Back Problems Message Board

Back Problems Board Index

Welcome to the board. I'm sorry that you find it necessary to be looking for some help for your back and sciatic pain. There is lots of good information on the Internet, but as with anything, there are also lots of sites selling products that promise to cure your back pain, so you need to read with a great deal of skepticism.

Statistics are in your favor....I can't quote them, but most people suffer at least one bout of sciatica during their lifetime, and with women, it is fairly common around the childbearing years. I can recall having horrible sciatic pain (is there any other kind??) when my kids were toddlers. Then I had a a thirty-year period where I was never bothered. The key is to get through this initial bout and then work to build up your core muscles, back muscles so that you have good back support, and then modifying your life style so you are using good body mechanics, and good posture at all times.

As you read on this board or any others, keep in mind that most members are here because they have chronic back pain. The majority of back pain sufferers are able to resolve their issues and move on with their lives. They don't come back to write about no longer dealing with back pain....

Now to your specific issues: it sounds like you are on the right track. If your pain does not resolve within a reasonable amount of time, having a MRI is the next step. It is hard to get much accurate information without having it or a CTscan. Then, depending on what is found, you might want to find a fellowship-trained spinal specialist. This would be either an orthopedic spine surgeon (not just an orthopedic doc), or a neurosurgeon who spends the majority of time dealing with problems of the neck and back. A PCP or GP is a good place to begin, but if the MRI reveals a problem, the spine specialist has the training and expertise that you need.

My problems began with sciatic pain as well. I wasted a good year with my internist who told me my MRI was normal for someone my age. But my pain never got any better so I finally went to an ortho. spine doctor who immediately ordered a flexion/extension X-ray which revealed what was causing my sciatica. In the course of ten minutes, I went from believing there was nothing wrong with my spine (internist's view) to being told I would need a fusion to correct my problem (or I could live with the pain.)

There are many books available that will show you exercises to relieve back pain. For most people, the idea is to get the pain to move up from the leg back up into the spine. The best known author of this program is Robin McKenzie who wrote a book called "Treat Your Own Back" in around 1997. His philosophy and treatment program is still taught in various physical therapy programs today. Most of his exercises involve putting the back in extension (bending backward). The one caveat is that if the patient has stenosis or spondylolisthesis, which is what I had, it is the ONE position that is to be avoided!! So without a diagnosis, you would not know if you are helping or hurting yourself by doing these exercises.

If you take a trip over to your library, I imagine you will be able to find a whole shelf full of books pertaining to treating back pain. If you read through several of them, you will pick up on common threads that are used by most therapists and "authors."

But again, without the additional imaging from MRI or CT scan, you don't know what problems may be there that you might make worse by doing the wrong movement.

I would guess that most people on this board would guide you away from using a chiropractor until you know what is causing your back pain...for the same reasons mentioned above! Some chiros are OK, but many go ahead and treat without really knowing if there is nerve compression involved. Some of their treatments can cause more harm than good. So until you have that MRI, I would advise against seeing a chiropractor.

I realize I am not giving you any tools you can use right this minute to ease your pain. As you've discovered, most medications do not touch sciatic pain. This is because most sciatic pain is a result of a compressed spinal nerve that is being pinched up in the lumbar spine. There are conservative methods that a spine specialist will first employ to try to decompress the nerve. This could include a course of physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and steroid injections. Sometimes when these methods do not provide any relief, a surgical procedure is recommended.

One thing that you can try for now is a simple exercise that helps to relax the muscles in the spine and helps to unload the discs: there are two ways to do it. Hopefully one will be comfortable for you. Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on floor. Arms rest at your sides, palms facing up. Lie so your spine is in a straight line with your head (tilt chin down toward chest so the top of the spine is in alignment with the lower spine). Just relax and breathe slow, deep breaths from the belly.

The other position is similar but you put your legs up on the seat of a couch or chair while your back is flat on the floor. Prior to my surgery I used to lie like this to watch TV.

Try icing your lower lumbar can use a bag of frozen peas or corn...and a light towel...twenty minutes at a time.

You'll find that it is common with sciatic pain that the muscles in the back get very tense. It is common to over-compensate for the pain on one side, and those muscles, usually on the opposite side of the spine get very tense and contracted. These relaxation exercises provide some relief and allow the spine to get out from the weight of gravity. Before my surgery, I have been known to even do this at the airport on a trip! It was the only way I could have continued on to my destination! I would find an out-of-the-way corner where I wouldn't get stepped on, and stretch out on the floor. Five minutes later, I could get up and go on until I couldn't stand it any longer, and then back to the floor!!

I hope yours will be just a brief stint of sciatic pain, and that you will recover. Before you get in to see a specialist, heed your movement. Avoid any activity that involves bending or twisting at the waist, pushing or pulling and try not to lift anything heavier than about 10 pounds...and yes, that includes toddlers as much as possible!! Drink lots of fluids.

Please post with all your questions and comments. We are a friendly community and will do our best to help you out! Please let us know how you are doing.


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