let’s talk about sciatica

I could make this short and sweet by saying sciatica SUCKS! and that would be sufficient.

Seriously, y’all. The pain. The limping. The wincing. The doctors.

This started about November. Some mild back pain sent me to bed with a heating pad for several nights, but all it did was warm me up from some unusual frigid temps. The pain worsened until one night, in pure desperation, I googled “back pain left side,” and sciatica was the number one hit.

How did I not think of this? I suffered from sciatica pain in pregnancy. My lower back and left leg would ache, and the back of my left knee would be so warm to the touch that the children often huddled around my leg for warmth. True story.

[Clarifying side note: After writing about strange pregnancy ailments for allParenting, I learned that sciatica in pregnancy is often really pelvic girdle pain. Yay learning!]

Anyway, back to my debilitating and horrifying pain.

Here’s how my day goes:

Get up. Kind of.

Hobble to bathroom.

Sit/fall onto toilet. Check email and Facebook, AKA procrastinate having to stand up as long as possible.

Wash face, kicking left leg to side and bending slightly at the waist. To rinse, bend neck just until you are just on the verge of passing out from the pain. Slosh 96% of counter surface with water.

Limp into girls’ room to wake for school. Luckily bending over to wake them with hugs and kisses is well worth the pain.


I could go on and on, but it’s more of the same. There’s no comfortable position. Stand: pain. Sit: pain. Sitting to standing: PAIN. Standing to walking: MEGA PAIN, SOMETIMES TEARS.


A former physical therapist friend recommended that I skip my general practitioner and go straight to an orthopedic doctor. Luckily on the day of my appointment, my ibuprofen had worn off, so my pain faces were totally legit, and he could tell I was truly hurting. Unluckily for him, I was wearing sexy X-ray shorts and hadn’t shaved since long about November.

X-rays were inconclusive, so he ordered an MRI. While waiting for the MRI results, Christian insisted I go see a chiropractor (also heavily recommended by lots o’ friends, including a doctor friend. We all trust doctor friends.)

The chiropractor took one look at me and said, “Well. You are royally f*cked up.” Maybe not in those same words.

She asked to see me every day that week, where we did adjustments followed by therapy. Let me tell you, true intimacy, like your ortho doc seeing your incredibly hairy legs, is a therapist reaching into your pants to place little electrodes on your ass. I consider us to be very close now.

By the end of the week I was feeling good, moving around with minimal pain, and having a great hair day. I was starting to beat this. Or so I thought.

My MRI showed that I have a bulging disc that is compressing my sciatic nerve. Dr. B at Texas Orthopedics explained how the condition occurs. Something having to do with fissures and bubble gum consistency and “you are getting old.” I AM NOT A DOCTOR, PEOPLE. But the main thing I remember is that he said “It will get better,” as in the pain will go away, but the disc won’t go back into place. Possibly related, “You’ll likely be dealing with flare ups for the rest of your life.” He prescribed physical therapy, and if there was still no relief, cortisone shots.

I’ve had cortisone shots in my heel years ago for plantar fasciitis. SUPER FUN. NOT AT ALL PAINFUL. LOOKING FORWARD TO IT.

I know there are many differences of opinion between medical doctors and chiropractors. I talked to each of them about my seeing the other, and for the most part they were supportive. My chiropractor, Dr. M, was honest and up front about her own issues and how she herself has gotten cortisone shots for neck pain. Dr. B (the ortho) admitted that some of his colleagues lump chiropractors in with voodoo witch doctors, but he didn’t see the harm in it, as long as I wasn’t being taken advantage of with procedures that weren’t really going to help me.

And that’s the problem. I don’t know what’s going to help me. I want so badly to be done with this. Being in pain in pretty much all of your waking hours is miserable, to say the least. It affects every single part of my daily life, from the cleanliness of my house to my patience with my children. I literally cannot find a comfortable position unless i am lying in bed. And I miss jumping on the trampoline, dammit.  But the thing is, everyone seems to have a different opinion on what the “right ” thing to do is. Dr. B may tell me that my bulging disc will never go away, but someone else may say that’s not true. I just need someone to be straight with me because Y’ALL, THIS SUCKS.

So as of right now, here’s where I am. Per Dr. B’s orders, I now own a copy of Treat Your Own Back (affiliate link), and I’m scheduled to see a physical therapist specializing in McKenzie method on Monday. I’m also seeing my chiropractor 3 times a week for adjustments and therapy. I’m popping ibuprofen like crazy, stretching and foam rolling twice a day, and wearing a sexy back brace when I don’t have to be seen in public. I have good days and bad days, but the thing is, none of the days seem to correlate with anything in particular.

[long siiiiiiiiiiigggghhhhhhhhh]

[now a photo of a Birthday Princess Ninja Chihuahua. Or something.]

birthday princess ninja chihuahua

Join the Conversation


  1. {sigh} I know the pain you speak of. I had a herniated disk when I was pregnant with Cady and could take NOTHING. It was torture. I did the therapy exercises they recommended and they helped and after several months it was better. I have had flare ups since then, but they don’t last as long. Also, my mother was almost crippled with a back injury after a horse back riding accident. They told her she would need to haven an operation, but she was determined not to. She waited it out and did the exercises and went easy on her back and managed to pull herself out of it. All of that to say, it can be done. Everything we’ve heard and read says that walking is the best exercise for your back, that and improving your core (not that there is anything wrong with yours). You’ll learn over time what you can and can’t do (what makes it worse).

    1. Oh, I bet you know how this feels, then. How terrible to have it in pregnancy. I think the exercises are the key, but man it’s hard when you don’t see any end to it.

  2. That just sucks… I’m so sorry. I hope somebody can figure something out. I’m assuming you can’t run either? You’re much too young to feel this damn old. Right, Garth?

    1. I can’t run. It’s so sad! It didn’t bother me running for a long time, but now it’s pretty much 24/7. Dropped out of the half marathon I was training for, and I probably won’t make my favorite 10k either. 🙁

  3. Oh my stars, there are few pains equivalent to sciatica. I had it pregnant and occasionally now it rears its ugly head and buddy-boy, it is one hurting puppy for days. I hope you get some relief and that the remission that’s bound to happen lasts a very very long time.

  4. I have felt the wrath of this pain and I’m so sorry you’re going through it. I hope your treatment helps and you are able to move around much better soon! xo

  5. Oh no! That sounds truly miserable. So sorry you have to deal with it. And I’m sorry you don’t have a conclusive answer on what’s causing it – that’s so frustrating. But I’m glad your chiropractor sounds a little less nutty than mine (although you also got something attached to your ass? So that’s normal?!?). Hoping you are on the mend soon!

    1. You got the tingly electrodes on your ass too??? We are going to have so much to bond us at Erma.

  6. Hi… I’m sorry you are going through so much pain. I’ve heard yoga helps with sciatica. Actually I know someone who got lot of relief through yoga. I don’t know if it’s something you want to try with all that is going on. But if you want to give it a shot, talk to the instructor about your condition first.
    Hope you feel better soon….

    1. Hi Veda, yes I’m pretty sure yoga would help. I always MEAN to do it, but just never make the time. I’m starting a physical therapy regime, so we’ll see. 🙂

  7. I love everyone’s more natural suggestions (yoga, core-strengthening etc.) but did your doctor say anything about disc replacement? I know no one wants surgery – believe me! But no one wants lifelong pain either…if that’s the diagnosis.

    Not to be a pessimist – at all! I just know you’re active. And YOUNG.
    So. My two cents, in case it’s worth asking.

    1. Julie, my orthopedic doc said he did NOT recommend surgery in my case. It I can’t get relief from physical therapy (started today and felt so much better afterwards), then I can get cortisone shots that will get rid of the pain and should last a long time. You’re so sweet to be concerned. And say I’m young. 😉

  8. Oh, this sucks. Back pain is the worst. I wish they did spinal transplants. I’d be on the list for a new neck immediately.

    Take care, friend!

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