Sunday, January 27, 2013
It's tough dealing with chronic pain. My former doctor diagnosed me years ago as having degenerative arthritis in my lower back. That diagnosis devastated me as I imagined I wouldn't be able to enjoy all of my favorite activities like yoga and hiking or even picking up my son who was a toddler at that time. I assumed she was correct for many years as my pain came and went. Then I was pain free for almost two years and hoped that my back issues had become dormant for good. However, sadly this was not the case. Enter in my new doctor who treated me for my back pain over this past Summer when it returned full force. I was down for two weeks from work and had to go on FMLA for my condition since it's chronic. The surprise was after x-rays and an MRI of my spine, my current doctor said there was no sign of arthritis in my lower back. He could not pinpoint the source of my pain. This was extremely frustrating for me as my pain was very real and something I had to deal with on a daily basis. I did not want to be on pain meds for the rest of my life since I have been completely sober for the past two years (soon to be three). It wasn't until I went to physical therapy that the source of my pain and how to deal with it became clear. The therapist and I determined that my back pain was NOT the result of a current injury. It is due to the hip muscle on my left side swelling up and causing pressure on my Sciatic nerve known formally as Piriformis syndrome. All of the bones, muscles and nerves in our bodies are so interconnected. It was something I hadn't given much thought to previously. I researched my condition on the internet (ah the wonderful internet!) and found diagrams of the Piriformis muscle and the Sciatic nerve and how they connect at the hip and pelvis (or Sacrum). This FINALLY made sense to me! The therapist taught me exercises to build strength in my hip muscles and my core. This supports the spine and the Piriformis muscle and allows me to circumvent a lot of the pain. She also taught me a series of stretches that I can do to keep this area of my body limber and to fight the pain during flare ups. I have found that staying active is key to warding off any pain. Since I work a desk job, I need to get up and move around frequently. I no longer have the luxury of being a couch potato. Being sedentary is the worse thing you can do when you have chronic Sciatic pain. I make sure to get up and move around if I am sitting for long periods of time. This includes long car trips so I must take advantage of rest stops even if I don't need to use the restroom. It is always good to get up and stretch. I have also started doing this when I fly. I fly pretty frequently for more than two hours at a time. I make sure to get up and stretch even if I don't need the restroom. Just a quick jaunt up and down the aisle seems to help me even if I look a bit strange to the other passengers! The past couple of days my Sciatica has flared up again. It was due to an accidental fall in my kitchen a few days ago. While I only seemed to wound my pride at that time, my Sciatic pain had flared up the following day. When I'm dealing with the pain I make sure to do all of my stretches, to use my pain cream (Blue Goo which I highly recommend for people like me that can't use anything with aspirin in it because I'm on a blood thinner) and Tylenol every 4-6 hours. I have also found that an ice pack helps with the pain. Some people respond more to a heating pad but I have found that ice works better for me. Despite the pain, I try to remain active. Yesterday i couldn't do my normal exercises of walking and riding my recumbent bike so I cleaned out my closets and cabinets instead. This home chore really burns more calories than I had imagined! Today unfortunately, my pain is the same as it was yesterday so I'm going to tackle organizing my home office and burn some calories that way.