If you’ve ever had a severe sciatica attack, let me describe the sensation. Imagine Crocodile Dundee shoving his blade into your lower spinal column and twisting the knife while forcing you to watch every episode of Big Bang Theory. If you have that picture, you now can understand the agony that attacks up to 10% of the population. One second you’re tying a shoe, the next making a face-dive to the floor. With any luck, a friendly bystander will move your immobilized body before Pebbles assumes you’re dead and starts to gnaw on your flesh.
My adventures with sciatica started when I was in my late thirties and since then I have been forced to find a way to live with flare ups that can seemingly happen at any time. It’s like Bruce Banner being cautious of a Hulk-out. Only instead of getting big, green and bad-ass, I drop to the floor and start sniffing the carpet. Not exactly a impressive superpower.
Over the last 5 years I have been able to somewhat navigate and document a successful strategy that has kept me from having a flare up what seemed like every month. Now it happens maybe once a year at most, and even then the pain is manageable. So what did your old friend, Mr. Parrot do to put sciatica in its place? Read on, but be advised this is what worked for me. I make no claims that any of this will work for you.
Get that Inflammation DOWN
There’s a good, heck…an incredibly good chance that general inflammation is causing sciatic issues. If you live with inflammation, a sketchy sciatic nerve is a ticking time bomb.
The trick is how to reduce inflammation. For most, food sensitivities are the culprit and in my case, wheat. If the office is offering donuts and I take one, then I better hope it was worth it when I’m bitching about joint pain the next day. For many, it will take a significant amount of trial and error to track down inflammation triggers.
While these days I am very cautious about what I eat, I also take a small dose of CBD oil in the morning and at bedtime. I find this has a great anti-inflammatory effect and gives me the edge I need to stay on top.
Move It or Lose It
They say sitting is the new smoking. Many sit at jobs only to go home to sit and stare at the Idiot-Box. Constantly having our knees at a right angle to our back without moving for sometimes hours is just begging Father Time to land a roundhouse kick to the lifespan.
Of course, one of the best ways to get the joints moving is yoga, or some form of sports stretching. If you’re like me, you think all that quiet meditative garbage in yoga is just a steaming load. Therefore, I suggest familiarizing yourself with certain poses like warriors, upward/downward dogs and get busy while watching Iron Eagle. Barring that, there are options out there. For example, DDP Yoga is highly effective while not sacrificing your dignity. Up to now, it’s probably the yoga version I would place above any other existing system.
Roll Your Way to Recovery
I remember when I had this one massage therapist straight from the old-school Swedish way of pain. Like all women, she knew instinctively where to hurt a man. In my case, with a sharp elbow to the glutes and then pulling the muscle towards the hip in a way that almost made me black out. It hurt like blazes, but wow, did it ever work.
The problem is that a lot of today’s massage therapists come from community colleges that have a one-size-fits-all massage regimen. That often means the graduates don’t touch the ass-cheek where a good portion of the sciatic nerve lies.
That leaves you with two options: One, ask the therapist if they wouldn’t mind spend a little time massaging your rear. If they hesitate, wink and offer a crisp $20 bill and hope the front desk doesn’t call the cops. Alternatively, you could take the less humiliating approach of getting a foam roller.
The wonderful thing about a foam roller is that you can beat your glutes and IT-bands like a rented mule in the comfort of your own home. As a plus, you can find those extra-hard spots and just sit on them until you want to puke. It’s a great way to use all those colorful metaphors your Dad taught you growing up, without offending some innocent therapist who wishes they’d gone to a plumbing college instead.
If the foam roller is not quite doing the job, then belly up to the bar for a Rumble Roller. The protruding hard-foam ends will zero in on a knot in ways a standard roller can only dream of. Be advised, don’t start with a Rumble Roller without breaking yourself in first.
The Road Less Traveled
You will probably never hear of this option anywhere else, but it bears mentioning because its what worked for me so marvelously. Hormone therapy.
As I grew older, I became more prone to pain, inflammation and a loss of vitality. As such, Mrs. Parrot ordered me to get blood work done at a wellness clinic which specialized in hormone therapy. She essentially told me that if I didn’t do it, I’d best develop a taste for arsenic. The results were rather interesting.
As a 45-year-old man at the time, I had low testosterone despite working out every day. My estrogen levels were also too high. This explained my inability to kick muscle pain and recover quickly from sciatic episodes. Not to mention, I was also developing boners softer than Wilford Brimley.
Therefore, a plan was put in place: get my levels back to normal. I went on a two-fold prescription of testosterone cream and an occasional estrogen blocker. It took about a month, but changes were very, very noticeable. I could work out and recover within a reasonable time-frame. I felt a jump in my morning step that had previously dissipated. Now only on rare occasions did my wife want to slit my throat and leave me to die in a gutter. And even better, my sciatic pain dropped like a rock.
Hormone therapy can be a touchy subject for a lot of dudes. Let’s be up front, testosterone supplementation has a bad rap due to steroid abuse. For the record, the T-levels we are aiming for are nothing even remotely like that of athlete doping. Therefore, take any fears of becoming a muscle bound freak and put them aside. The two concepts are not the same thing.
If you’ve searched every avenue and have had no success, I advise giving hormone therapy a look. Choose your doctor carefully, as most have no idea whatsoever regarding hormone therapy. Many still buy into the false narrative that normalizing T-levels will be an increase to prostate cancer risk. Someday soon I’ll write a more detailed article on my journey.
Living with sciatica doesn’t have to be the nightmare you’ve come to accept. With time, determination and maybe a little outside help, it is very possible to get this serious condition under control so you can get back to living the life you want to live.