Sciatica

Well.  This is no fun.

So that hip thing?  It escalated.

In July, I overdid it and my body complained.  My hips have always been tight, and for a belly dancer, I have shockingly limited mobility.  In mid July, I was working on an art project that required me to be seated on the floor to work, and I worked on it, multiple days in a row.  My hips complained, and I didn’t listen, because I was hell-bent on finishing the project.

The rest of July, all of August, and into September, I was still trying to recover from screwing myself up.  Despite being in varying amounts of discomfort, I managed to keep all my commitments at Burning Man, including approx 24 hours Rangering (including a 6-hour bike shift), 3 hours at Arctica, something like 6+ hours for Conclave rehearsal & performance, at least two nights of exploration & dancing, plus camp set up, tear down, approx 4 days sitting in the car for travel each way.  Yeah… that’s a LOT of activity for a person with a buggered hip.

When I got home from the desert, I was in pretty rough shape, as the last big of road trip was a real killer for my hip.  I stacked a few massage & chiro appointments, to try to get it under control, and was diligent in stretching multiple times a day to manage pain and mobility.

On Sunday the 15th, while I was stretching, my right glute went into spasm.  I popped some muscle relaxants and tried to rest as best I could until morning.  I saw Jeff the next day, and he was able to provide some relief.  I could at least rest somewhat comfortably, but I was unable to put pressure on that glute without pain, which limited my ability to stretch it.  It felt like there was a spiky ball in the core of my right buttock, with a too-tight elastic band stretched over it.  (An elastic band full of nerves, mind you.)  In addition, my right hamstring and other neighbouring muscles had this constant pre-cramp feeling… like that feeling you get right before a charley horse.  After three days when it didn’t improve, I began to wonder if I’d really done something terrible to it, so I scheduled an appointment with my GP on Thursday the 19th & asked for a referral to someone Jeff suggested, and got a prescription for naproxen.

By Saturday the 21st, I was going stir crazy.  I’d been largely housebound and horizontal for over a week and needed some air.  Frank suggested that instead of getting groceries for me, that he take me to Safeway, and let me shuffle around gently, while he went to pick up our friend Terri.  Great.  Let’s do that.

I shuffled around gently, not once considering that carrying a basket might not be a good idea.  As I was shopping, I could feel my right glute and hamstring getting tighter and tighter.  Ok, gotta go soon.  Tighter, and painful.  Ok hurry!  TIGHTER.
And then the three smallest toes on my right foot went numb.  And then my ankle.

And then FIRE!  ELECTRICITY!  Agonizing pain flooded down my leg from my right glute.

I could barely get myself out of the store.  I limped outside, waiting for Frank, whimpering, trying to breathe, and trying not to scream.  When Frank & Terri pulled up, all I could say was “please take me to the hospital”, and suffer while they tried to belt my twisted body into my seat.  I’ve been through a lot of pain in my life, and honestly – this was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I broke into a cold sweat immediately and could barely speak recognizable words.

The folks at the hospital were amazing.  They must have an eye for who is faking and who is for real, because I was seen immediately and they smacked my pain down hard and fast.  They checked me out, called it sciatic pain, established that it probably wasn’t a disc issue, based on where my pain was originating, sent me home with some pain killers, told me not to lift anything, that moving around gently was better than 24/7 bedrest, and recommended that I see my GP the following week, after the pain subsided, and get a referral for physio.

The pain killers they gave me in the hospital were heavy, so I slept very well that night… best sleep I’d had in over a week.  When I woke up the next day, the spikey ball of pain in my glute was gone, but everything felt cramped, and had a lot of pain in my sacrum/SI joints.  The numbness that had come on the night before was still there.

So, here we are on Thursday the 26th, 5 days after the episode.
Parts of my foot & lower leg are still numb, everything still feels cramped, sacrum/SI joints are still painful, but, the pain is somewhat tolerable. I’m off the muscle relaxants & don’t feel I need the breakthrough painkillers that the hospital sent me home with, so am just doing 400 ibuprofen & 500 acetaminophen every 6 hours.

I tend to shift a lot… nothing is comfy for very long. I can stand or sit for about 10 minutes at a time, so I switch between those often. Lying down with some supporting pillows is very good, and is more sustainable than sitting.  Heat sometimes helps.  I have almost no forward flexibility in my right leg, and only marginally more with my left, and certainly can’t bend enough to touch my feet.  I shuffle around the house with small steps, grunting with any movement that causes pain, which is most movement.

It’s incredibly frustrating to be dependent on Frank for every little thing.  I need help to put socks on, or to get in & out of the bath.  I can’t bend to pick up a laundry basket off the floor, or load/unload the bottom rack of the dishwasher.  I feed the cat by leaning over as much as I can, supporting myself on the wall, and then dumping her scoop of food into her dish from about 2 feet up and try to ignore the bits of kibble that don’t make it into the bowl.

This is certainly a lesson in asking for, and receiving help… two things that I really, really suck at.

I’m seeing a friend that does acupuncture tomorrow… lots of friends who’ve had sciatica tell me that acupuncture helped them, so I’m going to give it a shot.  I’ll see my GP on Friday for the physio referral.

Wish me luck.

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