I'm 26 and Have Crippling Sciatica

Lindsey Metrus
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Urban Outfitters

Both of my parents have intermittent, intense back pain. I didn't so much as know what a sciatic nerve was before both of them complained of the sharp pain that shot down each of theirs—my mum even went under the knife to ameliorate her crippling sciatica. What happens is a spinal disc usually slips or bulges, pushing on the sciatic nerve (the largest nerve in the body), which then triggers pain. According to science, if I were to draw a Punnett square and cross both of my parents' sciatic genes, I'd inevitably inherit it myself (middle school science, I clamored I'd never use you one day, yet here we are). But this genetic predisposition made me assume the pain would occur midlife like it did for my parents—what I'd later discover, though, is that I was half-right (right about having sciatica, wrong about the time frame in which I'd get it).

It all happened after a wedding this past spring. I was wearing high heels and dancing like a lunatic (as one does), and the next morning, I could barely walk. Just as my parents had described, a sharp, stabbing pain shot from my lower back all the way down my right leg and into my foot. I crawled to the bathroom while writhing in pain, popped ibuprofen, and prayed it would all be over soon. It was, but the next morning it returned, so I hobbled to the walk-in. As expected, the doctor confirmed it was sciatica, which was presumably brought on sometime around Hava Nagila. She gave me some prescription-strength painkillers and told me to start going to physical therapy. I only did the former out of laziness but actually discovered that yoga was my own form of rehab. Within a few weeks, the pain almost entirely went away, but on days when I wore heels, I'd again find myself crawling toward the bathroom. For anyone else who's ever experienced this, I sympathise with you—it sucks—but there are nonsurgical steps you can take to minimise the pain or, better, completely eliminate it.

Ed note: Please speak with a doctor before trying any treatment for sciatic pain.

Have you ever tried any of these treatments? Which helped the best? Please let us know in the comments!

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