Updated 10/8/23; Originally posted 1/26/22
Pain that radiates from your low back/hip and sometimes shoots down your leg can leave you not wanting to walk, stand, sit, or lie down – and there’s not much else left to do! It is a multi-stepped process to stop sciatica pain caused by a sciatic nerve that has inflamed tissues nearby, is being compressed, or is otherwise irritated. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and needs some space or it gets angry and you feel the burn!
This post is about how I helped a male client (we will call him FB) eliminate his sciatic pain, avoid surgery and pain medication, and learn how to prevent it from coming back (yay!). Meet FB and read his success story.
I am a 78 year old man with a bad memory. To make a long story short, When I first saw Zoa, I could hardly walk and many daily activities were very difficult. She gave me suggestions on doing them that made her worth my time. I am now able to live a pretty normal log splitting life with a few modifications. My pain is no longer pain. Occasionally I get a reminder when I do something wrong, but then I hear her say “Did you use your butt?” and everything works out.FB
Sciatic Pain and Conventional Medicine
When I first went there, I could hardly walk because of a sciatic nerve problem that I had been suffering with for the better part of a year. I have to admit that I was skeptical about Zoa being able to help me because I had seen a general practitioner, who sent me to an orthopedic doctor, who sent me to a physical therapist. After the physical therapist, the orthopedic doctor said the next step would be injections in my spine. I told him that I didn’t have much interest in those spinal injections.FB
FB’s pain had been going on long enough that he sought out help from a variety of western medicine practitioners but did not receive the kind of relief or help that he was looking for. He did not want an invasive medical procedure, especially if it was likely to only work for a few months. He has many good years ahead of him and he wanted to understand and fix the source of his pain naturally and with common sense. What was FB’s next step?
First Session with Zoa Reduces Hip and Leg Pain from Sciatic Nerve
I went on a trip to Florida and when I got back, I was miserable. In checking around, a waitress friend told me she had a similar problem when she was pregnant and it had been solved by a friend of hers that was a masseuse. Unfortunately the masseuse had moved to Ohio.
I couldn’t find one around here (Southern Maryland), but in the mean-time I found a chiropractor that I liked. Unfortunately, after a number of visits I still wasn’t OK and he suggested to me that he wasn’t doing me any good and might even be hurting me.
At that time I was feeling so bad that I paid for an MRI myself because insurance wouldn’t pay for one that he ordered. My wife was still looking for for a masseuse for me and somehow got a name and phone number from an artist friend of hers. That name and phone number was Zoa’s, even though she is not a masseuse. The name of her business didn’t fill me with confidence, but I was really hurting. I called her.FB
[Zoa Entrance Stage Left] … I talked to FB on the phone and could tell right away that I could help him. But in order to know what the first steps would be, I had to see him. He came in for an hour long private so we could learn together what might be going on with his body to create pain.
He told me about a particular ladder incident which involved twisting on the affected leg to avoid falling off (!). He told me about his “electricity” shooting down his leg to his foot. I watched him move in particular ways to see which movements caused pain, what muscles and fascial lines were being underutilized, and where his body was holding high tension.
Throughout this session, I showed him how to gradually release tension and his pain level lowered. When he left that day, I knew he would be back. I told him I did not have a magic wand and that he would have to do the work, but that his goal of living pain-free was very achievable. The real question was – was he willing to do the work?
A 3 Month Plan to Stop Sciatic Pain
When FB returned the next week, we discussed how often he should come for a movement session and the other wellness tools available to him at my studio. I suggested he try a single Joovv Light Therapy session because of the anti-inflammatory benefits. If inflammation was a big factor in his sciatic pain, light therapy is a great way to help the entire body and the tissues near the sciatic nerve. I suggested that he would make faster progress if he came twice a week. I offered group classes that would reduce his financial cost but give him what he needed to become pain-free. By the time he had 3 sessions under his belt with me, we both knew that I was helping him improve but we needed a plan to get him pain-free permanently.
I told FB how the fascia in his body, the tension, sensory and stress network, has a long memory and is slow to make permanent changes. I have found that when clients commit to a 3 month program they see real, definitive progress. I suggested several 3 month plans to FB and he selected the one which involved 2 private sessions with me every week. Forward Ho!
When I told anyone about her, I jokingly called her my “faith healer”. Well, I started seeing her twice a week for “Movement” classes. After the first session I wasn’t sure that I was doing the right thing, but she was obviously intelligent, soft spoken, and seemed to make sense. When she started talking about “fascial release” and described it to me I decided to go along with the program.FB
Movement Program for Stopping Sciatic Pain
I introduced FB to fascial release for his low back, hips, hamstrings, calves, and feet. He opted into a few fascial release props to use at home for faster progress – he just repeated what we did in class while he watched TV, sat at the kitchen table, and lay in bed!
I explained the importance of magnesium for relaxing muscles, how you know if you are getting enough, and the healing that an Epsom Salts foot bath can do when you are in pain or getting leg cramps.
I introduced FB to some new stretches as his body tension released enough for him to add these new stretches to what he already knew.
I introduced FB to his core muscles in a whole new way using the Pilates Equipment to facilitate proper core usage, support heavy body sections, and challenge the right (weak!) muscles.
I explained how different parts of the body connect to each other through strong movement patterns and fascial slings. FB experienced in every session how important the brain is to create new movement patterns and use the weaker muscles on purpose.
He gradually got stronger in his weak places and looser in his tight places. The sciatic nerve pain shifted to the still tight places in his leg (hello calf!). The pain became less frequent and less intense when it happened.
She seemed to be right whenever she said that something would have an effect somewhere else. She really does know her stuff about the human body and nerves and muscles. While she told me the first visit that she couldn’t do magic, she has helped me so much that it is amazing. When I first saw her, many things made me feel like I was having horrific electrical shocks down my left leg. She taught me what to do that prevents those . I think someone else could have told me the same thing and I wouldn’t be able to remember but her voice and repetition help me to remember.FB
Sciatic Pain Prevention: Staying Pain-Free for Life
A main goal for FB’s 3 month plan was to ensure that he had tools in his toolbox to help him prevent sciatic pain in the future. He had become proficient at preventatively using his fascial release tools at home on days when he did heavy lifting or more body movement than usual. His frequent use of a magnesium rich foot bath to stop the “electricity down the leg” had proven its usefulness to him time and time again.
I also wanted to make sure that I got in his head – that he could think his way into avoiding pain. We discussed his movement patterns and daily activity which might be helping him be in pain – not the goal!
He experimented with unloading heavy bags from the back of his truck with a twist to the left instead of to the right. He found it easier to lift those bags when he used his core intentionally and successfully thanks to his Pilates exercises. We discussed his procedure for splitting logs and how he could make a small shift to it in order to prevent future sciatic pain.
It worked. All of it. The whole package of relaxing tight places, strengthening the core (including the gluteal muscles – everyone needs a strong tush!), and retraining the brain’s movement patterns. FB now lives happily and comfortably with the skills and knowledge to keep himself pain free. If and when he needs me again, he knows my knowledge and wellness lifestyle approach will help him heal naturally.
Now I hear her saying things to me (not in her presence) to remind me like when I walk or sit down or roll over in bed I hear her say “use your butt”. This simple tightening of the glute muscles make a lot of difference in my daily life. I now take a lot of short walks and do some stretches that help. The value of my time spent with Zoa can’t be described in this small space. I can just say that it has increased my function tremendously.FB
If FB’s story resonates with you or if you have been wondering if you can stop your pain without surgery, invasive procedures, or pharmaceuticals – we should talk. I look forward to meeting you!