In 2015-2016, I had a rather unpleasant experience with sciatia, which dramatically changed the course of my life. I believe I found a sustainable way of managing it and would like to share this information. Please note, this is not medical advice and ultimately you are the only one responsible for your decisions and choices.
One day in February 2015, I was stretching during a yoga class and I clearly overdid it. My left hip was suddenly pierced with a sharp pain. I stopped stretching, applied some ointments, the pain subsided but never really went away. It was bearable, and I was a strong active woman, so that time I totally ignored the message that my body was trying to send me and just went on with my activities. I remember rehearsing a dance for our yearly festival in April 2015, swallowing painkillers and still convinced that my body is doing all right and it just chose the wrong moment to be unwell, because I really needed it to perform! Perform we did, through pain and suffering. It felt good: I had just won the battle and my body didn’t manage to stop me!
In summer 2015, we bought our first house and had a rather rough landing in it (including messing up with artex & asbestos but that is a different story). I felt super exhausted: working during the day and doing night shifts in the house painting, cleaning, and refitting. In addition, the situation at work did not look very bright – I was a perfectionist, had a tendency to overwork but was still not satisfied with the results and had regular unpleasant encounters with a “difficult colleague”.
Pain that rules
One day in November 2015, I went to the kitchen in our office to pour a cup of tea and there I nearly fainted due to a sudden pain in my whole leg – from hip to toe. I sat down and tried to relax but it didn’t work, I was shaking and didn’t know what to do. When I reached home, my left leg from knee to toes was half-burning and half-numb. My spouse called 111 and we were advised to go to A&E immediately.
Several hours later I got back from A&E with two strong painkillers and advice to take it easy and see my GP. Taking it easy was ultimately the only thing I could do, because this time there was no way that I could win over that body of mine that didn’t want to work, so I began to surrender to it. For several days in a row I could only stay in bed. I used ointments and, intuitively, also put warm oil on my back and leg in the hope that it will be better one day. I did not stop working though – there was a deadline for submitting a scientific paper in two weeks and I knew I could’t let the team down, so I was writing through weakness and pain.
In the meantime, I visited my GP. After approximately three weeks I was checked by a physiotherapist at the hospital, who recommended an MRI scan. He also warned me that should the pain persist and should there be a bulging disc, I might need an operation. However, he also mentioned alternative methods like osteopathy (which is unfortunately not part of NHS services) and suggested trying it if I had a chance. Two months later MRI confimed the bulging disc suspicion and I was recommended to go to the Neurosurgery department to discuss my further options. They included either injection of steroids into the spine or decompression surgery, if the injections didn’t work. At that moment I became genuinely surprised how quickly people were ready to put their knives in my spine when they seldom looked me in the eyes when they spoke to me.
Reading about this type of surgery in detail convinced me that this solution was far from sustainable and there was no guarantee that it would help in the end. Ultimately, there is no clear cause of sciatica, it is believed to be multifold and is somewhat of a mystery. I am happy that my intuition did not betray me on that occasion and made me search for alternatives.
During the real time off, when I finally allowed myself to relax and observe what was really going on inside, the realisation hit me: everything that I am doing is not aligned with what I really am! I am living someone else’s dreams and realising someone else’s ambitions. Moreover, I am constantly taking more weight than I can carry because I am convinced that if I don’t do that, people will find me unworthy to be with and abandon me. Now, this was an old story from my early years, which I am sure is familiar to many people: kids tend to try to please their parents and often blame themselves if they fail. So, there I was, in my mid-thirties, still doing and feeling pretty much the same as I did when I was a kid.
In the end, just as I was ready to quit my job and set off on a new journey in search of “what I really am”, I suddenly found a one-year course in Ayurvedic lifestyle and nutrition in Croydon, in which I enrolled after just some hesitation. At the same time, instead of leaving completely I was offered a more flexible schedule with fewer hours at my existing work, which I happily accepted.
Interestingly, by being present in the office less and not taking everything too personally and too seriously, I became a more efficient worker; my motivation and productivity also rocketed as soon as the stress was relieved.
So, what helped me in the end? As soon as I could move, end of December 2015, I introduced a few gentle exercises into my daily routine. Sometimes I had to stop after one or two exercises, but I went with the flow and carefully listened to my body. All of a sudden, I didn’t need to conquer it anymore, didn’t have to ignore its needs for the sake of my or someone else’s ambitions. In the meantime, my back pain was still there, although it improved after staying in bed for almost two weeks and gentle exercises; the numbness in my foot was there as well but I just let it be. In February 2016, I decided to give osteopathy a try. After 3-4 sessions I felt slightly better, but it wasn’t until two weeks later, after I started Ayurvedic herbs in combination with changes in my food and sleep patterns, that I felt it really started to shift*. It turned out that Ayurveda had a clear vision of the causes of sciatica (a condition called Āma-Vata, i.e. aggravated Vata plus improperly digested food products called Āma) and a rather straightforward strategy of managing this condition.
Summary of my strategy
1 ) Following Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle to reduce Vata and Āma in my body.
2) Using manual therapy such as osteophaty and massage once in a while.
3) Balanced exercises: it works as auto-osteopathy and allows me to keep my body aligned and relaxed. I used “The eight brocades” taught by Mimi Kuo-Deemer. It is a short complex of qigong exercises. On the days when I felt bad I could only do 1-2 exercises but that made a difference in the end. Most exercises that consist of slow movements and breathwork have a Vata-reducing effect.
4) Last but not least, emotional and mental detox played a crucial role in this process, as I was asking and answering the question WHO AM I, really?
Right now I am mostly pain-free, I do hard work in the garden and allotment, I am not restricted in any way. I carefully monitor my state and know what to do when I feel that I am starting to get out of balance.
My journey was not quick, it went against the conventional medical scenario, it required some efforts and different methods. But I am convinced that the solutions that I found are more sustainable and address the root causes. In addition, this all resulted in serious life changes, including finding a new career path.