Tuesday 8 July 2008

Beating sciatic pain

I used to suffer terribly from sciatic pain - it's what brought my career as an infantryman to a screaming halt when I was about 21. I had to give up my beloved M-60 and move to a less demanding role because my lower back had a bad habit of going berko about 10 days into a 2 week exercise. Not the best thing to happen at the best of times, but an absolute bastard when you are out in the shrubbery somewhere.

I spent the next 10 years or so bouncing from one form of unsatisfactory treatment to another. I have tried just about every form of quackery known to man, except for that thing which relies on continued dilution of whatever potion you are supposed to be taking. I've had massage, acupuncture, chiro-back-cracking, osteo-stuff and various other things, and none of them worked. I've tried stretching and bending and tucking myself into odd contortions, and none of them worked.

At one point, I was told that I would need surgery on my back before I was 40. Not a good prospect to look forward to.

After 10 years of occasional bouts of suffering, one doctor finally worked out that my problem was muscle spasms in my lower back where the muscles gripped the sciatic nerve and squashed it, hence the pain. He prescribed anti-inflamatories, and they finally did something about the pain.

The only problem with anti-inflamatories is that they are not good for you - they are certainly not the kind of thing that I would want to take twice a day for the rest of my life.

Then a certain series of events put me back on a bike. I moved house, which took me away from the pool that I used to swim in, so I needed a new form of exercise. As there were no gyms about, I bought a bike.

The next change was that the reliability of CityRail went down the toilet, so I went from casual rides on the weekend to riding to work most days.

After a while, I noticed that the back pain had gone completely, and I was no longer taking the anti-inflamatories. I saw a quack about it, and he reasoned that the riding was stretching my hamstrings and lower back out, which was the source of the problem. Apparently my hamstrings are so tight, my lower back doesn't bend at all. After a few years on the bike, it bends a bit more now. It's not perfect, but it is flexible enough to ensure no more sciatica.

So for me, it's not about whales or glowball worming or peak oil or any of that - it's all about my back.

Speaking of which, it's time to go for a ride.

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