I have been a hairstylist for many years, and that involves long days standing on my feet, often without any breaks. While some back pain is par for the course, a few years ago I started developing a burning pain in my hip that radiated down my leg. A quick trip to the chiropractor told me what I already knew – it was sciatica.
According to medicinenet.com, sciatica is not a condition on its own, it’s a symptom of another problem, which is most commonly a herniated disc. In my case it was a combination of standing, shoes that weren’t supportive enough, and being overweight. The pain was alleviated after a couple of trips to the chiropractor, but reappeared every few months. For most people relief can be achieved through a series of chiropractic treatments, but for some more drastic measures like surgery are required.
I didn’t have health insurance at the time, so continuing with costly chiropractic treatments was out of the question for me. The reappearance of the sciatica symptoms usually indicated to me that it was time to buy a new pair of shoes. I tried heat, I tried ice, I tried over-the-counter pain medication to no avail. I wasn’t comfortable standing or sitting, and even laying in bed was a complex ritual of finding a position that didn’t leave me in agony. Very little that I did helped with the pain, other than purchasing new shoes with better support.
A few years into this cycle I started exercising regularly and lost a significant amount of weight. As I strengthened the muscles in my legs and back, and as I started dropping the pounds, the symptoms became less and less frequent, and eventually disappeared altogether. Even though the pain wasn’t in my back, I found that the more I concentrated on building the strength in my back, the less pain I experienced.
Unfortunately, I started gaining the weight back a couple of years later, and eventually regained all of it. My sciatica symptoms never returned with the weight gain. My assumption is that I retained more muscle, even though I gained excess weight. I am also still very conscious of purchasing new shoes on a regular basis.
There are few conditions that leave someone as debilitated as chronic back pain, and I am thankful that I was able to get rid of mine without drastic measures like surgery.