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Physiotherapy and the Chronic Muscle and Nerve Pain of Sciatica

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Physical Therapy

My early-middle-age experience with physiotherapy was prompted by an acute bout of bursitis in my shoulder. The weekly physiotherapy visits consisted of being attached to a machine called the electric muscle stimulator. Little pads are adhered to the skin close to the afflicted area and electrical impulses are generated, which elicit muscle stimulation. This did help but it did not address the underlying cause. The bursitis eased off when I stopped lugging home heavy bags.

Fast-forward 20 years, and now, my nagging chronic sciatica has far surpassed the pain level of just daily discomfort. This condition is an inflammation of the sciatic nerve causing pain ranging from just the hip to all the way down the back of the leg. How many boomers suffer from this?

I decided to return to physiotherapy because of two factors. One, there is a sports physiotherapy clinic virtually next door to our new condominium home. Two, the clinic came highly recommend by one of our neighbors who was giving us a rundown on all the great things about living here. A friend, upon learning of our new locale, also told us that she had excellent results from her treatment there. The pain relief pills prescribed by my GP were a temporary fix and the ensuing over-the-counter analgesics were incompatible with my stomach. Not having shed the “New Age” philosophy of the late ’60s, I knew Karma had interceded and I was destined for this clinic!

In my initial appointment, Kate, my physiotherapist, did a complete assessment of my condition by physically testing my strengths and limitations while I indicated the degree of pain experienced. By doing this, she established that the compression of my sciatic nerve was most likely the result of the wrong muscles taking over the action of the weak core pelvic muscles. She called it a “loose pelvis!” How did she know about those days of “flower power?”

My 90-minute treatment progressed. Basic exercises targeting the pelvic muscles, were increased in difficulty weekly. This wee sprite, Kate, also applied pressure to the nerve areas, which was painful, and performed traction on my spine, a good feeling, relieving the compression. I joked that the venue was appropriate since the clinic was housed in one of the remaining historical buildings of an infamous criminal penitentiary. We completed the session with the electronic muscle stimulator and I would leave tired but invigorated.

I realized that the damage from years of sitting at a desk followed by evening television viewing were not to be undone overnight. At home, I follow the diagrams of the exercises that Kate gave me to continue to increase the strength of my muscles. They are not easy to do but it is necessary. I haven’t completed my treatment but I am confident that when I do, I will be well equipped to sustain my increasing muscle strength.

Motor scooters and various walking aids are available but I hope never to have to avail myself of them. Like Rod Stewart sings, I strive to be physically and mentally “Forever Young!”

Photo: Roger Mommaerts at Flickr

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