Sciatica is a Pain in the Ass

Well, more a pain in the lower back and right leg. I have self-diagnosed myself with sciatica. Remember, I worked a half-second in healthcare... ok healthcare marketing, but my diagnosis is still legit! All it took was some online research and Dad's genealogical confirmation. Unfortunately, I'm dealing with sciatica at age 29. Dad was in his late thirties before he started having chronic lower back pain.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, sciatica "refers to pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the leg. It is caused by injury to or pressure on the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is a symptom of another medical problem, not a medical condition on its own... Sciatica occurs when there is pressure or damage to the sciatic nerve. This nerve starts in the lower spine and runs down the back of each leg. This nerve controls the muscles of the back of the knee and lower leg and provides sensation to the back of the thigh, part of the lower leg, and the sole of the foot."

I have all that and a bag of chips.

I'm fairly sure a lower back injury four years ago is haunting me. Back then, I had muscle spasms after a session of running stairs near Golden Gardens in Seattle. I was out for a couple days and the pain was excruciating. This time, the culprit is a crappy indoor soccer field in Tacoma where I played early morning indoor soccer most of the winter wearing crappy shoes. The pain wasn't terrible, but enough to make me stop playing indoor soccer.

But I can't stop playing soccer altogether. After a 10-year break, I am really enjoying getting back into the sport and competing in the men's league with a bunch of guys out of high school and college. My game is still good and rather excellent considering the length of hiatus and youth of my teammates and competitors. These youngsters can run fast, but they don't have the fundamentals or vision of the game. Advantage: Paolo.

Hence, I continue to aggrevate my back week after week on those Sunday soccer games. A common recommendation for minimizing sciatica is to stay active. It's not something that you sit and wait to heal. I just don't know if running balls out (not literally) for 90 minutes is exactly aligned with that advice.

My mind is WAY ahead of my body when it comes to playing soccer week after week. Because I am conscious of this, I make sure to warm-up and stretch before the game and cool down and stretch after the game. I have probably never been so limber, but the recovery period for my back and legs gets longer and longer.

I'm limping around on Tuesday after a big game Sunday. I notice it the most when I get out of the car at work after the 75-minute drive out to Ashford. I have to "shake out" my right leg to get it going when I climb out of the Jeep. It all gets back to the sciatica and the way I sit in certain positions. I've gotten into a good habit (I think) of standing at the coffee bar when I work around Tacoma, so I don't get stuck in a bad sitting posture.

Lately, the sciatica symptoms have improved. I'm not limping or getting shooting pains down my leg as often. Sometimes my sleep positions aggravate my back, but there's not much I can do about that.

The sciatica isn't going away, but neither is my ambition to stay active through it and minimize its impact. I'm aiming and training for a Rainier summit this summer, which is a 9,000-foot elevation gain and something like 17 miles roundtrip carrying a 20-40 lb. backpack (depending on the leg of the climb) over two days. Many people have more physical disadvantages or ailments than I do. I figure I might as well take advantage of the otherwise good health I have, while I have it!

Sciatica symptoms will be annoying, but they're more motivating to stay healthy than slow down.