Sciatica part 3.

In my last blog on the 19th February 13 I described how my diagnosed sciatica led to an MRI and consequently the identification of a substantial prolapsed disc at L5-S1.At the time I was awaiting a surgical appointment with a view to possible lumbar discectomy but I was aware of the controversy surrounding the efficacy of the procedure relative to nonoperative care (1). Ultimately I met the neurosurgeon. A full examination and history was taken. I was still very uncomfortable and managing my pain with anti-inflammatory medications but was given the good news that things should continue to improve without any intervention!! I was delighted and have come on in leaps and bounds since that consultation. The neurosurgeon agreed that physio would probably aid my recovery but he thought I should avoid chiropractors in this early stage of recovery in case any problem was made worse. Interestingly I was warned that Cauda equina syndrome could still be a potential problem. This is a serious neurologic condition with acute loss of function of the lumbar plexus and nerve roots of the spinal canal below the termination (conus medullaris) of the spinal cord. That worried me slightly but since that day I have continued to recover, returned to work and am feeling much improved.


Having suffered this serious health concern I am now aware of the effect it has had not just on my back and sciatic nerve but also the rest of my body. Yes, the prolapsed disc originated in the back and caused severe sciatic pain but the impact felt elsewhere should also be noted. I immediately lost weight as I stopped eating. I was in too much pain to think about food. I could only lie flat so eating was also very uncomfortable and impractical. I was in constant pain at times and found it difficult to converse with well meaning visitors and my family. My three young boys helped as much they could (my 12 year old now understands the importance of a dark and white wash!) but they worried as did those who came to visit and help. I looked grey and very unwell and my quality of life deteriorated. It will take time to get back to full recovery and I know I am impatient but must take things slowly or am at risk of further damage. As I suffered my family suffered. Illness is hard for the person who is ill but can have a huge impact on those around who watch the suffering and feel helpless. Luckily my illness has been short lived but it has given me time to accept some of my limitations and to think about the impact illness has on family carers. My needs were well assessed and addressed and the needs of those caring for me were touched upon. I am sure the burden of caring for me in some way reduced their quality of life whilst I was sick. It was short term but for others may be much more of an adjustment. There is an excellent resource online titled: A guide to assessments of carers’ needs which identifies who a carer is and the entitlement to an assessment (2) which I would recommend.

(1)  1. Surgery Vs Non-Operative Treatment for Lumbar Disk Herniation: The Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial: A Randomized Trial” JAMA 296(20):2441-2450, 2006.

(2)  A guide to assessments of carers’ needs (2012) (accessed 23.4.13)


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