June 2006, the first match of the World Cup in Germany was about to start and I was content in the knowledge that I was going to be able to watch every match of the competition, a rare occurrence. But there was a down side, I hadn’t been able to walk further than the toilet in three days and it would be a further 4 weeks before I could walk at all without excruciating pain down my left side, my sciatica was attacking me.
The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and travels all the way down each leg. It can often get trapped by the muscles in the lower back and when it does can produce a pain varying from dull and annoying to excruciating and debilitating. Those who suffer from it know that ultimately nothing can ease it; standing, sitting, lying….it’s all sore. The pain travels down through the bum down the back of the leg and all the way to the toes. And a special treat for men, can even leave you with achy testicle
There is very little relief when you are suffering from a flare-up. This particular flare up was eased with a mixture of hard core inflammatory medication and cocodamol. But this medicinal approach was always temporary and while I lay on my back for 4 weeks my pain would fluctuate from dull and sore to excruciating. Not once was I pain free for those weeks and in the end it took a physiotherapist to literally (or at least that’s what it felt like) pop my lower vertebrae back in. It was a remarkable feeling to hear the crunch and click of my lower back as she bounced her entire body weight on my back. I quite literally skipped my way home where I had just hobbled only half hour before.
The physio gave me a list of exercises to do everyday…… for the rest of my life. They would only take 10 minutes out of my morning but for some reason 10 minutes of 3 or 4 exercises just didn’t excite me, I got bored of doing them. But I knew I needed something, so I swam. Having been told how good swimming was for core muscles I swam and swam, for years and years. At one point I was up to 80 lengths a day, 2km!! But the sciatica was always looming in the background. It never got anywhere near as bad as before but it was always ready to remind that it was there. Anytime I’d bend incorrectly, lift something heavy, drive long distances, or even just be tired and slouch without knowing, it would say hello. It never fully went.
I spent a large amount of the time not only swimming but also trying to get into the film&TV industry. And slowly but surely I did, but the more I worked the more I worked away from home and the less I swam. The day to day of TV and filmmaking is not as glamorous as Hollywood would have you believe, it’s not all directors chairs, and trailers. It’s usually standing in a field or side of a mountain, or the street for 11 hours of the day, marching from one location to another with your gear as quickly as possible…….Hello sciatica!
My wife had done yoga for as long as I had known her and it wasn’t that I didn’t give it credit or thought it was just for women or that it wasn’t a strong enough exercise, I had tried it a few times. It’s just that I enjoyed swimming so much it always won in my head. But the more I worked the less I swam and the lack of exercise was costing me.
While working abroad my wife came to visit, I had told her that my back was acting up and she tried again telling me to try a bit of yoga, I nodded knowing that it would be good for me but not 100% convinced. I also came up with the excuse that my workdays were 13 hours long including travel. Even 10 minutes she said. And then she ingeniously said nothing more of it but ‘accidentally’ left her yoga mat behind when she flew back home. That mat propped up against the side stared at me for the next few days and it wasn’t until I had a late start and had a few extra hours in the morning that I said let’s try it. I put on a 10 minute podcast video my wife had told me about and partook in my first ever yoga class.
I had never felt that energised in the morning. I was, quite simply put, buzzing. Alert, sparky and very enthusiastic!! I kept doing it every morning, just 10minutes and after a short while I noticed something that I don’t think my body had ever done before. I went to pick up my heavy rucksack at quite an awkward angle and I felt something new, different, some new part of me jumped into life and it didn’t happen consciously, my core came alive. A lift that would usually twinge my lower back suddenly had this arch of support from my core. Seeing what could happen both physically and psychologically in just a short space of time I was hooked. Over time I upped it to 20 minutes every morning, then 30 minutes, and after 4 years I can honestly say I am in the best physical shape I have ever been and haven’t even heard a whisper form my sciatica.
Two asanas I do regularly to flex and stretch the lower back and stretch the gluteal muscles which are crucial to supporting the lower back. Care must be taken when performing yoga with a sore back and supervision is advised. Having an ache or pain does not mean you shouldn’t do yoga, in fact in many cases it’s the opposite, but it’s important to let your teacher know so modifications can be applied. Whenever I have an ache or pain, yoga usually sorts it out.
Are you suffering with back pain, recovering from injury or surgery or just interested in strengthening and stretching your back?
An old adagio reads ‘You are only as old as your spine is healthy.’ At Akasha Yoga Centre we have many styles of yoga and all are beneficial for the back but we also offer Therapeutic Yoga for the Back every Tuesday morning, taught by Susan Hardwick, our back care specialist. From September Susan will also be teaching her Therapeutic Yoga for the Back class every Monday evening. Keep an eye on our timetable for updates.
In the meantime, you can also book a 15 minute free consultation with Susan, who is also available for 1-2-1 sessions, by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, texting or ringing us to 07525129942 .
Over to you
If you would like to tell us about your success back pain story and yoga, we would love to hear from you, please leave your comments below.