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Dry Martini: Out with Sciatica

If forced to define who I am as a runner (which is not a thing that comes up often, mind), I would use two simple words: durable and consistent. I may not be fast. I have little desire to go super far. But I do get out there more often than not and hold together well.

You might know where this is going.

During the week between Christmas and the new year, we decided to decamp to Roxbury, New York. It's about an hour from here and is a cute little Catskills town. My husband and college-age kid could take advantage of nearby skiing; me and the high school kid could enjoy staring out of new windows for a few days. A win all the way around.

Roxbury is also the start of one of this area's hidden gems: the Catskill Scenic Trail. I made sure to pack some running gear so that I could get some time away from the family and break a sweat. Because, as I said, I am consistent.

This marker on the CST lets a runner know she's 62 miles from Kingston, New York.

There are a couple of muscles in my right hip/butt area that have been more tense than usual, probably a result of too much time in Zoom calls and staring at a computer. I've been stretching and rolling and having them poked with needles. They've been noticeably tight for ... a bit? Longer than I can remember anyway. The tightness comes; the tightness goes.

On Thursday morning, I woke up feeling like my entire right leg was actively on fire. I could not find a position to sit in that didn't cause even more pain. Lying down wasn't much better. Don't even get me started on walking. If it weren't so painful, I could have composed an epic poem about how many different flavors of oofff walking induced.

So I went to the doctor. She had me do some stretches so that she could see what my pain-free range of motion was -- in short: mighty oaks could bend more -- and poked two fingers into the muscle right next to my tailbone. I jumped (stiffly) ten feet straight up. Yup, she said. This is sciatica.

Thank you, Dr. Google.

Near as we can figure, a couple of days sitting in strange chairs and sleeping in a strange bed caused one of those tight muscles to start pushing on my sciatic nerve. It makes as much sense as anything else. It could also be the result of sunspots or El Nino or a wind from the East. The end result is the same. The Pope and I have the same condition right now, which means that, given the transient property, I could lead the Catholic Church.

I did get the opportunity to take a selfie with a wooden bear in the local grocery.

I welcomed 2021 whacked out on muscle relaxers, which isn't the worst way to great the new year. A couple of days further in, I'm down to just a couple of ibuprofen every now and again. My hip and leg don't quite feel like my own yet -- I still get flashes of pain and tingles if I sit for too long -- but I am on a decent path to recovery.

My doctor, also a runner, cleared me to run when the time seemed right. Not moving, she said, would be worse in the long term. For the last few days, I haven't felt okay enough to tie on my Brooks and go for it. I might try a very, very easy run tomorrow. We'll see how everything feels when I wake up.

While I'm intellectually OK with giving up my durable and consistent crowns for the time being, I'm emotionally itching for a good, pain-free easy run. I know that the best way to heal an injury is to give it time to, you know, heal. Still, I really want to get out there just to clear my head. I have no doubt that there are some BAMRs out there who know exactly where I am.

Again, there are certainly worse fates. Still, it's a Christmas gift that wasn't anywhere near my wish list.

Have any of you had a similar injury or had to redefine who you are as a runner?
How did you work through it?

21 responses to “Dry Martini: Out with Sciatica

  1. I get it too! The first time when I was diagnosed, the doctor also poked me in my booty in just the right spot! Yup, that’s sciatica! I’m sorry!

  2. I hate to echo others but here I go– I would have it checked out by a specialist. I had the same pain and it ended up being a herniated disk. I really hope that isn’t what you have but you do need to be careful. The stretches the PT gave me just made the pain worse. Cheers to a speedy recovery!

  3. Yes!! I know of a couple recovery yoga poses that are extremely helpful! I will share with you if interested!

  4. Dealing with the exact same injury right now. The only relief i got was from the PT stretching it and moving the hip socket around. Then came dry needling in the butt and lower back. That has made a huge difference. The path to recover is slow but manageable. Hang in there. Become one with clam shells and other hip exercises.

  5. So sorry to hear about the chink in that armor! I have faith you’ll be back on the roads – knowing the Oneonta winters, please take care you don’t do more damage on the ice! Durable and consistent…and always with the best sense of humor. That’s how I’d describe you!! Take care!

  6. Knock on wood I have not had sciatica issues. My mom had them when I was younger but it turned out to be stress-related. Remove the specific stress and the sciatica pain magically disappeared.

    I do love that you have not lost your wit and the selfie with the bear is awesome!

  7. I’ve suffered horribly for years from Sciatica. The only doctor who ever truly helped me was my Sports Medicine one. He found that not only do I have sciatica but I have a compression fracture in my thoracic spine. Do yourself a favor and find a specialist. PCP are not specialists, they are the doorway to them.

    Feel better soon!

  8. BUMMER! I haven’t had this injury but have had several others. You already know this, but focus on what you CAN do. There are lots of videos for sitting workouts that honestly can work up a good sweat and have helped me mentally handle the times when I can’t do anything on my feet. And once you can walk, that too is a great way to clear the mind’s cobwebs. It’s so hard to deal with “not being a runner” at the moment, but I’ve found that getting creative with what my body can do ultimately has boosted my confidence, overall fitness and appreciation of the times when I can run. (Also – I LOVED YOUR BOOK!)

  9. Well … I started out with the very same symptoms. A little over a year ago. Long story short, the sciatic /SI joint pain is all because of compensations from my body trying to protect a very old hip labrum tear. Finally had surgery 11 weeks ago & have been doing some serious PT to resolve the compensations. The pain before surgery was so bad, I was in max doses of Tylenol & Aleve & still couldn’t sleep, sit or stand without pain. The total time off for pain & recovery has been pretty rough, emotionally. Trying to keep focused on the future and being able to be active again & for the long haul, is the only thing keeping me from going crazy.

  10. Pinched nerves are my very nemesis–that and weak ankles. The past few years have made me re-evaluate and I am now a walk-runner….it is okay enough for me right now. I am really sorry you are going through this at a time when running and exercise are very much needed therapy. Hang in there and this too shall pass.

  11. I had my first bout with sciatica when I was 25. My doctor didn’t believe sciatica was the problem but sent me to PT anyway. The PT thought it was a piriformis issue, and the PT stretching was excruciating. I got myself an MRI and found out I had a massive herniation of my L5-S1 that needed surgery. After surgery I did PT again (with a better PT) and a year later I was pain-free. In the years since, it acts up occasionally. Regular massages as maintenance have been really helpful. Good luck with your healing!

  12. Hi, I have been dealing with a hip/hammy issue since June (2020). It sucks. I walk and it doesn’t feel good.. I run and it totally bugs me. If I was training for something, I’d probably Advil through it….but since I am not training and not being accountable by my running buddies… I am not doing much. I am BUMMED. I walk a few times a week for a good hour+. I left my strength aside which is not too smart…. I am not motivated to get back into anything… I have run since I was 13. Now in my mid 50’s…maybe I am just worn out. Take Care and I know you will be getting back out there soon.
    Barb

  13. Been there, done that. I would highly advise NOT trying to run until you know you are completely healed. Otherwise, it will just set you back again. In retrospect I realized I had been on the verge for years, chalked it up to “tightness”. I took a full two months off running, none at all. Biking and slower walking were great. So much stretching and lower back strengthening. I second the PT rec. Mine started with a trip to the ER (couldn’t walk after a weekend of overtraining on bike & run) and some scary words by the ER dr including surgery. I had a recommendation by a friend to walk backwards around the house, so strange but dang if that didn’t help. Sciatica was a great wake-up call for me to focus on total body strength as well.

  14. The same thing happened to me almost 3 years ago as I was training for a marathon although I was bed ridden for 6 weeks. I’m still not back running yet but I have been able to complete some challenging workouts so I think i’m finally on the road to recovery. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

  15. I’ve been dealing with the same issue since Thanksgiving! Pain down my right side. I went to a chiro who diagnosed it as SI joint issues and piriformis syndrome. He made some adjustments, and I’ve also received massage focused on trying to release the tight piriformis. Also trying the various stretching and strengthening techniques found online. Definitely not fun! It’s been nearly 8 weeks. Pain has gone down, but it’s definitely still there. Feel better.

  16. Those are typically symptoms of something else. Please try to see an experienced physical therapist/manual therapist who can assess your lumbar and SI joints as they may be the “hole in the boat” and the sciatica is just “water in the boat.” Primary care physicians do not have the biomechanical education to determine this which is why they should refer you to a good PT. For some sciaticas, stretching and massage are the worst things you can do while for others it’s the best. It can get really frustrating so please try to find an experienced PT who can help consult with you. Thanks and good luck

  17. I had that in my first pregnancy and although it was 25 years ago I remember that fire pain. Sendind positive thoughts and vibes your way! Speedy recovery

  18. Oh dear BAMR, my sympathies are with you. I have had to completely redefine myself as a runner over the last year and it’s been an exercise in patience. Hang in there!

  19. Sorry you are in pain! My husband has occasional sciatica and recommends two YouTube channels. One is AthleanX who looks like a goofy gym rat but apparently knows what he is talking about. The other is Bob and Brad who are adorable. Good luck!

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