Sciatica - Robert's story 

'I used to wake up five times in the night with aching pain' 

Sciatica: Robert's story

Robert's sciatica caused him intense pain in his right leg. He describes how the condition affected his life and mobility and what treatment options were available to him.

Media last reviewed: 18/01/2013

Next review due: 18/01/2015

Robert's sciatica caused him intense pain in his right leg. He describes how the condition affected his life and mobility, and what treatment options were available to him.

Page last reviewed: 26/08/2014

Next review due: 26/08/2016


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The 28 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Magsy55 said on 01 August 2014

Hello having read the comments on here I am not sure if I feel better or worse knowing that others have the exact same pain as when I mention the symptoms to others I know like back pain shooting pain down the left side to my toes and real pain proper nerve pain the only to describe it is like having tooth ache from your left buttock to your left toes shooting and aching every time I walk or stand for more than a few minutes as the doctor said that when I stand it traps the nerve constantly sitting does ease it and laying down also but standing trying to make a cup of tea in the morning I need a chair in the room to keep sitting when it starts it takes over my life at the moment as the pain is constant when trying to move I have been prescribed Amitriptyline,naproxen ,and codeine and nothing takes the pain away not even slightly just makes me tired and gives me a dry mouth so have stopped them all and waiting for my MRI scan in sept and also phisio with the works medical team but it does seem the only way to get pain free is having the op reading the comments below anyway good luck to you all hopefully we can all become pain free very soon

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aliwali52 said on 05 July 2014

Hi. I am a 51 year old woman and was diagnosed with a prolapsed disc which was impinging on my sciatica nerve 5 months after having my right kidney removed. The pain began in my lower back and around the area I had my kidney removed. At the time I assumed it was just aftermath pain from the op but 5 months later the pain began to get worse and had travelled through my hip and down my right leg. The pain was intense and I found it difficult to stand up more than a few minutes at a time. Walking and doing everyday things was a major task. After seeing my GP he referred me for an MRI scan which showed that I had a prolapsed disc which was impinging on my sciatica nerve. I was referred to the pain clinic at the hospital and eventually had a cortisone epidural injection through my spine. I was told at the time that this is not a cure but pain relief and can last anything from a week up to a year before having to have another one and is an alternative to surgery which they only consider as the very last option if nothing else works. I must admit that about 2 days after the injection my pain did subside to virtually no pain and I was at last pain free. Unfortunately in my case this only lasted for about 8 days before the pain started coming back and I am on the list for having a further injection shortly although I am hoping to have a consultation with the specialist about other options such as surgery. Please don't be put off by the fact the spinal jab didn't work for me as the percentage on ones that did work is quite high. Also don't be put off at the thought of an injection through the spine. They do it whilst watching on a screen so little chance of it going in the wrong place and it really doesn't hurt. Just feel a little warming sensation and your back feels a little bit heavy as though something heavy is laying there but lasts no more than a couple of minutes and then it's all over. Best of luck.

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Dooberry said on 08 November 2013

Hi, I'm 35 years old and have had degenerative discs and spinal stenosis for the past 10-15 years, about 6 years ago I had my first op on my L4/L5 discs to relieve the pressure of my nerve, this lasted for just over a year before the problem returned and haunted me once again, this May 2013 I had my second op on the same discs and thus I was painless and it felt great........until nearly two weeks ago when the pain returned with vengeance and this time it is constant and agonizing! I am finding it very hard to sleep at night because I cant get into a position where it doesn't hurt, I sometimes find it easier to sleep sitting up, I can't stay still for long periods of time because again the pain. I have been referred back to my consultant so god knows how long that will take and they have put me back onto tramadol which really doesn't touch the pain :( this is making me so down now and I hope they will sort it soon.

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KathyBH said on 17 October 2013

I am 50 and have Parkinson's Disease, which at the moment is quite well controlled by medication, but for the last 3 months or so I've been suffering from sciatica, which has got steadily worse.

The past two weeks have been really bad....I'm finding it far more debilitating than the Parkinson's has ever been! I have almost constant pain in my left leg, with intermittent tingling, and I can't stand up for any length of time at all. I can't find a comfortable position when sitting either. Bizarrely, it actually feels better when I'm waking.....I mean properly walking outside. Walking around the house doesn't seem to have the same effect - that just hurts!

My GP prescribed Naproxen, Pregabalin and Cocadamol but none of that has touched it. He recently doubled the dose of Pregabalin but still no effect..

I'm beginning to really struggle because I live on my own with no family nearby to help me with anything, and I can't cope with the housework. Even doing the washing up is a problem because I can't stand up for long enough to do it (not that there's much washing up, because I'm not in a fit state to cook anything so I'm pretty much living on toast and cereal!) And recently I had to pay someone to do my ironing! I'm still managing to go to work at the moment but I'm not sure for how much longer.

Fortunately my GP is very understanding and supportive, and has recently referred me for an MRI scan. Apparently the waiting list for these in my area is not too long, so hopefully that will identify exactly where the problem area is and I will be able to get some appropriate treatment soon. Fingers crossed anyway!

I must say it's a relief to know that I'm not alone - that there are others out there who are going through the same thing. :-)

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Ian Kennard said on 05 August 2013

I was optimistic after realising that instead of having weak back muscles I may have sciatica after the pain in my back travelled down my left buttock, and into my lower leg. Unfortunately, I now have problems walking as I have to consciously lift my left leg up to walk and it still 'flops' down. I'm just about to go to the GP and incredibly pessimistic after reading the above stories as my left leg has no strength and the pain goes from my buttock to my calf. Fingers crossed they can (will) help?

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sevans7 said on 30 April 2013

I am so relieved to read all of the comments posted on this page. Although I am currently in the worst pain I have ever experienced - believe me childbirth is a walk in the park compared to this! - I now know I am not alone. I have to agree with Kelly Watts' comment I just don't understand why we seem to be left to get on with it. My GP wont refer me to a specialist. He says its down to the physiotherapist to do that but I have been suffering for around 3 months now. I am considering going to an osteopath or sports injury specialist. But think after reading that some of you have had acupuncture I may give that a go too. The worst aspect for me is not being able to do the every day things.. Walk the dogs, drive, work. Even my hair is a mess because I cannot sit or stand long enough to get it done!! All these things are bringing me down and sometimes I have wondered if there is something seriously wrong. However as I have said all of your comments have reassured me in a way!.. Would love to know how long this is going to go on for. When I asked my GP he said 'how long is a piece of string' - very helpful. I just hope that I will be better for my son's wedding in July. I couldn't possibly turn up with my hair looking like this!

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Zilly said on 16 March 2013

I had my first experience of sciatica 5wks ago. I have never suffered so much pain and have been taking various prescribed and over the counter painkillers 24/7. I was up at all times of the night taking med, re-filling the hot water bottle and doing physio exercises. I could not sit so have not driven or worked for 3 weeks. I was even having to stand to eat. That was until this afternoon …my husband, a Turk who like his family and Turks in general believe in massage and herbs before doctors and drugs laid me out on the settee, a hot water bottle in the middle of my back (for warmth and relaxation) and massaged a chest vapour rub(!!!) into my calf and upper leg. For half an hour I received a very strong, sometimes painful and somewhat smelly massage. 2hrs after the massage I was not only walking instead of limping but also sitting and driving!!! It is now 10hrs since the massage and I am still able to walk and sit. I have not taken any painkillers for 10hrs and do not feel the need for any. Long may the freedom from pain continue. : )

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marl1950 said on 27 January 2013

I have been suffering from POLYMYALGIA RHEUMATICA for 7 months now and i am taking steroids and naproxen for this condition .8 weeks ago i started having pains and pins and needles down my right leg and foot the pain of both conditions together is altogether impossible my GP diagnosed SCIATICA and referred me to NHS physio who put me on 10 minutes traction to no avail will this work and how long will it take i am suffering so much feels like my life has been taken over ,

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kaz1965 said on 01 October 2012

I too have been suffering for the last 4 months with excrusciating low back pain, which started to travel down my lft leg and foot. Sleepless nights and the inabilty to do my normal day to day activities and go to work, I find very depressing. My GP has perscribed Dihydrocodeine,Diclofenac and Amitiptyline. I had 10 sessions with a chiropractor, which eliviated the pain for about 1/2 hours after each session. I recentley asked my doctor if he could refer me to a private consultant. Within a few days, I had my appointment,the following week I had an MRI scan. After paying out £690.00, I now know what my problem is. I have L4/L5 and L5/S1 degenerate disc with left sided L4/L5 disc protrusion compressing left L5 nerve route.After going through my options with the consultant I have decided to have the discectomy operation. As I cannot afford to pay for the operation I have now been referred back to the NHS. I cannot wait for the operation date to come through. I am controlling the pain with the tablets,tens machine and not over doing things. The other thing that now concerns me is the increasing numbness and tingling in my left leg and foot, so I am off to my GP again tomorrow. I am glad to say that my GP has been very good and supportive to me, evn though I am in his surgery every week,sometimes in tears. I need my life back, before I sink futher and futher into a depression. I have always worked and love my job and can't wait to get back, but at the moment even though I have tried kidding myself , there is no chance. As anyone else experienced this constant numbless/tingling ? If so does it improve over time or does it get worse ?
I hope to be giving a positive comment to all my fellow sufferers soon. x

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kelly watts234 said on 20 August 2012

hi i have had back trouble for ten years now and 22 weeks ago i went to docs with a pain down my left leg, they gave me painkillers and told me it shud only last 6 weeks. since then i have has 8 different painkillers had on call doctor out due to not being able to walk. i had an appointment at the hospital which was not worth the pain i went though to get there , he told me i needed a scan which i already knew. so i got sent home in the hope of someone ringing me to have the scan. i cant walk ,do normal day to day things with my young children . i have been now put o oramorph and co -codimal but am unable to get up off my sofa i havent slept in my own bed for 5 months as the pain is to much. i cant see why it takes soo long to get any help with this problem . im still waiting and feel for anyone who suffers this just want someone to take this pain away and give me my life back just to shower now is to much. so good luck to all with this problem x

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toya1 said on 14 June 2012

I have had back problems for as long as i can remember but last May/June i developed severe pain in my left leg i thought i had pulled a muscle in my leg but the pain persisted,i eventually went to see my GP who told me i sciatica,i was sent to see a physio who over a course of a few weeks gave me acupuncture which helped whist it was being done but the pain just came straight back after wards.I was also given a tens machine which eased the pain a little but that was all i was referred for an MRI which i had in Feb this year and showed i have a herniated disc that is sitting on my sciatic nerve.I have been given all sorts of pain killers i am taking Amitriptyline,Naproxen and Paracetamol and if i am in real pain then i also have Tramadol and Diazapam which really help but my problem now is that i went to see the surgeon on Tuesday and he has said he would perform an op but asked me to come off my meds for a few days a assess how bad the pain is( the pains have returned and are getting worse) then get referred to the pain clinic but my worry is that if i leave it too long will it be too late for me to have the op as i don't want to live on pills for the rest of my life.I personally think i should just go straight for the op but i'm not sure either way should i try the pain clinic first or go straight for the op?

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kathymac said on 10 March 2012

I've just read Robert's story and found it very helpful. I've had painful sciatica constantly for over 2 months now. I've finally accepted it's going to be a long haul to get better, but hopefully I will beat it in the end, as Robert did.
I've been to an osteopath 4 times - with hindsight wish I hadn't. He seemed convinced it was a muscle problem, whereas my G.P. and a physio have diagnosed a disc problem, which I certainly feel is more likely. I got worse if anything over the time I was seeing the osteopath, obviously I can't prove his exercises aggravated it, but it's possible.
I'm doing back extension exercises at the moment, waiting to see an NHS physio, and taking gabapentin, co-codamol and ibuprofin.
So sorry to read the stories of other people who've struggled with this awful thing for such a long time. Good luck everyone.

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Mrs Claire Mcghie said on 04 February 2012

I am 25 and have been suffering with sciatica for almost 4 years. Last year I received treatment for the pains in my leg and all was going well, or so I thought until last November one day I woke up and could barely walk the pain was so bad in my lower back and further down. The doctors sent me for more physio and an MRI all last year but don't seem to listen to me when I tell them how bad the pain is. I can bearly walk, standing up is very painful and everyday tasks that should come with ease I can hardly do with the help of another person.
I know this is going to sound dramatic butithas literally taken my life away.
I am fed up with ringing the doctors every few week because they don't seem to realise how bad it is but I can't go on any longer, it's really quite depressing.
If anyone has any information on what I can do I would be really thankful !!!

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sleepy21 said on 23 January 2012

cheryl worsley i am so happy i read your comments. i have suffered the same you and im now having a operation in 2 weeks time. i was very worried about going ahead with it but i have been suffering for years now and couldnt put up with it anymore. im 38 yrs old but feel like 88 yrs old. im actually in bed at this moment unable to move due to the pain in my back and left leg right into my foot. your comments have given me hope that 1 day i wont feel this way and i can start to enjoy thing again. im so miserable, moody and cry all the time due to being in constant pain. i hope you continue to get even better and enjoy your pain free life !! im hoping for the same

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Kathryn52 said on 04 January 2012

I have sciatica for some years now on and off, I have found that a good walk or stretching helps, but recently the pain has intensified and as I am no longer able to take any form of painkiller ( because they give me headaches) also I was having problems in the left side of my neck (stiffness and painful movement) my doctor suggested I try Propranolol 40 mg twice a day and hey presto the relief in my neck was instant, within a couple of days i felt no pain in my left side at all after a couple of weeks it felt good to be pain free however the side effect was that I was so tired all the time. after discussion with my doctor i reduced the propranolol to 10 mg twice a day with the knowledge that should the pain return I could increase the dose for that day. all has been well until the last two weeks. The pain has returned and although one dose of 40mg propranolol helps to relive the pain it's not working as well, so back to the doctors for me. Has anyone else been prescribed this drug? I am very active (I have a dog and no garden) I don't work at the moment but keep busy all the same. For me with my pain I don't have problems with activity in fact the more I do the less I feel pain as of course my mind is busy with other things however its the resting i find difficult, waking up at the silly hours of the morning in pain but really tired and wanting to rest but finding i need to move because of the pain ? any one else feel like this? I have heat pads , cold pads , massage machines, you name it I have it or have done it , swimming, walking, cycling, everything works for a while then its back again, I have also tried every kind of anti-inflammatory available but all to no avail. so any other suggestions would be good, also i have done deep massage therapy and chiro

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mummyju said on 29 November 2011

I wrote a comment on here back in Feb 2010, about the sciatica problem I had and I thought id just update you on progress.
It got much, much worse. One night it got so unbearable I rang NHS direct and they got me into the local hospital immediately to see a doctor. I felt as though I was being a pest, as the doctor said he couldnt do anything except offer me that diazapan stuff which I refused, as I have two small children to look after. (at the time my husband was out of the country on business) he told me to make an appointment with my GP in the morning. Then the doctor even turned all the lights out before Id got out of the corridor and couldnt see and then I literally bumped into a porter who let me out of the hospital!

However the next day I made an apointment, but my ususal GP was busy so, I got a lovely lady doctor who immediately put me in for a MRI Scan. The scan was gonna take weeks but I got a good tip - I rang the hospital and told them I would except any no-shows or cancellation appointments if I could get in quicker, and it worked within 2 weeks I had my scan (it was hellish laid in that machine for that amount of time with sciatica, i just laid there and cried!) and found out the two bottom discs had prolasped. It was funny really as my usual GP told me my condition and he was sympathetic (not like he had taken any notice before hand though).
What was really strange was the moment they told me what was wrong, my sciatica got slightly better and by the time I saw the specialist who was wanting to do an operation, the majority of the pain had gone. So I refused the operation and although my back is like glass and I have to be so careful, and still have no feeling in the last two toes of my left foot (nerve damage) Im coping.
I know it will flare up again, as I constantly feel on the cusp of another attack but, touch wood, its gone for a while. All I would say is, that giving up for me was not an option, never will be. Good luck :)

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CHERYL WORSLEY said on 27 November 2011

I had Degenerative Disc Disease 4 years ago which caused Sciatica but was able to manage it with exercise until January this year. My GP referred me for an MRI and then to a Consultant as it showed I had two prolapsed Discs. My Consultant couldn't really see from the MRI exactly why I was in so much pain and after having a Spinal Epidural [which didn't help] he ordered another MRI. Still he wasn't sure but I could see no other course than to have the operation [Spinal Decompression and Discectomy] I was so scared and wondering if I was doing the right thing because as my Consultant explained to me there were so many things that could have gone wrong and left me in more pain.
I had my operation at the Circle Hospital Bath 9 weeks ago and I am so pleased I did. The operation itself was no where near as painful as I expected, you do need someone to look after you and make sure you don't do too much, but I was carefully walking around the block at home 3 days after my operation. Now I attend Back Rehab at our local hospital and when that is over next week I shall continue with the Water Mobility Class at our local Leisure Center. I go out and briskly walk for half and hour every morning and excercise in between.I still have a bit of pain some days but it's nothing like before and I do realise it can take 6 months for the nerves to settle down. I had a badly trapped nerve, which was age related caused by narrowing at the bottom of my spine. I also had some shaved off the two prolapsed Discs.
I would say to anyone if you are in terrible pain from Sciatica don't be afraid of the operation. Be sure you have a Surgeon you have faith in and trust. Also realise you must work hard after to get fully fit again.
Any process with Back/Sciatic problems will take time on the NHS whichever hospital you go to as so many have the same pain. I couldn't take painkillers other than Panadol which made it worse for me, but now I am taking nothing and feel I have a life back again.

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macallan said on 30 October 2011

i have had this pain for a year now, i have been on so many pain killers, which takes the edge of the pain. sleep at night is still a broken sleep. i have a five old boy which is my life. but i am so cripple with pain that i cry out in pain in front of my son. the doctor sent me for a mri, which has show my L4/L5 are causing some narrowing of the lateral recess. also be sent to pain clinic to mange my pain and the possibility of steroid epidural injections. i have pyhsio. i do the exercise, heat etc. i have been give a walking stick to help. but still in so much pain. i get pins/neddles in my legs,hands, neck, feet. my ribs feel like they are be crushed cause the way i walk, sleep, sit, stand. but i still carry on with every day. i take one day at time. some days are good. the bad days i try not let them get to me. i enjoy what i have got. for my beautiful son.

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rogerofsa said on 23 September 2011

after 3 visits to 3 different GPs from the same practice and after 7 weeks of sleepless nights from sciatica and nothing offered other than pain killers i went direct to a physio who was brilliant --i now have an MRI scan at at hospital within 48 hours of seeing him.

Cost me £30 fro the consultation and it will cost £300 for the scan --if it puts me on the right road it will be well worth it .

I had not realised you could get a hospital appointment without going via a GP.

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rogerofsa said on 22 September 2011

Reading other peoples stories makes me realise how much pain some people suffer --i am now 68 and have had a largely pain free life.

7 weeks ago after sailing and gardening i had intensive back pain diagnosed by a GP as sciatica .

I was largely immobile for the first few days but it has gradually improved so i can walk/drive etc but there is a nagging pain down my left leg and it still wakes me up at night -after a while it gets you down.

But reading how much worse it is for others and for young people is humbling.

I tried this morning to get a GP appointment but was offered 4 Oct --nearly 2 weeks so i now have an appointment with a private physio tonight.

So far the only treatment has been ant -inflammation pills and pain killers.

having semi retired at 60 i now have a fairly important job to do and need the medics to get me through this.

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CATH1020 said on 12 September 2011

HI i have Degenerative Disc Disease and iam not finding a good way to deal with it any ideas

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CHERYL WORSLEY said on 23 July 2011

I had back pain and Sciatic Leg Pain 4 years ago and after an xray was told I had Degenerative Disc Disease so I gave up Gardening and joined a ' Healthy Back Class'
Last Christmas I started getting what i thought was the same 'Pirriformis Syndrome' but when it didn't go away I went to my GP in January. She sent me for an MRI and that showed I had subtle disc bulge at L3/4 touch4 and L4/4 touch 5 but no real compression on the SI nerve root..I saw the Spinal Surgeon who sent me for an Epidural which I had 8 weeks ago with no effect at all.
I have just had another MRI on the back but also on the Pelvis this time. My surgeon will operate on me if he can find the target as he doesn't want to put me through an operation if he doesn't think it will help me. He did say I may be 'Unusually Wired Up'.
I can't take strong Painkillers/Antiinflammatory type pills and have to rely on Panadol Advance which don't help much.
I go out to walk every day to get some exercise and I go to WaterMobility Class at our local sports center.It is much easier to exercise in the pool.
Reading all the comments makes you realise just how many others have this problem and why it takes so long to get hospital appointments.

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Maggie Gray said on 23 November 2010

I like you have suffered with back leg and buttocks pain for many years. I have tried all the relevant treatments and lived on pain killers. My doctor recommended physio which worked for a while but as soon as I stopped within a couple of weeks the pain was back. I recently had a course with a chyriopractic three times a week for 6 months then twice then eventually once. I was pain free for the first time in years. But this treatment is expensive and after the year a maintenance programme is recommended once a week. Unfortunately I paid the years treatment up front from my small savings and can no longer afford to carry on with the treatment so now 6 months later I am back where i started in pain

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Rob1822 said on 12 October 2010

“Roberts Story”
Robert obviously does not live in my part of the world, I was given painkillers and Anti inflammatory pills, after a week the pain was so bad I had to crawl to get a few yards, response stronger pain killers for the day and Amitriptyline for the night, it took 8 months of asking to get an MRI scan which showed up the problem, which turned out to be a cyst that needed to be dealt with and not any of the suggestions made by the doctors, also unlike Robert my doctor would not refer me to a physiotherapist and to MSK, I had a choice! A sports injury specialist? Apparently we don’t have anything like that in this trust. What I did find useful was a deep massage followed by some regular full body massages although it did prove expensive over time. I also tried Osteopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic to no avail but soothing at the time.

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kate north said on 04 June 2010

Thanks Georgesgranny - the info you have added has been really helpful. My GP did mention the Salmon exercise, it's a yoga type stretch for the back, I have used it when I have had back pain in the past and it really helps. The chair seems like a sensible idea. I guess the trick is to look after oneself and not take risks, and keep moving as much as possible.

Reading the other comments was so depressing!

I have sciatic pain and I want to improve or at least manage the condition to keep as normal life as possible. The NHS info is much better than what I recieved from my GP, in fact I don't know why she didn't point me to this site.

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georgesgranny said on 06 April 2010

I have had problems with my back for some months now and have had almost unbearable pain in my leg. I was unable to sit at all at Christmas but bought a sit / kneel chair which is great.
I've also been having physiotherapy at my local NHS hospital since the end of December. My problem hasn't gone but I am SO much better. I am now driving myself about and doing more or less everything I used to be able to do.
Apparently the treatment I am having is fairly new and was developed in New Zealand. It consists of exercises based around one I think is called a 'salmon', gentle pressups keeping my hips on the floor, and done every 2 hours if possible. There is a progression to the exercises so I suggest anyone suffering from sciatica / bad back and leg pain sees a physiotherapist. It's certainly helped me, and is continuing to do so.

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nednoodle said on 12 March 2010

Sorry to hear you have been suffering for so long. I have also had back pain on and off for 2 years. The last 6 months has been pretty constant and last 2 months it has been pretty bad. I was really dreading going to my doctor and was putting it off (have moved house and had to register with a new doctor. My previous doctor sounds like yours so was expecting a brush off).

However my new doctor was lovely. Offered me painkillers, referred me to a specialist back physio who saw yesterday. He was also great and has offered me a number of options including a scan which I am going to go for.

Long story but basically I just wanted to say, not all the doctors are like yours, so try a different one and insist on getting the help you need. I know it is hard when you are feeling awful, you just don't feel up to arguing. But no one should have to suffer like that. they may not be able to fix your problem, but at least they should try! Good luck. :)

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mummyju said on 05 February 2010

Hello, Ive had backpain on and off for 15 years, it got worse after having the children, but now I have developed sciatica which is unbearable at times. I have a high tolerance of pain, but this is constant and relentless.
I even went to the doctor, I was told to get on with it. No pain relief or further action was taken, he wouldnt give me a number of anyone else who could help even though I asked him twice.
I have since found a osteopath, who has helped a little, but hopefully, eventually it will work.
Im an optimist, but it really can bring me down, its very difficult driving and at meal times when sitting straight for a while is needed. I will not let this thing beat me, I am determined to get better soon.

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