Their pain is affecting their life
When I came to see Amanda, from my twenties I had been suffering from what people diagnosed as ‘sciatica’ which is not a diagnosis, I eventually discovered – it is simply the name of the pain that ran down my leg. I tried every pain clinic I could find for years – and every doctor and every clinic said there was nothing they could do. I cycled as walking would often be too painful. It completely blighted years and years of my life. A serious accident while on my bike made things even worse as I hurt my hip when I hit the car and in scans they discovered that I had impingements in both hips.
Julia’s history of sciatica stemmed from a series of accidents in her childhood which resulted in an imbalance in her pelvis. When she first came to see us it was actually for another issue, as she was firmly of the opinion that nothing could be done to change the sciatica, because this is what she had been told repeatedly by the medical profession.
She also had global hypermobility, which meant that her joints were less stable than they should be. This was significant as it meant that her muscles and fascia were naturally tighter than normal to provide the stability that her body needed. Hypermobility can often lead to joint impingement and pain as the tissues supporting the joints tighten and pull the bones too closely together.
They have a diagnosis
In Julia’s case, the original diagnosis of ‘sciatica’ was not a diagnosis at all, as she rightly said. Sciatica is not a condition, it is simply a symptom, which is pain that radiates down the leg. There are many things that can cause sciatica to develop, from prolapsed lumbar discs to piriformis syndrome.
Therefore, to be told you have sciatica is about as useful as being told you have a headache, if you are not told why you have this particular symptom. If you only look at the symptom, you will never find the cause. If you focus on the leg where the sciatica is felt and only treat that, you overlook the fact that there are other imbalances in the body which are actually causing the symptoms.
Accidents and injuries
As a child, Julia had a series of minor accidents and injuries. In her words she broke her feet ‘a few times’ and fractured her right ankle. This last injury was set badly and had caused her right leg to rotate inwards which was now causing both knee and hip pain. Her cycling accident was serious and impacted on her right hip, increasing her pain levels, among other things. Following her cycling accident, Julia had a scan of her pelvis which identified impingements in both hips.
In Julia’s case a whole chain of seemingly unrelated events led to her current condition. This is not uncommon. Each injury caused a change in the balance of her whole body, her hypermobility caused a tightening of the fascia and muscles around her hips. Over time her tissues had tightened to the point that her nerves were being impinged – in the case of the hips, one of the major nerves is the sciatic nerve which, when impinged, or squashed, causes sciatica.
Posturally Julia was quite unaligned. Her cycle accident had caused injury to her left shoulder as well. Combined with the childhood accidents, her body had developed several compensatory holding patterns, notably tight and uneven shoulders and hips, and her body weight being supported by her left leg to compensate for the rotation of her right leg.
Julia had high levels of stress caused by a combination of her work and her pain symptoms.
From a myofascial perspective it was obvious that the sciatica was caused by impingement of the sciatic nerve, and that in turn was caused by tightness in her hips. Using myofascial release we worked on the fascia and muscles around her hips, particularly round the sides on the tissues that rotate the legs in the hip joints. Unsurprisingly after twenty odd years, everything was very stuck and ‘uncomfortable’ to work on. However, in one session Julia’s body responded by releasing all those years of stuckness and giving her back the natural rotation of her legs. Not only did the painful right leg release, but the weight bearing left leg too, meaning that the whole structure of her hips could rebalance.
I was about to have major surgery, but happened to come to Amanda – not having a clue of the miracle worker she is. It took fifteen minutes – uncomfortable, perhaps to take the better part of twenty years of pain away. She explained to me how to maintain it, and that was that. My consultant was left scratching his head – one minute he was going to operate and the next I was strutting out of his office waving goodbye with a huge smile on my face…She gave me my life back…