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Sciatica, spasms, lower back pain and spinal mobilisation

Written by Fiona December 17 2013

I suffer lower back pain on and off – but mostly off, thankfully. I try to maintain a strong core and I find that running keeps my back in fairly good working order. Yoga is a great aid to flexibility and I have now also introduced strength and conditioning sessions to my weekly workouts. But there is little you can do to prevent the back pain caused by a minor accident.

back-pain-sciaticaOn a cycling holiday in Croatia I fell off my bike. I was almost at a standstill and I only fell from the height of my saddle but I crashed down on to my hip. I think the fall jarred my hip, which then knocked my back a little and the result was horrible sciatica. I don’t know for sure but after reading about sciatica I believe I ended up with a nerve niggle in my back that caused intense referred pain and numbness in my outer right calf and the bottom of my foot. All was OK while standing or running but when sat down I felt a great deal of pain.

I tried stretching, rest, yoga, rest, massage, rest but still it didn’t shift. After many weeks of pain I ended up lying down with a pillow under the arch of my back for almost an entire Saturday just to get some relief.  I also booked in for the following week with David Jenkins at Sports Therapy Scotland who lists “sciatica pain” under his treatments. (David helped me out a year or so ago when I had a stiff back caused by a tight hamstring.)

Back pain gets worse before it gets better

The next day did not start well at all. I got up hoping that my back would have eased a bit after a day of relaxing. I had a planned long run to do. But I couldn’t even straighten up. I winced and cried out and tried to ease myself into an upright position. Finally, I managed this and as I did I felt a sudden and major spasm in my back. I squealed. But then I felt much better.

My back felt so good – and repaired – that I was able to go out and run the planned 13 miles! Since then the sciatica pain and numbness in my lower leg and foot has disappeared.

But I was then left with general stiffness in my lower spine.

A session at Sports Therapy Scotland

Recounting all this to David, a sports therapist, I discovered that I probably did have sciatica and it seems that it can come and go as fast as mine did. He also reckons that because I went out for a run after the spasm occurred I most likely helped with the mobilisation of my back.

Many people would have felt the back pain and then the spasm and simply sat down again. Instead, because I went for a run I (probably) helped to mobilise my back and this may have been the best thing I could have done. Who really knows though?

The back is a strange thing and needs a lot of good care and long-term help and maintenance. While the sciatica had disappeared I had been left with a lot of tightness in my lower spine.

Instead of treating the sciatica, David was left to treat the lower back rightness. He utilises a spine mobilisation method and while it doesn’t feel like he’s doing much (this is my impression!) I came off the massage table with a great deal more suppleness and fluidity than I’d enjoyed in months.

What is spinal mobilisation?

Mobilisation is a hands-on manual therapy designed to restore joint movement and range of motion. The therapist gently (I told you it feels like it’s not much at all!) coaxes joint motion by passive movement within or to the limit of a joint’s normal range of motion. The therapist’s movement of the joint is very precise and is limited by the amount of joint play, which may be less than 1/8th of an inch.

The overall goal of mobilisation is to restore normal joint function including the surrounding soft tissue (including muscle, ligaments and fascia).

Post back spasm and mobilisation

My back has been pretty much behaving itself. I’ve even been able to lift weights and perform weight squats etc at my strength and conditioning classes without pain or inflexibility. My running feels freer and stronger and I can touch my toes again!

Note to self: Avoid falling off bike in the first place.

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