T Nation

Sciatica Problems


I'm bummed. No pun intended. Anyone out there dealt with sciatic problems? Were you able to lift/work out through it? I felt mine kick in about a 1-1/2 months ago, a few weeks after running a marathon---months ago, a "goal" before reaching 40--but esp. after the final game of my softball team a few weeks later. I've done nothing but slow 20-30 minute walks, yoga & stretching, and upper body work.

The ache has decreased but the ache still hinders me. My legs used to be one of my better features and I can see they're losing size. Anyone have any experience in this area?


I have had severe problems with mine... I was on my back for 3 weeks about two yrs ago. I did get it sorted out with a Chiropractor and he educated me about the natural curve in my lower back and helped me correct my curve in my back wich was 100% in the other direction. I did suffer nerve damage and still have some numbness in the toes on my right foot and up the outer side of my lower leg.
After I whent through all of that pain and suffering and no sleep for so long ... I pay close attention to my lower back and yes Chiro can help and it is very important to correct because unless it is corrected it more than likley will get worst.
Get it checked out I wasnt sure about Chiro but after the success I had after that I believe them to be very important.
I did go to a regular Doctor and I got perscription pain meds and even a shot of cortisol with muscle relaxers.No help and no improvement.


Been dealing with this latest bout for a number of months now. Numbness in right foot, at some times worse than others. I was prescribed a home lumbar traction unit, stretch like crazy and visit the chiropractor regularly.

As far as working out (or any lifting for that matter) any spinal compression causes the symptoms to worsen. Squats are problematic, exercising with weight attached to the waist rather than compressing the spine mitigates this somewhat.

It can take a while to heal, my PT said not to run for a year (hill sprints brought it on) and use caution with certain movements. I started swinging a KB a few weeks ago in an effort to strengthen my back, and have suffered no ill effects.

It can be frustrating at times, but I am doing my best to stay out of surgery. One thing that the PT also said was to keep an eye on atrophy, that may be the time to consider surgical intervention.


For a number of years in the early 90s I had a lot of problems with my L4/L5 and sciatica. It got to a point that it was so painful I could not even walk. After months and months of PT/Chiro and meds, I decided to go under the knife and have my disc trimmed. This should be your last option if everything else fails if recommended by your doctor.

It has been 14 years and for me it was worth it. I have not had any significant problems since. My body will let me know if I am pushing the limits by giving me some light pain in my calf and tingling in my foot. I just back off for a few days and everything is good again. Squats are out. I use machines for my leg training. Shoulder presses are ok if I keep the weight down. No problems with most other movements. Running seems to aggravate the condition so I use other cadio training methods.

My advice would be to do a lot of research after identifing the cause of your pain. Make educated decisions before moving forward with a treatment. Good luck.


You need to get the cause diagnosed. I'm not a specialist, but I do know that there are different causes and areas where the nerve can get impinged upon. That's your first step. Once that's been done and you have started on a treatment for it and the symptoms hopefully start to subside, I highly recommend you do the Neanderthal No More program that you can find on T-Nation. It will address the shortcomings that caused your injury. From what you wrote, it sounds like it was not a trauma injury, rather an accumulation type injury, which is right up the alley on the NNM program.

Good luck,


Agree with Dollabill, go to a neurosurgeon, get an MRI, and get it diagnosed. Your chiro may be able to send you for the MRI too. The chiro, PT, whoever will be able to work with you more clearly with films of your back. I did mine good exactly one year ago this month. Herniated disc L4-L5. Have no idea how I did it. Meds for the pain, rest, started yoga, walking, stretch my hamstrings 2x per day. My lifting has come around. I have squatted with 225 for 20 reps with no pain, taking that very slow. Deadlift I am taking very, very slow last week did 315 for 6 reps. I mainly use the Hammer Strength leg press and 45 degree leg press, squat once every two weeks or so. Take it slow, slow, slow...I do not want that pain to come back for as long as I live, and I had a nice little withdrawal from oxycodone to deal with. That makes my mouth water just typing it...not for want of them, but because my body temp just went up and I want to puke. They were a necessary evil though. Get it diagnosed.


I used to have severe bouts of sciatica about twice a year, triggered by various actions from running to bending over. Then one day an applied kinesiologist told me this little tidbit: never put your wallet in your back pocket. Yep, you read me right. The slightest pelvic tilt from anything in your back pockets when you sit down can trigger lower back problems, including sciatica. Since I don't sit on a wallet anymore, no more sciatica. And it's been over 10 years without a recurrence. And the new wallet that fits my side pocket is a better wallet too.


I once had a bad case of sciatica after a particularly heavy squat session. I went to the Chiropractor and that helped. I stayed off my feet as much as possible for the next week. After that I gradually began working my legs again. I never had a problem after that. All I can think of is that I was using bad form on that one particular day.

I know the pain you are feeling and it's a tough thing to go through. Hang in there it will get better.


Repeating what's been written above, I'd see a damn good specialist. I've lived with L4/L5 sciatica (torn discs) for ten years. I deadlift and squat and stretch regularly. I just make sure I keep my back straight. And the hot tub helps. Usually I have very little irritation.

Good luck.


You might look around and find a PT who is McKenzie certified. This is a specialized diagnostic and treatment method for dealing with sciatica, herniated discs, and the like. They would actually be able to tell you without films if they will be able to help you or not by the time they're done with your first or second treatment. Hang in there.



I'm 48 had it twice in my life. First time in spring of 1988. Tried to train through it (wouldn't recommend that approach). Finally, went to a sports M.D. he put me on the table and cracked my back. Instant fix. Walked out ran six miles and never looked back. No meds no follow up. Next was winter of 2000.

Suffered very painful back injury while squating a light weight. Cold day lifting in the garage with jeans on. The jeans ripped and I twisted. Doctor gave me muscle relaxants. After a week on my back, I got up and moving again. I was not doing well. So I started to dead lift. After my first medium heavy workout it fixed itself and I've been fine since.

Two painful injuries two atypical fixes. Bottom line: I don't believe there is a reliable fix. You will have to sort through this with the advice of a doctor. Remembering the final descision on how to fix it is always yours. You are an experiment of one. Be careful and good luck.


I feel particularly lucky as my situation isn't nearly as severe as some of you have gone through. Sounds like diagnosis followed by myriad approaches will help. Thanks to everyone for sharing their experience & advice.


I had the same problem and then found out with an MRI scan that I had a ruptured disc between lumbar 4 and 5. This means that the disc squeezes out from between the vertebrae and presses on the sciatic nerve causing the pain.

This came at a bad time for me and set me back on my leg work for squats. It's been a month and a half since surgery and I'm able to only do leg extensions with 50lbs.

I would really check with a good doctor to find out if you have the same problem. Wish you well!


Sciatica is nothing to laugh about, but picturing this the way you wrote it made me laugh:

Doc: "How'd this happen?"

Jamej: "My jeans ripped."

Glad to hear you're pain free now.



Wow, I just got back from a PT today.
He diagnose the same problem and if putting me on Celebrex. Mentioned nothing abt surgery. I asked if I can start working out again as soon as I 'feel' better and he says YES.
Maybe I need a 2nd opinion


I've just gotten over 10 months! of intense sciatica. It sucked big time. I've been pain free for 3 weeks now, and I hope it is over, but I'm psychologically prepared for it to return. I also dealt with a bad batch 7 years ago. Both were caused by herniating disks playing sports. I probably prolonged the recent injury by still lifting heavy (although no squats or deadlifts) in the months following the injury. I have a few pieces of advice: 1) give the weights a miss in the initial stages. This is psychologically hard to do, but will speed up your recovery in the long run. 2) Try a variety of treatment modalities. I have used PT, chiro, massage, stretching, icing, heating, and acupuncture. Sometimes it's hard to know what is helpful and what is harmful, but stay positive.


I am 41 and herniated a disc (L4-S1) in 2001. I am sure it's from all the years of heavy squatting. Compression on the spine is usually the culprit. I had no major symptons up to the point the disc ruptured.

Believe it or not I was in a marina at a lake putting on a full wetsuit. We were riding wave runners during the 1st week of March. I went to throw the zipper cord over my shoulder and when I did the quick bend forward I felt the worse pain in my lower back. I hit the floor before I knew what was going on! After 15 minutes or so I was up, pain gradually went away, rode the wave runners, and then played 2 days of golf. (HUGE MISTAKE). Monday morning I went to get out of bed and took 1 step and hit the floor. The only way I could dull the pain was to lie in the fetal position with my left leg pulled to my chest. After 3 series of steroid epidurals directly in the disc over the next 12 weeks I decided I needed to consider another treatment. The epidurals hurt like HELL and all they did was mask the pain. I was unable to work out for the entire 12 weeks. Never took a break from working out for that long since I started working out at 14 so I was desperate.

Through a lot of research I saw a local doctor who at that time was only 1 of about 5 doctors in the entire country who performed a procedure called a microdiscectomy. The procedure is more common now and more doctors have jumped on the wagon. My regular orthopedic doc was completely against it and wanted to do the normal disc surgery (cut your entire back open including cutting muscle) which was up to 6 month recovery. He claimed the other procedure was experimental. I went with the micro-doc which had performed 750 of them, I was 751. He claimed within 8-12 weeks I would be able to workout again and be back to normal for the most part. Surgery took about 2 1/2 - 3 hours. I was awake but the drugs were really good... they wouldn't let me take any home though. They make small 1/2" incisions on each side of your back just above the top of your glutes. One rod has a camera on the end and the other rod has the cutting tools attached. I didn't feel a thing (only some pressure) but I felt the exact moment during cutting that the pressure was released on the sciatic nerve. It was the best feeling. After having sciatic pain for so long I had forgotten what it felt like to not have the numbness, pain spikes , and tingling running down my leg.

The doc's recommendation on recovery therapy (lots of stretching exercises) was very aggressive but I followed the program and 6 weeks later I went on my annual golfing trip with the boys - played 3 days of golf without a hitch. My golf game actually got better because out of fear of wrenching my back I quit trying to rip the cover off the ball! I was working out within the 8th week and was back to full weights and workout within 12 weeks. I have not had a problem since although I am unable to do heavy squats and probably won't try for that matter. I did go up to 325 last week using the Smith rack but I could feel the pressure so I will have to stick to the sled and hack. Anything that doesn't compress the spine.

If you find out you have actually blown the disc for sure, then I would recommend this surgery to anyone. All the shots, chiropractic adjustments (did those also), or any other methods won't solve the problem they will just temporarily relieve the symptoms. I have 3 friends who had this doc do the procedure and they all had the same results as myself. One of them came all the way from California to have it done. You can check the doctor out here - http://www.bonematters.com/Home.htm

My doc was Dr. Reed. He has a God complex but he is good at what he does and he's got the resume to back it up.