Well this year (2012) the pain returned with a vengeance after digging several post holes in our back yard. And this time it was accompanied by numbness in my big toe. Scary! I tried to wait it out (it got better by itself last time, right!?), but finally succumbed. A visit to a chiropractor in Fresno led to a referral to an MRI company. The MRI revealed a bulging disc in my lower back. The chiropractor said he wouldn't even touch me, and referred me to a local neurosurgeon (not necessarily guaranteeing I'd need surgery, but to discuss the more in-depth option I'd need to consider). Needless to say, I was depressed over the thought, and I put it off for quite awhile.
Around the time that I was psyching myself up to call the neurosurgeon, my sister had arrived in town from Nicaragua with her husband for a rare but very welcome visit. On her first visit to town, we all rendezvoused at a Denny's restaurant in Clovis. My back was doing especially bad that night, and the conversation inevitably led to that topic. Turns out she had dealt with some pretty bad lower back and sciatic pain several years prior. Her healing was found in the treatments performed by Dr. Bill Cairns in Reedley, and she highly recommended I see him.
So, as one last effort to avoid seeing a neurosurgeon, I made an appointment. What a pivotal decision that was in my life! Not only was the doctor baffled at the non-treatment I received by the chiropractor in Fresno, but he assured me my condition could absolutely be addressed with chiropractic methods! Music to my ears! I started with visits to him 3 times a week, and also had strict instructions to swim daily. So I got a one-week trial membership at the gym (GB3) and was in the pool every work day that following week. Amazingly my pain was essentially gone within 2 weeks!
They say when you're recovering from an ailment (being sick, spraining an ankle, having a bulging disc in your lower back, etc.) to take it easy on the rebound. Well, I tried, but over Memorial Day weekend I overdid it renovating one of our kennels (we're starting a dog boarding business out of our house). By Tuesday the pain was back, and I was back in Dr. Cairns' office.
This time the recovery has taken much longer. I've been taking way more Ibuprofen than I should for over a month now. I've been swimming diligently every day (after I officially joined the gym) and seeing the doctor once a week since then. The pain has been unbearable at times, driving me out of bed and on to the floor, desperately trying any sleeping position I could think of to try to alleviate this pain! The Ibuprofen would get me partway through the night, and a second dose (once it kicked in after about forever!) would get me through the rest of the night. Most nights were sleep-interrupted for me, and consequently, for Sheryl. It's been rough.
But every day Sheryl and Kiana have prayed specifically that God would heal my back. And to my relief and joy, I've experienced the beginning of God's answer to those prayers. A week ago, I was suddenly able to go twice as long without dosing up on pain killers and my sleep improved dramatically! Praise God! Now I'm not totally off Ibuprofen like the first time around, there's still numbness in my toe, and occasionally I end up on the floor again trying to find a comfortable sleeping position without waking up my wife, but the improvement is there and I know it will continue to improve.
The blessing in all this is simply this: though my condition is painful and at times has been unbearable:
- The timing was uncanny with my sister coming to town just when I was preparing myself to call the neurosurgeon
- There was a chiropractor in my home town that uses a drop-table for adjusting his patients - no twisting at all - and after seeing my symptoms was confident he could help
- My condition is completely, 100% reversible
- I've always struggled to get enough exercise. Having a compelling reason to swim every day has literally been life changing! I'm losing weight and gaining endurance. Just yesterday I swam 10 laps in a row without stopping (compared to barely making 2 laps when I first started!)
So yes, at this point I see this sciatic pain as a blessing. Of course I hate the pain, but my life will be loads better as a result. I just have to be careful not to do any heavy lifting for the rest of the year. That's a tall order, but I can guarantee you it is well worth it!