From the mouths of many people I trust, and from the severe pain I have experienced through sciatica, I’ve learned it is very important to respond quickly once your body sends a signal. Listen to it. Whether your sciatica is a symptom of imbalance in your pelvis, nerves, spinal discs or somewhere else, it is very important to curb pain and inflammation as soon as you get the signal.
For me it was 70 days ago when my lower back spoke and I started to listen and… Oops. I let it go. It’ll heal on its own… Ha! Not so much. Life had something else in mind. Ten days later, severe pain shot down the back of my left thigh from my gluteus maximus. Sciatica had entered. Listen sooner than I did if you want less pain, OK?
One day in the lightning bolt grip of sciatic pain, I pulled up to my friend Kristin’s house in too much pain to get out of the car. I sobbed and reached for the center console where my husband had a small bottle of ibuprofen. I don’t want to take pharmaceutical drugs so soon after brain surgery.
Kristin looked at me with her characteristically sunlit face and said, “Jess… taking these doesn’t mean you don’t trust your body.”
Pharmaceuticals are a Godsend in acute situations. Whether it’s ibuprofen or a steroid like Prednisone, consider for your body and soul what is appropriate. Tolerating extended pain and inflammation is not advised on a medical or spiritual level.
In my first week with sciatica, I read that most cases last 2-3 weeks. Some are shorter; some are longer. A retired General Surgeon who practiced for 40 years told me, “Sciatica can last 3 to 6 months.” Gulp. That was hard to hear.
Depending on the severity of your case, consider having images taken through MRI. Maybe you’re like me and newly totally fascinated with physiology. Maybe you want to talk to your sciatica and ask what it’s here to teach you. Hospital imaging can give you very helpful information about your specific sciatica experience that’s not available anywhere else.
Remember this. Pharmaceuticals have negative side effects. To support a conscious relationship with your body that leads to less suffering, consider how to detox whatever meds you’re taking. Detox tea, acupuncture, infrared sauna, dark leafy greens, anti-inflammatory foods, creams and supplements… more on all that coming soon in steps 3 through 10.
Here is Step One of 10 on Healing Sciatica, all about LISTENING.
Yesterday, anger greeted me. I got emotionally triggered when I felt judgments, criticism from others who I’ve been close to in the past. As a long time fan of feeling all the feelings, I let myself feel anger and disappointment, and then began wondering how I might need to explore some impacts I may be having that were not intended.
Something I’d considered years ago — that some of you have faced yourself before — presented itself again.
Am I “too much?”
Is my way of expressing Love effusively, communicating robustly and sharing wide-openly, self-centered or vain? Is it needy? Am I seeking attention in a way that is not based in Love? Am I having an impact on others that is not what I want, not what Love wants through me?
I felt annoyed that criticisms weren’t being shared directly but instead talked about away from me. This didn’t feel like Love. Having direct communication withheld by loved ones left me feeling like I couldn’t consciously converse, which might help me to explore where I may be having a hurtful impact.
I prayed for God’s arms to wrap themselves around me. I laid in the sun for some medicinal vitamin D and for the striking pierce of the sun’s bold light.
Streaming from its rays, there was a whisper.
It was like the sun spoke to me… “Even when you’re angry, even when you’re triggered, you are lovable.” Just like we all are, no matter what. Oh, did I ever inhale that piercing, whispered Light.
Moments later, I had the fortune of a phone conversation with my dear friend Michael who sees me. Now, not 10 years ago. Not next year. Now. He sees my intentions, my far-end-of-the-range ways of expressing personally and openly, as inspiring and beautiful. Are they? To some, yes. Am I “right” and others wrong? No. Does Michael withhold feedback when it’s not cozy and comfortable? Nope. We “go there” because we aren’t conflict avoiders. Resolving conflict can be delectably juicy! It is part of sharing Love in a friendship. In his presence, even over the phone, I felt seen. We explored some of the unconscious ways I might want to look at more closely, and I simply felt seen… through the eyes of God, which is Love.
As long as we are willing to humbly consider feedback about our ways, words or actions, there is nothing else to consider in this situation. If you live on the far end of a range and you revel in PDA like me… or perhaps you only wear the color purple or you are a committed vegan… or perhaps you are openly gay or lesbian living in a town where most people can’t be at peace with that…
You are courageous!
I acknowledge you for living your truth. You aim to fully accept yourself. You honor who you are. And you live it — despite the unsavory circumstances you sometimes experience. It’s worth it, to be you.
People’s unwillingness to accept you as you are is a reflection of their unwillingness to accept themselves. Breathe it out, let it go, and take your attention away from them. They do not have power over you. Unless you give it to them -- take it back! Criticism from others is not your problem and it's not a healthy place to keep your attention.
If they call for Love through you, you can extend it however that feels true for you. As for judgment, in this moment you can choose to let it go.
Turn your attention to those who mirror your Light back to you!
Lean into the Light you are made of.
If I am a poppy and you are a rose...
We are both still plants. We can grow in the same garden. We have so much in common, and WOW you are stunning! We can be at peace with our differences, we can actually revel in them. I don’t need you to be like me — and I don’t need you to like me. However, if we want to express spiritual and emotional maturity, we can choose to celebrate our differences! They really are gloriously gorgeous.
When you are triggered, do healthfully vent. Honor and release the edges of anger, pain, rage, shame, fiery upset. Vent with pen and paper or with your voice out loud. Ask within yourself, What might be the gift in this for me? Aim your attention away from others and toward the power of Love that lives inside of you. How might this tense situation actually be pointing you to greater self-acceptance, greater Love for the one precious you?
I'll close with this.
Our 12 week old Goldendoodle puppy Jerry loves to eat. A few times I’ve thought, Gosh, does Jerry have overeating issues? Oh no! Sometimes he whines and seems to want more food after eating and then I hear my gut and heart speaking… "Mama, will you love me? Will you touch me?" I sit on the floor and begin to pet his furry belly. He kicks his little golden puppy leg and melts. He begs no more.
It wasn’t food he wanted. It was Love.
OUCH. All the empathy in the world to you.
Sciatica is... so... painful. I'm on Day 50 with it today as I write to express my Love for humanity — that's you — by sharing all the things that have helped me along the way. I gave birth to a child with no medication or interventions, and yes there was some pain involved — but at least I got a child out of that! And labor was seven hours, not 50 days. OK, onward, let me share with you, precious human, and may you be free of pain ASAP.
First, now, and in every now that follows: LISTEN. It’s your body. It’s your journey. Your body knows what it needs and it is a pristine communicator.
Listen. What is it saying now? Does it need a nap? When you stretch, what feels good and what doesn’t? Listen to your body, and go with what other people tell you works when it resonates with you, not just because it worked for them.
A retired General Surgeon who treated many cases of sciatica in his 40 year MD career says the steroid injection many patients receive works for 50% of them. Is it worth it for you to try? Ask within yourself, ask trusted friends and family for their thoughts, ask your body, then decide for yourself.
He also says one thing that’s been very effective for him in relieving the nerve pain associated with sciatica is CBD+THC cream. Plants are powerful. Is this for you? That’s up to you. Listen.
Use the power of your relationship with the divine, whether you call it prayer, meditation, inquiry or something else, to help you heal. You are not your story. You are not your pain. Who are you, in your essence? Yep, deep stuff — just like the sting of sciatica. It’s physics. Like attracts like.
When we listen, we can find insights that help us heal.
Every day since neurosurgery 3 ½ months ago, I have chosen music as meditation. Singing songs based in Love and Spirit, songs based in the power of what we call God, gives me divine chills all over my body. Does it matter that I have no voice training? Nope, nada, zilch-a-zippa. The acoustic vibration within my throat and vocal chords literally zings me into feeling ecstatically high. How? It puts me in touch with Who I Am. It is medicine.
To explore this question for yourself, I recommend Eckhart Tolle’s teachings about the power of the present moment. His consciousness is a profusely clear invitation into a higher state of our own. YouTube is full of his wisdom — spiritually potent talks given for free. I also found Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, to be very powerful on this topic. We can free ourselves from some of the pain by recognizing it is not who we are.
Ultimately, I believe my own experience with sciatica is life’s way of fine-tuning me to be my body’s best friend. Best friends listen well. How well do I listen to my body’s messages — her lower back pain, the pressure my spine feels when I stand too much, the streaks of lightning-like pain down the left thigh? When my body whispers her pain, do I listen? Or does she need to shout thunderously from my glut down my thigh, for me to listen?
Sciatica is a symptom of something else. If I had listened fully when my lower back began communicating it needed attention, would I have prevented the sciatic nerve from yelling 10 days later? My sense — probably. Guilt and shame? No. Lesson for a dedicated student? Yes.
Bring your attention back from the future when it goes there, to now. Now is actually all we've got. Going into worry and fear about the future can sting, and we don't want more of that!
How attentively do you respond, giving your body what it needs rather than denying it the Love it’s meant to receive from you?
What does your body need right now?
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a lifelong letter writer, Love-based leader and eternal fan of Mr. Rogers. This deeply personal blog and our free recorded conversations are devoted to one of her greatest passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.