BPS #059 Can Stress Cause Sciatica To Flare Up

Welcome back, guys. So today’s topic is, can stress increase your sciatica pain, okay? I’m going to tell you a bit of a story here, and to give you a bit of a backstory about the story, I’m going to talk about Jenny. Jenny is 29 years old and about two, two-and-a-half years back, she had started to have sciatica pain okay, and the MRI showed that she had a herniated disc on L4-L5 and she’s been suffering with this sciatica pain on and off, you know, during these years.

She’s taking painkillers randomly. She’s visited a physiotherapist doing like core stability exercises. She tried acupuncture, all kinds of creams. She even wore a bracelet like a lumbar belt for a while you know.

But it comes off and on and she has more or less a constant pain in her left hip okay, and it’d radiate down her leg, down to her knee, down to her calf, and foot like off and on during the day.

Because of this, she’s feeling depressed okay, because she’s not able to move as much, and before this sciatica stuff, she was suffering from depression or not suffering. She was battling depression and the thing that was helping her with depression was doing exercise you know, walking, running, strength training, all the good stuff.

But because of the sciatica pain, she now has problems doing the exercise which also like increases her feeling of depression. And also she’s gained weight because she’s not even able to move as much and she uses food as comfort you know, to calm her down. So she gained a couple of pounds. She’s really depressed around that.

She doesn’t really want to show herself outside to the public. She has dark rings around her eyes because she’s not able to sleep or she’s like up all night just walking back and forth you know, not able to find a comfortable position to sleep in.

So she’s in kind of a bad shape you know. Externally though, she obviously has to go to work because she has to make ends meet, and also the way she’s trying to do that, she has an office job. So she goes in really early because she’s up anyway.

She was hitting that office at like 5:30 in the morning she’s there, and she’s working. She has her own like space or cubicle and it’s kind of blocked off in the corner of the office. So she’s in there. She’s trying not to like talk to too many people, just keeping to herself, and during the day, she actually has to lie down on the floor, put her feet up on the office chair, and she uses her coat as a cushion just to reduce the back pain a bit you know and the sciatica.

So she’s in bad shape and she’s getting more and more depressed. Then she hit kind of a wall. Jenny’s mom that lives in the same city fell and she broke her hip. The mom is 75 years old and because they didn’t really have the money to bring in help or have her in the hospital, she moved back into Jenny’s place, okay, and Jenny more or less took care of her 24/7 doing her laundry, doing like her groceries, just taking care of her.

That in combination with work and just the way she was feeling, that obviously increased the stress in her life and she could definitely feel like the increase of stress, increase of pain in her back and legs, the sciatica pain when the mom thing happened you know, when she had to do more stuff.

So when she came to me, really what Jenny was seeking was a plan to reduce her stress so she was able to reduce the back pain and the sciatica in her back.

A lot of people, they actually come. Patients come to me and they ask me this. They know that the stress in their lives is affecting their back pain, and few of them are doing their exercises. They’re doing this but they made the connection in their head that the stress that they’re going through in their life is irritating their back pain and sciatica.

So like stress can absolutely irritate your back and increase the sciatica, but stress is also something that a lot of my patients and a lot of people, it’s easy to blame stress for everything you know.

There’s good stress and there’s bad stress. I mean, good stress is stress when you might feel before you go up on the stage and you need to do a presentation. But while you’re on the stage there and doing the presentation, you are actually growing. You get confidence from that. So that’s good stress.

The bad stress might be you’re in a job, a dead-end job that you’re not learning any new things and your boss is just a total jerk and just gives you sh**t for everything you know. That’s bad stress.

So there’s good stress and bad stress and a lot of my patients get this mixed up, you know.

But she was feeling a bit of bad stress. She was in a dead-end job. She had her mom. She felt like she needed to step up and take care of her, and they didn’t really have any money to bring in help.

So she was definitely feeling it. So we sat down. We had a chat about it. First off, we talked about how she was able to reduce the stress with her mom. And she had a brother in the same city as well. He was kind of a brother that wasn’t really involved in the family, whatsoever. He was into his own thing and he didn’t really pay too much attention to either Jenny or his mom.

But I told her you know, go get him on the blower. Get him over there and he needs to step up and like do half of the work regarding her mom. So she did that and the brother is now helping out about 50%.

Then I also told her you know, to have a chat with her boss. I actually wrote a note to her boss that because of her back pain and sciatica pain, that she was going to be able to work at home for two days a week of the three, okay?

I also told her when she does this, when she’s working at home, she leaves paper trays okay, so she can show to her boss that she’s actually being more productive when she’s at home than at work.

So the goal is to do that for like a few weeks and then try to get that up for three days so she can work home for three days. This will also make it possible for her to rest during the day a bit, to lie down, and have other positions working than just sitting down.

Also go out for walks, maybe have a couple of cold showers during the day, and just produce everything. Also be able to prepare better meals, okay? Not to eat so much fast food so she’s able to reduce her weight also a bit so she can feel better about herself.

So as you can see guys, sometimes when patients come to me, they have specific back problems, but a lot of times, there’s a lot of stuff around like in their lives that we have to have a chat about as well, because that kind of stuff affects the stress and the back pain and the sciatica.

So like to give you a straight answer with the stress, can stress irritate your back pain and sciatica pain? And definitely you know. Definitely. It can definitely do that, but it’s very, very important that you that are suffering from back pain and sciatica, don’t blame stress for everything, okay?

There’s good stress and there’s bad stress and you need to sit down and check out what kind of stuff is really, really irritating my back and what stress am I just like giving the blame to get out of that, to do that? It’s important.

So back to Jenny you know, right now, she’s feeling better. Her brother is owning up and taking care of the mom 50%. She’s working two days at home. She’s eating better. She’s exercising and she feels like she has a plan now that has reduced the total amount of stress in her life but also has reduced her lower back pain and sciatica.

Okay, guys. So that’s about it for today you know. Take care. I love you and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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Robin BackPainExpert

Physiotherapists & Back Pain Expert

Twenty years ago I was lucky to survive a serious hockey injury. In a sport where big men zoomaround on hard ice and solid wood sticks are slung furiously, a difficult back injury is what every player fears.
It took a long time for me to climb back to a normal life. But when I did, I was determined to spend the rest of his life helping back pain victims everywhere.
As a physiotherapist and back pain expert I have treated thousands of patients over 20 years, built a respected back pain clinic, created the site BackPainSecrets.Com and authored the book “Back Pain Secrets.”
Learn more about me here.