Sciatica? Get on a bike!

Happy to be back in the saddle.

Happy to be back in the saddle.

The Breezer mountain bike loaner.

The Breezer mountain bike loaner.

Nice Cannondale rental.

Nice Cannondale rental.

It worked for me, anyway. I’ve never had back issues but suddenly, about a month ago, I was practically in tears going down a staircase. Pain was shooting from my lower back, and down my right leg to my calf. I painfully got myself (via public transit) that morning to my doctor, who had x-rays done to confirm there wasn’t a fracture, then sent me to physiotherapy.

Luckily, I wasn’t working that week, nor the next: I had planned in that first week to train, train, train for some serious cycling in Arizona, where I was going for my second week off. But now, I could barely stand up straight. The only training I’d see that week was getting up and down the stairs at the excellent physiotherapy centre I chose, where I was given some great ab exercises to take the pressure away from my spine, plus they hooked me up with (literally) some electrode therapy. Currents were sent into my lower back in an effort to “retrain” my brain to not feel pain in the sciatic nerve. At least, that’s how it was explained to me. It was a neat feeling, actually, and I found I could withstand a high level of current, so it could only be a good thing. I did that every day for the week. I was told, though, that the pain was likely to stay with me for at least a month.

For week 2, I was walking better, and was in no mood to forfeit a non-refundable flight to Phoenix–especially since our winter in Toronto has been unusually cold. It would be my first time in the desert so I was determined to follow through on this trip. I decided not to bring my own bike, but figured I’d at least bring my pedals and shoes; in case I felt up to a bike ride, I could always rent one.

Well, at my friend’s place where I was staying in Phoenix, I was offered to try my friend’s husband’s mountain bike, a Breezer. “We can put your pedals on it and adjust the seat,” Mike offered. So, while it wasn’t the best fit for me, I was grateful for the opportunity, and had nothing to lose. So I took off for a couple of hours down the canal path near their home. It was so much fun, and the only pain I had in my leg was when I had to swing it over the crossbar to get on and off. But, being road-bike kind of girl, I found a place to rent a Cannondale and took it out for a couple of days. It felt almost miraculous that my sciatic pain was practically gone.

Maybe this wouldn’t work for everyone, but getting on my bike cured me.

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