By this point, the list of providers that I had seen was longer than my son’s Christmas list (and that’s saying something). As you might imagine, I was/am feeling beyond frustrated that none of these providers could help me. And it’s not so much that I expect one to have the magic wand to fix everything, but having someone who cared enough to put the emotional and physical pieces together and examine the whole me…not just what is going on at the space in my spine between L4 and L5 (the results of the MRI indicated a bulging disc on the opposite side of my pain), but to also look at my history of SI joint issues exacerbated by pregnancy, and to note that my hamstring muscle seems to be tight and twisted which might be related to why my ankle keeps swelling…and I haven’t even touched acknowledging the role that stress and muscle tension might be having in this whole mess.
I’m trying not to think about this experience as a mess, but rather as an opportunity to learn. I recognize that we are all energy, and pain is energy. So how can I change the perception/vibration of that energy? I’ve asked my journal, my subconscious, and anyone who will listen, “What am I supposed to be learning here? How can I use this experience to understand what I am supposed to be doing?” So, far, the answer has been…silence. But I have looked at my thoughts and the stories I am telling myself about this experience and have reframed them from worrisome, “Will this ever get better? When can I play with my son again? Will I ever be able to workout?” to “This is a temporary inconvenience. Take all that I can learn from it. You will get through this.” The constant cognitive reframing is challenging, even for someone who teaches it regularly to my clients, but it works. I know it does.
Taking a breath…I dialed in to my biweekly conference call for the Nutritional Therapy Association’s (NTA) Nutritional Therapy Consultant (NTC) training course. I’m grateful to be a group leader for this course one year after graduating. The information is so rich that I’m learning much even after already being exposed to it as a student in the course last year. Check them out if you want to learn more about the awesome nutritional education. But I digress, I was on the conference call, and a student was presenting a case study. Among other issues, the student’s client had sciatica. The instructor said, “Stop right there. What does that mean?” I was screaming in my head “Yes, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN???!!” She proceeded to talk about the connection between sciatica and an unstable pelvis with adrenal fatigue often exacerbated by excess caffeine consumption. She detailed the process as follows:
A susceptible individual taxes her adrenals in one of many ways such as:
Nutritional deficiencies/severe allergies
Through a biochemical, physiological mechanism that wasn’t completely detailed (and would have been over my head anyway), the taxed adrenals do not adequately support joints and ligaments, especially the sacroiliac joint and its associated ligaments.
This causes ligament laxity and can cause the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS- essentially the top, bony part of the pelvis and the site of attachment for the important Sartorius and tensor fascia latae muscles) to rock backwards, putting pressure on the sciatic nerve.
This can cause pain at the site as well as referred pain down the path of the sciatic nerve to include muscle tightness, tingling, and numbness.
Light bulbs and neon lights were flashing to the sound of bells ringing in my head. Somehow, I felt as if this was a crucial piece of my puzzle. I had been on an adrenal recovery protocol and had made good strides prior to this, but adrenal healing can take a long time…like a year or more, so I was very much still on the path when all of this went down. It made sense, though, I have a susceptibility to this due to my body structure and habits, coupled with the initial emotional stress triggering the spasms that led to a cascade of muscle tightness and torquing. I still don’t have all the answers, but I’m feeling way more informed. At the same time, I’m furious (See how I'm expressing anger :) ) that NONE of the informed providers that I saw in any field (PT, TMS, chiro, orthopedics, massage) was able to cobble these together. It probably didn’t help that my PT called to check on me given that I’d been out for 30 days and punted me back to my primary care doc rather than really taking an interest in what was going on. Sigh. Anyway, I know the body is way too complex for one-modality of treatment to fix it, but I was/am still feeling so much anger that none of these practitioners had mentioned other modalities or taken the time to care enough to explore other factors. That’s when a second round of light bulbs and bells went off…I may not have the technical expertise of all of these areas, but I definitely listen to my clients and help them to put pieces together, making the connections between emotional and physical issues that are very much real. Looks like it’s time for me to be my own client.
With my newfound knowledge of the important role that my adrenals are likely playing, I went cold turkey off caffeine…okay, not 100% true, I still drink my beloved Jasmine Green Tea that I steep and then discard twice to reduce/nearly eliminate caffeine…and stopped the recently-developed habit of pulling a second shot from my husband’s morning espresso. I purchased Dandy Blend from my local health food store to replace my coffee crush. Although this dandelion-chicory blend could not be mistaken for a rich cup of freshly ground coffee, it is satisfying in its own way and quite delish when blended Bulletproof style with butter and coconut oil. Plus, I’m well aware of the benefits of dandelion to the liver and detox systems…and, hey, who couldn’t use more of that. To restore my adrenals, I also resumed kundalini meditation (more on that in an upcoming post), kicked up my carb intake with sweet potatoes and friend plantains (gotta love that!), returned to my adrenal adaptogens and supplements, and tried to chill the eff out :)
*Note. Treatment for adrenal issues can be complex. I have no affiliation with this program, but Paleo Rehab is a program developed to improve adrenal health. It was developed by two nutritionists, Laura Schoenfeld and Kelsey Marksteiner, who have worked with and are endorsed by Chris Kresser. It seems to be a solid, science and experience-backed system, and the reviews speak for themselves.
I also realized that this pain had made me rather self-absorbed, so I started looking outside myself and committed to random acts of kindness to help others: sent aid to a friend whose family is going through a serious medical illness, gave a gift to my son's school admin assistant, and focused on being fully present with my son (hence, lots of exploding volcano science experiments have been happening in our kitchen).
I also returned, with family in tow, to my local donation-based chiropractic practice that I had frequented last year. Something about the chiro’s calm demeanor, soothing voice, oh and the ability to say, “Your left SI is way out of balance. Let me try these two techniques. They will help,” reaffirmed that I was on the right track.
To sum up, I wrote these posts for a few reasons.
It was cathartic, and expressing how we feel is healing.
I wish I had read something that provided both information and hope as I was going through the worst of it. Maybe this post can be a light for one person.
Healing is a journey, and writing this helped me to see that. In our instant gratification society, sometimes it really is about the journey and not the magic bullet.
Vulnerability is hard and scary if you believe that it is. And I had to prove to myself that I could be vulnerable and put this out there for the service of others.
Has someone you care about suffered from pain? Please share this article with them (Click share below). Have you experienced pain and struggled to get relief or have you found the holy grail of feel-goodness. If so, let me know in the comments below. Thanks!