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Moderators: melkor

Help... sciatic pain and exercise... help

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I need some suggestions.  I have been losing weight since last year and started working out in January of this year.  As of this morning, I have lost 99.5 pounds.  I think I have another 15 pounds or so to go to be "normal".  Anyway, I am the CARDIO queen!  I work out 6 days a week, for an hour or so. I  completed the Couch to 5K program. I use the elliptical on days I dont run. About a month ago, I started using a rowing machine at the gym.  Last month I also started extending the running thing... I am up to 3.25 miles.  WELL....

About a month ago, I got a pain my big ole butt but it was no biggie. I didnt feel it when I exercised or I would have stopped.  I felt it when I got up in the morning or ummm, tied my shoe.  OF course being brilliant, I ignored it and moved along.  Now, its hurting more intensly, mostly in the mornings when I first get up.  I have to take a 800 mg motrin to make it stop hurting, and it does.  Thinking I am a doctor (LOL) I go online for a bit of self-diagnosis and read about Sciatic pain.  I am thinking this is what it is.  (On occassion, the bottom of my foot goes numb for a minute or two- wtf?). 

Reading about the pain, it suggested NO running, NO elliptical and NO rowing.  WHAT?  Since I really do want to get better, I TRIED TRIED to just walk and do weights (sorry Melkor, still hating weight lifting) and it sucked! My calorie burn while in the weight room was so dismal I nearly cried.  I walked.  That sucked  LOL.  I need to keep my calorie burn up so that I can keep my deficit.... but now I can't work out?   To finish my long story (thanks for sticking with me  LOL), I got so irritated I ran 1/2  a mile and did the elliptical for 30 minutes yesterday. Ummm... it REALLY hurt this morning so I didnt even go the gym. 

I need suggestions for cardio workouts that will  not make my big ole butt hurt!  I feel that I am at a fragile stage in my weight loss and I can't give up now.  I dont want to take a week off or something... any suggestions on how I can exercise without irritating my sciatic nerve? 

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First of all I'd go and see your doctor to confirm that it is sciatic pain.  I went through sciatic pain through my 1st pregnancy and was like you, I decided to grin and bear it and thought it would go away.  It didn't.  It progressively go WORSE.  I could barely walk...I was using a cane up until I gave birth.  You can't aggravate the sciatic nerve.  With my 2nd pregnancy once I felt the pain, I'd sit/lay down....and it went away and never got as bad as the first time.  My advice NO EXERCISE.  See your doctor before you'll be spending even more time to heal.


Well firstly I second the first response and reckon you should get it checked out first.

Secondly, my boyfriend has had problems with sciatica for years and after going to the doctors was given exercises to strengthen his core muscles, which helped.  We recently joined the gym and his trainer guy told him not to go on the treadmill but that the elliptical, cross-trainer, cycling and rowing machines were all fine.  He also gave my boyfriend a load more exercises on the gym ball to strengthen his core and suggested he used the powerplate for massage/stretching to increase flexibility.  He also recommended swimming and so far so good.  His back and leg can sometimes still be quite painful but before this the pain was so great he couldn't walk!

I'd definitely make sure it is sciatica first!  Good luck.

 Pain is a warning sign that shouldn't be ignored; and crippling pain that affects your mobility and quality of life in general needs medical attention. Go see your doctor straightaway, and see about a referral to a physical theraphist; the PT should be able to give you a workout plan that will allow you to reach your goals without further increasing your problems.

(Heh, not everyone wants or need the results weights give you. Your personal goals and your personal fitness regime aren't subject to a vote from anyone but you, and as long as you enjoy what you're doing, you're doing it right.

 Well, I would still encourage you to give it a go for a few more workouts, but meh - as long as you're happy with what you're doing and the results you're seeing you're doing what's right for you.)

One of my girlfriends had sciatic pain for years from a bulging disc that eventually ruptured and required surgery.   RUN, don't walk, to your doctor and see what the problem is.

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If your foot is going numb, it sounds like a pinched nerve in your back. Is the back pain at the base of your spine, or in the actual butt cheek? Unfortunately, if it's a pinched nerve you will need to seriously reduce your activity level. Have you tried yoga, or gentle stretching exercises? Also try not to lay down too much, it's harder on your back. I would reccommend going to the Dr. to try to isolate if its muscle or nerve. I know when I was pregnant with my 2nd child, I slept on my left side, and that butt cheek was extremely sore for 5 months.

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Thank you all for your responses.  It is already getting better.  The pain is physically in my butt cheek and I notice when I am sitting too long (or sleeping), it hurts when I first get up then its fine.   I think I just ran too much, too long and too often.  And yesterday I got on the rowing machine and daaaaaaaang, that pain hit in my butt and I quit the machin.  (Just walk away from the cardio machines...)   So I have diagnosed the cause of my pain to be my insistence on running every day in connection with my use of a rowing machine. 

 I also sincerely appreciate your comments Melkor, I will eventually have to start using weights and lifting to tone and maybe, maybe help my skin a bit.  (I have a bit of loose skin but I know that others have a much more difficult time with loose skin than I so I wont complain too much). 

Thanks for your help and suggestions.

As someone who has dealt with sciatica for 20 years now, I can tell you it will come and go.  "It is already getting better" is just temporary if it really is sciatica. 

First, it's very important to go to the doctor to confirm your diagnosis. Personally, the chiropractor was more helpful than the orthopedic surgeon. 

Then, the key is to keep moving.  I know that's counterintuitive, but if you just lay around the house, it will get worse.  The physical therapist can give you exercises to help.  They are painful at first, but it gets better.  When you do have flare-ups, try sitting with your opposite (non hurting side) leg elevated and lying on your side so that the side that is hurting is up in the air.  This takes pressure off of your sciatic nerve.  Again - I am NOT suggesting bed rest, merely using these positions when you would have been resting anyway (dinner, sleep, etc.). 

During painful times, low impact exercise (bike, eliptical) are best.  If you get bored, you might try putting an audio book or a good movie on your mp3.  Unfortunately, running during a flare-up will likely make it worse.  I do run, but not during a flare-up.  I also find that decent shoes help.  On the positive side, as time has passed, my flare-ups have become infrequent and much more manageable.  Best of luck and please do have a doc take a look. 

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Thanks for the advice!  I had an issue with a pain in my butt (hahhaa) about 10 years ago, went to my doctor who did nothing but prescribe meds... blah.... which is why I am stubbornly refusing to go now as well.  Generally I go to a doctor when something falls off!  Anyway, those are my personal issues.  :-)

But you are right... non-movement, laying around, etc... seems to irritate it soo much more.  I want and need to keep moving, doesnt hurt at all when I am moving. As  a matter of fact, I am sitting on a cyro/ice pack thing right now, feels good.  LOL.  Thanks for the advice on running too, I figured it wouldnt be a good idea to do that right now. 

Jennifer, I also have a lot of issues with butt pain.  It is from my piraformis muscles usually.  I do use the eliptical and ride my bike alot.  First off do check with your Dr to make sure it's not serious.  Then Stretch, stretch, stretch.  Also, strengthen your core this will help.  I have had chronic issues for more than 15 years and it is possible to continue with cardio with this type of pain, but ice and stretching are very important when you have a flare up.

Good Luck


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