‘How I cope with back pain’

Living with back pain

About five years ago, I noticed a tingling feeling down my right leg but thought it was just pins and needles. Then one day, I noticed I’d lost all the strength in the big toe on my right foot. I didn’t know it then, but that’s a classic sign of a prolapsed disc in your spine.
The pain gradually got worse. It felt like a bone was jabbing into my right buttock, and I got back pain, too. But I still managed get around.

Eventually, in July 2005, I had my first operation; a discectomy where doctors removed part of the disc that was hurting me. I was told there was a 95% chance the leg pain would go away, and I’m sure it does work for some people. But unfortunately, it didn’t really work for me. Neither did another operation to remove more of the disc.

Over time, I’ve worked out how to manage the pain. I’m a big believer in physiotherapy, and have as much of that as possible. I take painkillers three times a day, and wear special insoles in my shoes called orthotics. These help my posture realign itself. I also do pilates, and find swimming brilliant.

Sciatica can be extremely painful, and one thing I wish I’d done earlier is get some counselling. The BackCare charity has a helpline, and I’d advise anyone with sciatica to get in touch with them.
Denise Gwatkin, 53, New Malden, Surrey

For more information, visit www.backcare.org.uk

Where to next?

More facts about back pain

How to protect your back

Relieving back pain