You may think, from looking at the title of this post that I am going to talk in very technical terms but I am no scientist and what I want to share with you is my personal experience of this injury and how it was cured as if by magic.
If you have been following my last few posts you will know that in September 2012 I was struck down with Sciatica. Being a sculptor that works very physically this was a pain in the arse, well, actually all the way down my leg. I spent several months in terrific pain and even with doctors, physio and drugs nothing could shift the pain. I began to accept that this was my new normal and that this pain would be with me always. Being self-employed I need to continue working through the pain to put food on the table and even though the type of work I do is probably the worst thing in the world for it I tried to not let it slow me down, instead, making the most of the moments I could stand.
Setting the scene
In my last post, I was on the top of the Alps making an igloo hotel, crawling around like an animal as I tried to decorate the 12 room hotel made from snow. I was so happy to finish up and finally hobble down the mountain to where a new life would begin to greet me. I was to marry the beautiful Clodagh AKA @clodaghdowning on the 12th of January 2013 and I had lot's to do and prepare. Our wedding would be a small affair but these things have a habit getting away on you so I knew there would be no rest.
We married in a small church called Gugan Barra near to where Clodagh grew up. It is a beautiful picturesque little capel by a lake. We did everything as economically as possible. Only direct family was invited and we did most of the preparing ourselves. No flowers in the church, instead we picked some Chilean Myrtil tigs wrapped them in ribbons and had lots of candles in Laterns. It looked amazing and like something from the middle ages. Clodagh's dress was simple and beautiful, it was 50s style and when she walked up the aisle I realised I was the luckiest man alive.
At the alter I could hardly stand for the 'I do'. I wept in pain and happiness as I was wed to the woman of my dreams.
The afters was in a small hotel we rented. It was wonderful to have all the most important people in my life under the one roof. The food was nothing fancy but delicious and my sister Eileen with her husband made the cake which was a collection of chocolate biscuit cake balls stacked in a pyramid. Everything was a bit non-conventional but it was the least stressful wedding I have ever been to and all of our guests agreed it was their favourite wedding.
After our great day, it was on to the honeymoon in Egypt. We had booked it just the week before and because there was some political uprising in Cairo we were able to get it very cheap in the tourist area of Sharam El-Sheikh. We were asured It was still very safe there. For a very reasonable rate, we had a 5 Star hotel with everything all in and best of all there was hardly anyone else in the whole place. It was like 'The shining' except in the sun and minus the 'Here's Johny!'
What's the point?
At this moment you are probably wondering why I am recounting my whole wedding story in the Stemgeek community. Well, I needed to write this story down somewhere and I think it is interesting to let you know the background of how bad a state I was in with my Sciatica. In the hotel, our room was around 100 meters from the lobby and I would always have to stop and rest on my journey to or from it. Even with the holiday I was having, my back was getting no better and I felt sorry for my new wife that she had just married a crock. Still, love makes you accepting of many things.
The science bit
So what is Sciatica? Well. simply put it is a trapped nerve at the base of the spine caused by a herniated disk. A picture tells a thousand words so here is one I nicked from the internet.
As you can see the disc between the bones has gotten squeezed out and is pressing against the nerve. This illustration is probably quite extreme but it was exactly how it felt. My sciatica had developed into an IT band injury. The IT band is a long connective tissue which connects the hip to the knee for stabilising the joint. This had become inflamed and tight, leading to that terrible pain down my leg.
One of my lifelong dreams had always been to dive in the Red Sea and part of our reason to go to Egypt was to make this a reality. I had been diving for many years but for Clodagh, she was eager to learn and what a great location to do so.
I really enjoy diving and learned through the PADI system which is like the Scientology of diving. They always like you to move on up and do another course. Some people say the PADI stands for 'Put Another Dolar In'. For me it is fine, I like to increase my skill set as it makes a dive more interesting when you have a mission to complete. This time in Egypt I decided I would learn how to deep dive, normal dives are around to 18 meters but a deep dive would get me to the depths of 40. First I wanted to do a refresher dive to make sure I had remembered what I had already learned and also to see if my Sciatica would make diving too uncomfortable. Luckily I was okay once I was in the water but carrying the air tank etc to the water was very difficult. Still, I survived and even though my back and leg complained I prepared for my new mission.
It was a different experience to go that deep, I had to deal with Narcosis which is like being drunk because of the high amount of Nitrogen you breathe but I just stayed calm and knew the signs to expect. (Being Irish, I am quite familiar with this matter).
It is much darker down there and I actually went to 45 Meters as my instructor wanted to show me a cave that we could swim through. He came to a hole in a rock wall and swam in, his flippers sent up a plume of sediment as he disappeared. I hovered there wondering what I should do and finally, I decided to follow into the darkness. I felt my way through the cave following the light at the other end. I was completely disorientated and was flying blind. Finally, the silt cleared and I found my instructor waiting at the other end for me looking at his watch and air gauge and beckoning me to look at mine. I was still within the envelope but it was time to ascend giving plenty of time for decompression safety stops.
I actually made a video of the dive with a GoPro when I find it I will add to this post
Raising the wreck
We broke through the surface and I was exhilarated, I hopped on the boat and could not wait to rush back to share the experience with Clodagh.
That evening we got ready for dinner and walked to the lobby. We arrived at the lobby with no need to stop and take a rest. I froze out of shock and said to Clodagh 'Hold on, there is something wrong. My pain is gone'. After over four months of pain my back and my leg felt normal. I walked more and the pain didn't come. I was afraid to believe it. That pain that had become such a big, controlling part of my life was not there. It had not been there since I got back on the boat. It was like a switch had been flicked and I could walk again. The euphoria of the dive had made me not realise it till that moment. I was cured.
Yes, but seriously whats the point?
I know, I know it had taken me a long time to get to the point of this post. Now hopefully the title makes sense. My deep dive had cured me.
But, why was this? Well, my theory is that it was the pressure of having 5 Atmospheres of weight bare down on my body. Of course, I know that I equalise the pressure as I descend and ascend the ocean with the air I breathe but I am pretty sure that all the fibres and cells in my body take time to adjust and this adjustment made my herniated disc pop back into place. It could also have been the posture I had when I was diving but the fact that it didn't happen after a few 18-meter dives which I had taken before that kind of doesn't make sense.
So my question for the Stem community is, did I just stumble upon a miraculous cure for Sciatica and that this kind of treatment should be pursued. Maybe in some kind of hyperbaric chamber safe away from the sharks? Maybe someone here can enlighten me.
At the end of the day, I was fixed in an instant, I was back to myself after that deep dive, whatever the reason. I will say, I am a bit more careful now about how I use my back snd luckily since 2013 I have been fine in that respect, Other bits of my body have seized up but a bit of rest usually works out the kinks.
Nearly eight years on I have yet to have any other issues with my back and am still married to the girl of my dreams.