What my roller coaster injury taught me about the pain in my butt that radiated down my leg

back pain leg pain sciatica Aug 02, 2019

If you have ever experienced knife-like pain that stabs you in your back and butt then sends a lightning bolt down your leg, then you know that this pain can cause facial distortions with every step you take! 

And you don’t care how people are looking at you because the pain is just that bad!

When you have pain like that, your main goal is just to be able to make it to the bathroom on time without creating further embarrassment.

I’ve experienced pain like that. I’ve experienced pain where the very touch of my clothes felt like a hot iron burning my skin or like a nasty sunburn that no amount of aloe will cool.

When I suffered whiplash, a mild concussion, and sacroiliac dysfunction after riding a roller coaster in 2004, I quickly realized what my patients must be experiencing when they come to see me for physical therapy. 

Sure, I had ankle sprains and back pain before but NOTHING compared to this. Initially, I didn’t even realize my back pain and right leg issue because my neck pain and headache combined with the vomiting from the mild concussion took precedent. I got hurt on a Saturday afternoon and the rest of that day and Sunday were just horrid. 

Fortunately my headache subsided by Monday morning but I still couldn’t move my neck. I went to work moving like a robot because in order to see anything, I had to turn my entire body - I couldn’t turn my head because the pain was too sharp.

A massage therapist on staff took pity on me and treated my neck after work. I couldn’t believe it. Thirty minutes with her and I could turn my head with almost no pain. That’s when I became a believer of Precision Neuromuscular Therapy - a specific type of medical massage.

As my neck symptoms subsided, I started noticing my back and right leg symptoms. One day I walked across the physical therapy gym and I literally felt a lightning bolt shoot from my butt down my right leg. Plus, I was dragging my leg. It felt like it was 10 feet behind me even though I’m only 5 feet 3 inches!

I couldn’t fix myself and the pain wasn’t going away on its own so I asked my physical therapist colleague to help me. I was so “locked up and tight” in my sacroiliac joint that she referred me next door to the chiropractor. After 6 sessions of chiropractic combined with physical therapy, I finally was “unstuck”. I could walk normal and without pain for the first time since that Saturday before I rode the roller coaster.

I continued physical therapy for a few more weeks to help restore my mobility and strength. I was able to return to running and complete a half marathon as well as many races at shorter distances. Not only did physical therapy help me heal after a major injury, but it also helped correct many imbalances caused by the constant stress and strain of endurance running. 

The combination of massage therapy to reduce my muscle guarding and chiropractic to improve my joint mobility with physical therapy exercises to strengthen my core, improve my flexibility, and increase my strength set my body on track for some of the best running I ever experienced. 

If I never had that roller coaster injury, I might not have respected the agonizing pain and frustration of excruciating and debilitating pain that impacts every aspect of life. My level of understanding deepened for my patients’ experience when they walk through my door. My heart fills with compassion because I “get them” - I “get” what they are going through. I “get” the fear of moving because it hurts, the fear of not moving because it hurts, the doubt that the pain will ever go away, the fear that everything you want to do will never happen… and the list just goes on because when you have pain like that… well, it takes all you have to focus on something else.

So, when you get relief, Ahhhh! You can breathe. You can move. You can live again.

I could share with you the many reasons behind why this type of pain in the back, butt, and leg can occur:

For example, you could have a 

  • Herniated disc 
  • Spine or pelvic fracture 
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction 
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Gluteus minimus trigger point 
  • Radiculopathy 

I could share with you even more detail about each of these but that can be for another time. For now, I hope you can appreciate that you don’t have to suffer if you have pain. You can find relief. It might take a team of people working together to help you. It will definitely take patience. It will definitely take you asking for help. Some things just don’t go away on their own.



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