Treatment for Sciatica or arthritic hips?

catherinetAugust 19, 2007

Hi all,

As mentioned in my other post, I'm having knee problems again. But worse than that, my entire legs are aching really badly all the time. An occasional Vicodin totally takes the pain away, but I can't use those often. I can't use NSAIDS either because of GI problems. Tylenol doesn't seem to touch it. My legs are aching horribly 24/7. I'm doing lots of leg stretching and strengthening exercises, but they only help a little. I started thinking maybe I have sciatica or arthritis in my hips, and its not my legs at all.

Does anyone know some exercises I might do for sciatica or arthritic hips? Please don't tell me to hang upside down from a swingset! ;)

Doesn't it make sense that if I have some pinched nerves, it might make my legs ache? Thanks!

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I have constant pain in my legs and I have sciatica. I can't take NSAIDs either - but I am doing very well on muscle relaxants (cyclobenzaprine). I force myself to exercise a lot, including a lot of work on a ball, and I finish with floor work that is just for my sciatica. I don't know if I can describe what I do. I think if you type "exercises for sciatica" into your search engine, something will come up that includes pictures and instructions. If that doesn't work, let me know and I will try a description. I found exercises for bursitis of the trochanter on line. I do those too, and those came off the University of Michigan medical school web site.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 3:23PM
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If your sciatica is caused by pressure from somewhere on the spine, and it probably is, the wrong type of exercise might further irritate the nerve causing the problem. You need to be very careful and not self diagnose the problem.

I may be wrong, but I think that if the sciatic nerve is causing the pain in your knee, the pain would be located behind the knee and on up the back of your leg. If it's the knee cap, then it's probably NOT the sciatic nerve.

If you aren't under the care of an orthopedist, you need to be. Sometimes we blame a lot of things on arthritis when it isn't 100% that.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 3:41PM
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Agnes is correct. Many times we just assume arthritis is the problem because we are getting older.

I'm a prime example of making that assumption in my right knee. Broken twice in high school on the softball pitchers mound. It felt like they where always aiming for me.
I was told that at some point in my 40s-50's I would begin to develop osteoarthritis in my knee.

Well bingo, started to bother me at 52. Made the assumption and did some exercises. Helped for a bit then last year life took a big tumble. I started with big time back problems.

Finally ended up in the PCP office and spinal xrays showed a problem.
In the end I had spinal surgery last June and all the problems I had with me knee where not arthritis at all. No arthritis in my knee, just muscle pain as I couldn't walk correctly, stand up correctly or move correctly and been that way for a while and not realized it.

Problem was spinal stenosis in the lower lumbar spine causing all the problems.

I would suggest you see a sports medicine orthopedic doc that specializes in spines. get that siatic nerve checked out. No doupt they will do a spinal MRI and see what's going on. Then treatment can be started.

Good luck


    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 4:39PM
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Thanks everyone,
I had knee surgery (torn meniscus repair and scraping of arthritis gunk) a year ago. He told me then I would probably need knee replacements soon. I had the same type of pain when I had the previous knee problem, but it wasn't here 24/7 like this is.
My "good" knee started misbehaving recently, and so instead of going to see my sports medicine doc, who I knew would say I needed my knees replaced, I decided to hit the leg strengthening and stretching exercises really hard. This afternoon is the first that I'm feeling its starting to help some, but I do suspect some arthritis in my lower spine also.
I've had a million tests for other things this summer, and I just can't face another $1500 test, so I've decided to take the conservative approach of exercise.
I have an appointment with my physical therapist tomorrow and will ask her about exercises for the hip and lower back. It just seems like so many doctors want to cut/replace these days, and I want to give my body a chance to heal itself.....or at least get me more mobile without pain. I may end up changing my mind, but right now, I want to go that route. I was wondering if anyone had a few exercises that they found helpful.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 5:27PM
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I have had MRIs, CAT scans, cortisone injections, X-rays, nerve conduction studies, foot surgery and so on, but what it took to get better was a good chiropracter, a doctor who would prescribe muscle relaxants on a long term basis, and a commitment to exercise. Before I did these things I was ready to commit suicide, because the pain just wasn't worth living through. The cyclobenzaprine, by the way, happens to be generic and only costs me 3 cents a day. I do all of the exercises from the link and quite a few more besides, but these are a start. If you see a physical therapist they he/she teach you to do a lot of your workout on a ball. I do my crunches on the ball without hurting my neck, and I lay across the ball and walk out on my hands until only my ankles are on the ball and hold it for 6 seconds (but I had to work up to this. At first I only went out to my knees and came right back). I also do swim motions while laying on the ball - 1 arm extended in front of me and the opposite leg extended behind and then switching, all while my stomach is on the ball. That's great for the back. If you get a ball, it will probably come with suggestions, and the net is just full of reputable sites that demonstrate exercises.

Here is a link that might be useful: exercises for sciatica

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 3:16PM
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Catherinet, I hope that you can find relief for your pain soon. I have somewhat similar pain - may need knee replacement someday, but I also have back problems.

Sciatica usually causes pain down the bag of your legs.

Among other things, I have spinal stenosis, and that causes my legs to hurt. Right now I'm going through epidurals, which I hope will help. Another thing that helps is swimming. I can do backstroke and sidestroke. Good luck.

Fran, can I ask what surgery to fix stenosis consists of? Do they fuse any of the vertebrae? What was your recovery like? Is your back stiffer? Thanks,


    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 5:08PM
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Thanks everyone,
I fear the problem IS the lower spine. I went to see my old physical therapist today, and she feels it isn't my knee, but my lower spine.
She gave me some exercises to do.....but they seem more for younger people. I can't hang from a rod, I can't lift myself up off a chair, etc., etc. I did the one exercise that has me lying on my back with my legs up on a chair and do some spine tilts, but I could hardly get down to the floor and back up. And now it feels worse than ever. The pain has been relentless all day.
I'm going to call my internist tomorrow and have him choose a back person for me.
This is making me so depressed. Like you devorah, I just wouldn't want to live like this. Thank you so much for the information you gave me.
I never had problems with my back, but my physical therapist said that people with lower back problems many times don't complain of back problems.....but rather leg and knee problems. What a bummer. I just can't seem to get to a healthy/happy point. I just spent the last 4 months dealing with constant nausea and dizziness and went to 4 different doctors and had all sorts of tests........all negative, and the nausea finally went away. And now this constant pain. I'm really bummed out.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 5:21PM
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Catherine, sorry to hear this.

Please hang in there. There are things that can be done. I have problems with NSAID's, but there are pain pills that are much more effective than Tylenol, which doesn't do me any good. Also, a lot of the exercises cause me pain, but there are probably ones that you can find that will work. Please try doing the exercises on your bed, rather than getting on the floor. There are spinal tilts that you can do just laying down. I don't think I ever could have hung from a rod. Good luck and let us know how you are doing. Take care,

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 6:04PM
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Thanks for the encouragement lynne!
I was just now wondering if I could do these on the bed. I have this lightweight wooden stool (sort of a scandinavian design....just a curved piece of wood), that I could put on the bed and put my legs on it. I just wasn't sure I was "allowed" to do it that way (if it would be effective). It makes no sense to do exercises that just make us feel worse though, or hurt some other body part...... so I'm going to do them on the bed.
I really love my physical therapist, but I think she's used to working with young, fit, athletes.
Thanks again Lynne!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2007 at 10:15PM
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You're very welcome Catherine. We'll get through this together. It sounds like the wooden stool is worth a try. Otherwise, I think I've been shown how to do it just with my knees bent. You are absolutely right - we can't do exercises that cause additional pain.

Do you have any access to a swimming facility that has classes for people with arthritis? These are typically in a warm pool, and are good for gentle stretching.

Take care, we'll get through this, and let us know how you are doing.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 8:39AM
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Hi again Lynne.......I've tried water therapy before and it didn't seem to help. Maybe the trauma of appearing in a bathing suit over-rode the help it might have offered. haha
Thanks for reminding me these exercises can be done on the bed! Now my back hurts from just doing them once yesterday on the floor! I tried to hang from my children's old swing set today, but forget it. My wrists are shot. And there's just too much of me to hang from those 2 little parts! :)
I go to a Sport's Medicine Center for physcial therapy, and I think they are really geared toward young athletes. A long time ago I went to a rehabilitation hospital physical therapy department, and I really think that's where I would find a better treatment fit. Thanks again!

Devorah......thankyou so much for that link to the spinal place. Its very excellent!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 9:59PM
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The surgery for spinal stenosis depends on the what is causing it.

Causes can be from narrowing of the vertebrae where the nerves go through and several different areas in the vertebrae can be the cause.

It can be from a bulging disc that is pressing on the nerves and hence causes narrowing of the area that the nerves pass through.

In my case it was a narrowing of the "lateral recess" area that was the cause as is something that can come with age.

My surgery was done on an outpatient basis by a sports medicine orthopedic spinal surgeon. In in the morning, out by 6pm that night.

He removed an area of the lateral articulate in the affected vertebrae in an open spine surgery. incision was 1 inch and closed with 1 stitch.

I was up and walking about 1 1/2 hours after surgery and the pain, numbness, tingling in my leg was gone. I stood up straight for the first time in a long time and was going up and down stairs with ease.

I was restricted to no bending, turning, twisting, stooping for 3 weeks, then started a 10 week rehab to regain the strength in my right leg. I couldn't believe how weak those muscles had become in just a few months.

The only residual affect I have from the surgery is a permenent weakness in the muscle on the right side of my buttocks that atrophied very quickly from lack of use. It does give me bits of discomfort on occassion, but compared to the pain and hell I was living with before the surgey, this is nothing.

My surgery was in June 2006 and I am able do do pretty much everything I did before the spine problems started on me. I can't do things for hours on end without a problem, but on the other hand, i can live with an hour or 2 of gardening and resting for an hour or 2. I used to do it for 6 hours at a time.

The most important thing to me is I have a life back and one without the horrible pain that I had before.

If you want any more details just e-mail me.


    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 11:04PM
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Thanks for that info Fran.

I'm glad you're doing better.
Mine is getting worse by the day. I couldn't get in to see my doc until Monday (he's out of town). I have a sports med knee doc, but decided to ask my internist where he would like me to go for a back doc. I really trust his judgement.
I just can't decide if its my lower back or a horrible fibromyalgia flare I'm having. The absolute worse time for me is at night and in the morning. Then I do my exercises and try to stay busy (not too much physical stress), and by evening I'm actually thinking I'm getting better. Then WHAM......its starts all over during the night. Everything hurts.......every muscle/tendon/ligament in my feet, legs, and how hips.
I have had foot/knee/hip pain for many years....but mostly was told it was my fibromyalgia. I hate it when docs just assume things.
For years, I've had intense pain/stiffness getting up from any sitting position (pain in my thigh muscle). Now I'm wondering if its been my lower back all along.
Seems like this recent "attack" started up out of the blue......but I guess things just reach a point of critical mass, and it feels like its out of the blue, when its not.
Seems like menopause is causing rapid deterioration of everything on me!
Its so hard accepting that we can never be who we used to be. Sorry. This pain is getting to me.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 11:21AM
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I have so been where you are - for 33 years I suffered from back, hip, leg pain that was worse at night. I couldn't sleep for the pain. I had to constantly switch positions because the pressure of sleeping in one position was too painful. I have been lucky that menopause (at age 58!) brought some relief of my conditions. I also left my HMO and got some better medical advice. I exercise during the day and then before bed I take the muscle relaxants. I also have a cream made of cyclobenzaprine that I can rub on the parts that are the most sore. I have, for the most part, eliminated gluten from my diet and I think that was helpful. My doctor gave me samples of Lyrica, but I didn't like what I read about possible side effects so I just use it when my pain is keeping me awake. My doctor doesn't know that and it might be a bad thing to do, but you know in the middle of the night you don't give a damn. At my fibromyalgia support group last monday, one of the people was extolling the virtues of taking hydroxychloroquine. She said it has made all the difference with her joints. I tried it and it hurt my stomach, but I may give it another shot. My rheumatologist really wanted me to take it. I have to be really careful about my stomach. I recently found out that it was probably all the acid blockers I have taken that resulted in my having osteoporosis.

anyway, I hope you find something that helps. I am attaching the web site where I found exercises for trochantric bursitis (hip pain). These exercises have done me way more good than what I got from the physical therapist I was seeing. She didn't have any idea what to do that was specific for my condition. I found these myself on a web page

Here is a link that might be useful: exercises for hip pain

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 3:27PM
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Thanks for another great link Devorah! I love it when they have pictures. Sometimes I just can't understand the written instructions for exercises.
Last night was awful for me. I seem to improve during the day and I could have sworn last evening that I was getting over this. Then 2 hours after going to sleep, I woke up in so much pain. I was using Vicodin about every 3 days, and I would take it after lunch, so I could lay down and get really relaxed......even though it wasn't my worse time of day. Now I'm thinking I need it when I'm going to bed. I've been timing it wrong I guess.
My doctor's appointment is Monday. This is my internist, and he always has good ideas. But I am going to tell him that whoever he refers me to just HAS to appreciate the importance of physical therapy. I think that will save me if anything does. I really love my physical therapist from when I had knee surgery. But she doesn't understand fibromyalgia. I don't think she even believes in it, and that can get frustrating. Our muscles just don't act like "normal" peoples'. And when mine don't respond right, she thinks I haven't tried hard enough.....which is very disheartening.
My knee has been hurting so bad today, but its hard to believe it would make my hips, thighs, hamstrings, shins and feet hurt too. I think I have 2 things going on.
I just can't believe what happens to some of us when we lose our estrogen/progesterone. Its like in the blink of an eye, we totally fall apart. I'm not growing older very gracefully! I'd do more kicking and screaming, except that my legs hurt too much! lol!
Thanks again Devorah.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 4:17PM
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The most important thing is to have a proper diagnosis for any and all orthopedic problems.
Physical therapy can help, but if the exercises are treating the wrong problem, then they can make things far worse than they already are.

The same goes for a chiropracter especially. Manipulations of the spine or any joint that are done without the proper diagnosis can do serious harm, especially if there is any osteoporosis going on or displaced joints.

Please see an ortho doc that specializes in your specific problems and they will send you for the proper tests, usually MRIs to determine the problem. Then, together, you can formulate a treatment plan.

Just swallowing pain pills will not resolve the underlying problem.

Catherinet, you need a new PT person. The best would be physical therapists who are sports medicine ones. They are well trained in all kinds of PT as well as new techniques and fibromyalgia as well.

As for how a knee can cause all kinds of problems and pain elsewhere, it's simple.

If you think of your body standing up to start with and look at it that way, you will see that the pressure on your body, goes from the feet up to the ankles, the legs, the knees, thighs, hips, spine, neck to your head.
Any one of those pressure points, when not moving or functioning correctly can and will throw the entire body off and cause pain both below and above it.

For example, if you have a problem with your knee, then you are not standing on the affected leg, ankle, knee and foot.
You put pressure incorrectly on the hip, all the way down to your foot. By doing that, you then put strain on all those joints, tendons, muscles, ligaments. At the same time you are pulling the spine and neck on that side off as well.
As you do this to the affected side of your body, you start putting strain on the opposite side and you start pulling everything out of wack.

Sometimes, what you are feeling a permenent pulled muscles and joint irritation from what is going on and sometimes it will create further medical problems from long standing problems with one joint.

The other big issue is the spine. As we age, the spine starts to wear down, and though we may think that the pain in the knee or the hip is directly from those joints, the real problem is with the spine.

Don't be sorry that the pain is getting to you. I've been there and no what that is like.

I've had several orthopedic issues for the past 10 years and found out last year, that everyone of them was stemming from spinal stenosis in my lower back.

When that was fixed, oh, the pain was completely gone, until my feet decided that they like my back the way it was before and created ortho problems for me. Got that taken care of and the ankles got pissed at both the spine and the feet. So took care of that, all with custom orthotics, good shoes and Pt.

I just have to remember that I can't over do or I really get screwed. Like now. Really over did it last weak and tore a muscle in the lower back that needs big time PT and pain meds. If not healed in 4 weeks the muscle wil have to be stitched.

Anyway, get the proper diagnosis for what is going on before you head off to a PT and if you are suffering from any kind of osteoporosis, a good doc will tell you to never go near one ans the manipulations will break bones on you.

Try seeing a sports medicine orthopedic doc that specializes in spines.

And below is a great link to a spine forum with lots of support and helpfull info. My doc thinks it's one of the best locals on the web for info and support.

Click on the link and when the page comes up, go to the left side of the page and click on discussion forums. You have to register to post on the forums and use the live chat. same kind of thing as with GW, but its a wonderful site to be part of. I joined and love it there.

Good luck and e-mail me if you want any further info or help or someone to vent to.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 4:58PM
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Thanks very much, Fran.

Catherine, how did your doctor appointment go?


    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 12:45AM
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Thanks Fran and Lynne. PT is from the sports medicine clinic, but she still knows nothing about fibromyalgia.
Lynne........I had my appointment yesterday with my internist. He's a pretty open-minded doc, which I really appreciate. He's willing to let me approach this from a physical therapy position. My fibromyalgia just really confuses so many issues.
I can have pain that sends me to the E.R., but testing shows nothing (with various other problems). Apparently one theory of fibromyalgia is that our brains/neuro systems amplify pain signals, out of proportion to the problem. At any still hurts!
My internist allowed me to refill the Vicodin, which I take very sparingly.
He's sending me to a clinic that specializes in female of which is fibromyalgia. He also drew labs for arthritis, muscle diseases and lupus.
However....since the visit, my pain has been less generalized in my entire leg and now is mostly intense pain in my knee. So.....even though I wanted to beat this through leg stretching and strengthening exercises and ice, I bit the bullet and made an appointment with my sports med knee doc. I just know its a torn meniscus and will need surgery.
My life with fibro and menopause has been nothing but a pain in the arse for 12 years. I'm totoally out of steam, physically and emotionally. I know the sports doc will remind me I need knee replacements and that depresses the heck out of me. I'm just so weary of pain and having to pay so much attention to my body.
Well, all these exercises can't hurt anything, so I will continue them.
I totally forgot to ask my doc about muscle relaxants to add to my arsenal of pain med choices. I tried Aleve again, and its just too hard on my esophogus, even with Zantac. So I alternate Vicodin, xanax, and tylenol.
I have to accept that nighttime is the worst for me, and quit waiting until the middle of the night when I'm in such horrible pain to take the med, and just take it before bed.
On top of all these other problems, I have alot of angst over seeing docs and having tests. So I'm pretty much of a mess! ;)
At least I'm still fairly functional during the day. In fact, I probably do too much.....but life goes on and things need to get done. I tried riding the electric wheelchair at Target, but my legs hurt just as bad. I guess I have to take it one moment at a time in figuring out how to get through.
Thanks so much for your help everyone!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 9:49AM
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If the exercise makes you feel better, great!! But, and it's a big BUT, if your problem is because something is irritating or pressing on a nerve, it can make it worse. Please be careful.

Here's hoping that you can find out some definite answers.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 1:08PM
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Catherine, thanks for the update. Glad that you have a good doctor, but sorry to hear about the knee.
The pain pill that works the best for me is called Tramadol - I don't get the side effects that I get with something with codeine, and it relieves the pain better.

A number of my friends have fibromyalgia, and they are helped by taking Ambien. If you are not sleeping well because of the pain, then of course the fibromyalgia will be worse the next day due to "non-restorative" sleep. You may want to try this.

So please hang in there.
Take care,

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 1:32PM
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Thanks Agnes and Lynne,
I've been doing an internet search on getting a bigger/fluffier bike seat. I don't know if that would help keep the sciatic nerve from getting irritated, but its worth a try. I guess the exercise bike is about the best way of dealing with arthritis of the knee.
Lynne....I have the feeling I might get to experience alot of different pain meds before this is all overr!
Actually, the vicodin usually helps alot and for about 6-8 hours afterwards, but last night it didn't. I may have over-done yesterday, trying to clean up the house, take care of the chickens, etc. I know how important it is to try to prevent pain, rather than deal with it when its full blown.....but when I'm feeling really good, its hard to talk myself into taking it for nighttime.
About sleep.......I'm actually using a CPAP machine. I began back in April and proceded to get nauseous and dizzy all the time and stopped it. Had a ton of tests to determine the cause of the symptoms, and they were all negative, and it finally went away. So I'm back on the CPAP machine and it helps alot. Unfortunately, it doesn't do so well when I wake up in pain every 2 hours. I think I've just got to take pain medicine before bed, even if I'm feeling okay.
There's just something about lying down or inactivity that really makes the knee hurt. That sort of sounds like arthritis, doesn't it?
I'll ask about the Tramadol. DH said I might even try something like Tylenol PM. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 3:41PM
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Catherine, you're very welcome. My DH uses a CPAP, and they told him to avoid any sleep medications, so perhaps you could check with your doctor even before trying the Tylenol PM.
Take care and let us know how you are doing.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2007 at 10:55AM
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Osteoarthritis is the most common type of hip arthritis.

The treatment of hip arthritis should begin with basic steps and progress to a bigger role, possibly surgery.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 7:34AM
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