Sciatica to Samba Queen: Spinal Fusion to Dance Cruising

Sciatica to Samba Queen: Spinal Fusion to Dance Cruising

I fell off a horse when I was 18. Following that injury, throughout my adult life I had chronic low back pain. Intermittently it would flare into acute episodes that were so severe that for several days at a time I could only lie down with a pillow under my knees, take heavy doses of anti-inflammatory medication and wait for the episode to be over. 

To prevent or lessen the frequency of these flare-ups, I worked out with a trainer, did exercises prescribed by a back clinic physiotherapist and changed my primary fitness activity from aerobic classes to low impact dancing, ballroom and Latin.

Then one night, I woke at 3 am with an attack of sciatic pain that was so severe, I could not even roll over in bed. I was taken  to Emergency by ambulance and after hours on a hard uncomfortable stretcher, was sent home with heavy duty painkillers. After a week, once the intensity of the pain subsided from a 20/10 to a mere 8/10 on my pain index, I was able to limp slowly with the use of a cane. I could barely walk. Dancing was out of the question.

From being an  active, positive person with a busy life as a theatre reviewer, food, wine and travel writer, I became a depressed, pain-ridden couch potato.  For 4 long months, I moved around in pain, dragging myself to see plays or attend events. I felt ancient, twenty years older than I was.

I tried everything. Acupuncture - 3 treatments. It made the pain worse. After a visit to a chiropractor I ended up in bed for two days with worse pain than before. Finally I saw a specialist who said surgery was not recommended, and put me on the waiting list for an epidural steroid injection. 

Before my appointment for the epidural injection came up, the neurological consultation for  which I had waited for several months, came up. By that time the sciatic pain had increased  again to well above 10/10 on my pain index, and I was showing signs of incipient cauda equina, a neurological emergency. Two days later I was admitted to hospital for emergency surgery.

 My passionate desire to be able to dance again was a huge motivational factor in my rehabilitation. This is the story of my journey from that first attack of sciatica to the day I was back on the dance floor.