One day I found myself lying on the floor of my apartment with my feet elevated on the coffee table, my sciatic nerve felt like it was made of hot iron.
I was in a debilitating amount of pain.
I was 24 and had ironically skipped my anatomy classes that day due to the shearing nerve pain that radiated down to my left foot. I remember thinking that my active lifestyle was, for the most part, at an end as visions of a narcotics dependency and endless doctor’s visits flashed to the forefront of my mind.
Perhaps it was completely random, or maybe it was fate, but I decided to get a massage because I couldn’t think of anything else that would give me immediate relief; mind you, I wasn’t even sure it would work.
Being in college at the time, I was living paycheck to paycheck and couldn’t afford to pay for an 80 dollar massage, so I called my mother, fighting back the tears as I explained to her how much pain I was in—thank god for moms because that day I had a massage booked that would unknowingly change my life.
To provide some backstory, I was in the Marine Corps for four years, which is, to say the least, pretty hard on your spine—weekly ruck marches with 50-60 pounds really added up over the years.
My sciatic pain started in my last year of enlistment, but it wasn’t until after I got out when it really kicked up a notch—probably more like a few notches.
I had x-rays done, and the doctor came back and told me I have grade two Spondylolisthesis. For those who aren’t familiar, this occurs when a bone between the facet joints, called pars interarticularis, fractures, and the vertebrae slip forward onto the bone beneath it. This, in turn, impinges the nerves of the central nervous system, causing pain and discomfort.
The kicker? The only treatment is spinal fusion which I will avoid like the plague for the rest of my life.
My fracture, which is the most common, is when L5 slips onto S1, which just so happens to have a whole bunch of nerves that are located there. Before then, I was a triathlete who was putting in about 20-30 miles of running each week. My doctor told me that running would be ill-advised, which drove me to discover ways to treat this condition naturally. Today, I can run pain-free.
Getting back to the day I got a massage: as soon as I got off the table, I felt so much better, and I’m not ashamed to admit that when I got home, I balled my eyes out. I had no idea how much pain I was in, and the relief was such that I was overwhelmed with emotion.
And then I thought, maybe there is something to massage therapy after all. A couple of months later, I finished my EMT certificate and immediately enrolled in massage therapy school.
I have been a therapist for over four years now, and I have strived tirelessly to find a solution for myself and others who suffer from Spondylolisthesis.
How did I achieve this? I will explain in a more in-depth article going over my workout and stretching routine, massage habits, and overall general lifestyle changes I made.
I am happy to say that as I am writing this, I am almost completely pain-free, but I still have bad days.
If you also suffer from this condition, I pray this article finds you because there is hope and there is a light at the end of the tunnel—don’t resolve yourself to a life of pain and discomfort. We can only heal ourselves when we believe that we can.