A couple of weeks ago I went to see a spinal therapist about my leg after being referred to her by my GP to find out why it was still sore nearly a year after my injury.
I’m sharing my medical diagnosis this week because I wanted to highlight the importance of getting a second opinion where your health is concerned… I’ve just had a bit of a shock!
A quick recap: In November last year I went to Paris for 24 hours for a blogger event. After catching a train to London and carrying my overnight bag around on trains and the tube and the Eurostar I went to the doctor the following week with what I thought was a torn hamstring. She told me I’d slipped a disc and had sciatica, a condition which causes the sciatic nerve (the one that runs from your bum all the way down your leg to your foot) to be nothing short of, well, f*****g painful and debilitating.
And so I was unable to walk unaided (without help or a stick) for about six weeks, which made Christmas not much fun at all (and neither was I much fun at Christmas). I wrote about the experience explaining why you should never take being able-bodied for granted if you wanted to read more about it.
Fast forward to Spring 2016: I was pretty much healed, back to running and exercising and my usual jumping about (yes, I’d still run around like a 6 year old if I had the energy of a 6 year old… I try, but forgot I’m more than seven times that old and get tired incredibly quickly). I had acupuncture, I had physiotherapy, my leg felt better by a tiny bit every day so it was very, very gradual – but it did get better.
However, one of the effects of my injury was a numbness around the back of my leg, specifically the knee area. The doctor told me it would be the last thing to get better, so I accepted that and waited for it to just go away.
I REALISED WAS THAT IF I WAS BEING HONEST WITH MYSELF, MY LEG REALLY WASN’T BETTER AT ALL. ALTHOUGH I’D APPARENTLY SLIPPED A DISC, THERE WAS ZERO PAIN IN MY BACK, ONLY MY LEG.
And I waited. And waited. And waited… Until it got to late summer, when I realised that although the numb area had definitely decreased in size, it was still totally numb just behind the knee. You could scratch nails up the back of my knee and I’d only know it was happening because I was sensing some sort of pressure. And if anyone poked or pressed me behind the knee it was incredibly painful.
I realised was that if I was being honest with myself, my leg really wasn’t better at all. Although I’d apparently slipped a disc, there was zero pain in my back, only my leg. (The doctor said that was quite common with sciatica.) But I could no longer do squats because bending my right leg and exerting any kind pressure on the bent leg was seriously painful. I couldn’t squat and reach down to get things that were low to the ground (like getting something out of a bottom kitchen cupboard, for example) without having to stretch my right leg out straight. I used to be able to squat with my feet flat, knees together and buttocks resting on the backs of my calves no problem at all, but no longer – it was too painful.
So in the autumn I saw my GP again and was referred to a spinal specialist – I had to wait several weeks for an appointment but I didn’t mind the wait. I just wasn’t sure what to expect – I have heard some people with sciatica put up with it for years, or have to have surgery… I had no idea what she would say about it.
She got me to do lots of walking on tiptoes tests, stretching my legs out in turn, squatting, all those sorts of things. Lots of prodding of the back of my knee which was pretty horrible.
I was lying on my tummy while she examined the back of my knee and mentioned something about the sciatica, and she simply said,
“It’s not sciatica.”
What the WHAT?!! Not sciatica? Then what the bloody hell was wrong with my leg?
To cut this very long (sorry!) story short – she said she’d only ever seen one other person with what she thought it was, and that was a growth in the back of my leg. That person had a benign growth, and she said it sounded worse than it actually was in the end. It could also be a tear, but she said the only way to be sure was to have an MRI scan (god bless the NHS for being free).
And apparently doctors often diagnose sciatica when it’s not sciatica at all (FFS).
Something in my leg, rather than sciatica, would explain why I had swelling in my right calf that I’d basically been ignoring all year. The outfit in the lead image is what I was wearing when I went to Paris that fateful day – I haven’t worn those OTK boots since because I can’t do the zip up on the right boot. The left is fine, but it proves that my right leg is swollen. So there was that, the numbness, the pain in my leg when squatting… I ignored all those things thinking that’s just the way I was “going to be”.
The moral of the story
This bit’s easy: Don’t ignore symptoms when you think something’s wrong. Get things checked, and don’t leave it for ages thinking they’ll just get better like I did. Because I just accepted my “sciatica” I didn’t really think about the fact that I wasn’t totally healed.
I’ve now had the MRI scan and am awaiting the results. I’m having blood tests next week at the doctor (I’ve forgotten why I needed that doing, I was so taken aback when I was told it wasn’t sciatica that I forgot most of what the specialist said), so I shall just have to wait and see.
So whether it’s a pain in your leg, a lump in your breast or anything else health-wise that’s just not right, please please PLEASE go and get it checked out. Fingers crossed my leg will be okay (I’m definitely not the sort of person who thinks “it won’t happen to me” about things, but I am a glass half full person), but basically I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
And as for second opinions… If you think you’ve been misdiagnosed – don’t hesitate to get someone else to take a look at you. If I had I might have saved some money seeing a physiotherapist privately for several weeks and got an MRI scan on my leg a lot sooner.
When I have any sort of news I’ll let you know…!
So after my medical ramblings, all that’s left to say is… LET’S GET THIS [LINK UP] PARTY STARTED!!
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