Bad Back & Sciatica Over A Lifetime: The Trials & Tribulations of a Fellow Back & Sciatica Pain Sufferer

by coachz on March 2, 2009

Back Pain & Sciatica Spanning Four Decades: How I Finally Beat Back & Leg Pain Once & For All!

Part I


My name is John P. J. Zajaros, Sr. but my friends either call me Jack or Coach Z. I think we are going to be friends, at least I hope so. You see, I believe anyone who suffers with back pain and sciatic nerve pain, also called sciatica, as we have not only have something in common, we have a bond, a very real connection. To my way of thinking, anyone who suffers with back pain and/or sciatica, and it’s pretty hard to have one without the other to one degree or another, knows pain and suffering as no other acute-chronic pain sufferer can. Over the next few weeks, months, and even years, I hope, we can come together as a community and share our experiences, hopes, dreams, and stories so others may benefit and, hopefully, pass that benefit on to others. That’s my hope anyway. 

So, here goes:

I was the All-American high school kid, just 15 years old, living my life, competing in everything, and president of everything else. I’d just finished the last requirements to win the Eagle Scout Award and was in the middle of the wrestling season, at Bay High School, when my life changed forever. I was getting warmed up before my match, which was next, and my coach, Don Chadwick, asked if I wanted my back cracked…something he routinely did to loosen us up and get us limber before we went out on the mat. I said, “Sure,” as I always did. So, he got behind me, locked my arms, and pulled me off my feet and hyper-extended my back.

I can hear many of you groaning from here!

Well, you guessed it! I felt a twinge, nothing earth-shaking, and I went out and won my match. I always won…up until then, anyway. As I walked off the mat, my legs buckled a little, nothing major I thought, nothing to worry about. As usual, I’d overdone the weight loss thing that week and was a little unsteady because of it. But there was that twinge! I couldn’t put my finger on it but in the back of my mind all sorts of bells and whistles were going off. But hey! I was 15, indestructible and immortal, what did I have to worry about?

The rest of the season was a disaster!

I couldn’t seem to do anything right. Many times, if someone were on top of me, my back would simply give out and that would be that. Losing was something new and very different, I hated it! But I still had no idea what was happening to me, I just thought there was something wrong with me. You know the me I am referring to, the me as a human being, the psyche me, that intangible me. It had to be me, that me we all refer to when we ask the age old question, “What is wrong with me!” But what part of me? I had no idea. I was never so happy to see a season end, and I loved wrestling! I even started running with the track team early, I just wanted it all over.

But it was just beginning!

Track started with a bang, starter gun and all! My freshman year had been amazing, records, ribbons, and everyone loved Jack! My sophomore season was going to be even better, varsity as a sophomore was a very big deal at Bay High back then. I’d accomplished it in wrestling, if only for a short time, and now I was primmed for track. I loved the attention! I just knew I was on to big things, “scholarship” was being whispered by the coaches and I ate it up. But something funny happened on my way to great expectations, I started getting beat! I don’t mean by Bobby Pressler, my biggest competition for the fastest kid in the school honors, I mean by guys I blew by only weeks before. I can’t explain it, even today, I just couldn’t move my legs any faster. You see, I knew I could go faster, my brain knew I could go faster…but my legs? Well, they had an entirely different idea about how fast I was going to go…and they had the final say!


Talk about a bitter pill! The coaches began to shake their heads, “Flash in the pan,” they whispered. My classmates just didn’t know what to say. And my teammates? Well, they were stepping right in. After all, the king was dead, long live the king! The rule in athletics, even at the professional level, get hurt or injured and lose your spot. Mine, my spot? Well, it had history written all over it! One month into the season? Yup! I quit. And quitting was something I had never done before. It was a very bitter pill and I had to swallow it whole!

Back Pain and Sciatica? What is Sciatica?

By the time I made it to the doctor’s office I had stopped denying the pain in my back. By my first visit it was so real I was in agony all the time. During the exam, as he was poking and prodding, he began with a series of questions. Doc Rush, I had always called him Doc, asked if I had pain in my legs. I said, “Yes Doc, my right one but I just pulled a muscle.” Doc nodded and smiled a bit. But it wasn’t a good smile, it was one of those “Ah Ha!” smiles, like he knew something I didn’t. I never liked that smile from doctors much, still don’t! It was during that visit I heard the word sciatica for the first time, it wouldn’t be the last!

Back Pain & Sciatica: Now Add Spondylolysis & Spondylolisthesis

Well, it was official, I was all messed up! My next stop was an orthopedic surgeon, the first of a parade. I went through so many x-rays and tests I was beginning to feel like a guinea pig in some mad scientists experiment. Once the tests were back, and I was seated once again on the cold plastic table in nothing but a cloth gown (they hadn’t moved to paper quite yet), I was scared. By this time I didn’t know what to think, I just knew I wanted out of there just about as bad as I wanted the pain to stop…about! When Dr. John D. Kenney walked into the room, I knew the game was over. He nodded, they do that a lot, and started throwing around terms I’d never heard before. Soon however, he got to one I didn’t know…surgery!

It went something like this: back pain & sciatica + spondylolysis & sponylolysthesis = surgery!

Pain Leaves No Options

I knew I was sunk! I also knew I had no choice, I was “a-hurtin for certin” by then. The funny, or not-so-funny, thing about pain is that when you experience it, in all its worst manifestations, all you want is for it to be gone…NOW! back pain and sciatica had taken a healthy, 15 year old All-American young man and reduced him to a limping, hurting child who would agree to anything just to be free of it, if just for a while. So I agreed! I said yes! I said uncle! I said anything and everything I needed to, just to be pain free for a while. Little did I know, I was opening Pandora’s box!

Back Pain + Sciatica + Spondylolysis + Spondylolysthesis + Surgery = Pandora’s Box

Yup! I did it! All of 16 by a couple of months and under the knife for round one. As I’ve said before, I would have done anything, said anything, to be pain free. But to get there? Oh boy, to get there! When I woke up in the recovery room, intubation tube still in my throat, I knew three things with a certainty I’d never experienced before: 1) I wanted to breath and couldn’t…so I wanted breath; 2) I was in more pain than I had ever been in before…so I wanted it to stop; 3) I knew the pain wasn’t going to stop any time soon…so I wanted to die! That was the first time in my life I wanted to die…it wouldn’t be the last. As I think back to that day, in those moments, I knew one more thing with complete and utter certainty, if Hell was on earth, I was there, both feet firmly planted in it…no doubt about it!

Pandora’s Box: “Hindsight is 20/20!” & “If I knew then what I know now!”

Yes I know, everyone says those two things, particularly when they are about to dispense advise…usually about something they have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about! But I have to tell you this, and if you are still reading this, it’s because you know, when you are in pain, when pain has brought you to your knees, you forget everything about what has come before, all the pledges you’ve made to never go through anything like that again, and you do whatever it takes…AGAIN! You reopen Pandora’s Box! Little did I know, as I suffered on that gurney in that very stark and cold recovery room for the first time, that I would reopen Pandora’s Box thirteen more times! Back pain and sciatica can be there own, very special kind of hell, one that makes you forget that other hell you awaken into after every one of the surgeries past.

Part II To Follow: Healing Is Something The Young Do Best, The US Army, & Learning To Walk Again! (next)

Thanks for stopping in! Take time to register for our newsletter, I will make sure you are up to date with the latest, quality programs, products, and procedures on the market today. If you have stories about your experiences, ones you would like to share, please do so. Comments too are welcome. If you check out any of the sponsors on the sidepanel, you will find them all quality suppliers, merchants, and programs. I will have no one and nothing on this blog I wouldn’t use myself or have my wife, kids, and grandkids use! If you have a problem with any of them, please tell me and, if justified, I will remove them at once!

Most of all, thanks for being here. Participation, of course, is optional but I hope you will. If not, my hope is that you can take away from this something that will improve your life…or at least lessen your back pain and sciatica.

Take Care!


John P. J. Zajaros, Sr.
Skype: johnzajaros1

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