Six months ago I posted the report which follows the asterisks (It's now 25/20/2012). Just been reading subsequent correspondence and somebody asked how things were going. Pleased to report that I have never had another attack, and, also, although my knee is still numb the numbness is definitely lessening. (18 months after my attack.)
I particularly want to recommend Pilates again. A couple of months ago my therapeutic masseur told me that my back muscles were now really strong (this was after about eight months of Pilates). The other thing is that my Pilates teacher frequently gives a piriformis muscle stretching exercise - check that name in the previous correspondence. It is right next to the sciatic nerve - so if your piriformis is tight, chances are your nerve can get twisted.
The exercise - anyone can do this exercise at home provided you can sit and cross your legs. You cross one leg over the other and grasp both ankles with your hands, pulling back until you feel a stretch deep in one buttock, and when that eases pull a bit harder - for about 20-30 seconds. Then recross your legs and do the other buttock!
Good luck everyone.
English Guest 6 months ago [viz. May/June 2012]
Very helpful site. Here is my experience.
SCIATICA: I too had massive attack (in March 2011) - terrible terrible pain (in hip) cured with heavy dose of morphine that evening. Pain recurrence prevented thereafter by lying on ICE packs when lower back pain/discomfort set in again. (Seemed very unfair in that I thought I was fairly fit (in my 60s): had done two or three yoga 'sun salutations' every morning for years, a regular cyclist to work, and a weekly badminton player). But, I am at computer for hour after hour for work (and leisure).
LEGACY: knee weakness (gave way several times), and numbness down into shin (not toes, thank goodness), dragging feeling in thighs; muscle wastage in thigh very substantial (did not realise for a few weeks then compared them in mirror). Could not lead on stairs with left foot for weeks. Walking impaired for several months. (Fortunately, I could always bicycle with no pain/discomfort at all).
TREATMENT:(1) saw NHS physio (after 4-6 weeks!) - directed me to do basic press-up and then to let back sag because I had very stiff back; also thigh-building exercise, lifting lower leg from sitting position, and adding wrap-around 1-kilo weights (bought on internet) to ankle. 20,30,40,50 ... I also gradually began to put more weight on left leg on stairs.
(2) began doing pilates as well but kept getting cramps; began Tai Chi (helped somewhat, though cramps in that too when pointing toes); professional therapeutic massage definitely helped to relieve the tensions (thanks Hugh & Gill!)
(3) able to go on country hike in September (Malham Cove, for those who know it). Also, by now could go up stairs two/three at a time leading with left leg; also now able to run around in weekly badminton again, somewhat - though knee/shin still basically numb.
(4) Continued basic thigh-building exercise. Returned to pilates after six months; doing pilates class at least twice a week at gym since November, and, when I remember, 5-10 mins at home daily.
(5) Late March began doing a programme at gym - never used gyms before, but I realised desirability of additional focussed exercises, esp. building up adductor muscles (the most wasted in my thigh according to gym instructor - using 45 kilo setting) and using leg extension machine. Could lift 20 kilos on latter fairly easily with both legs (but with short pain), but barely managed to lift 10 with left leg alone without sharp aching pain above knee. However, getting easier (much less pain) after five weeks. Also, now try cycling with only left foot in pedal grip - quite difficult to keep right foot out of way of returning pedal!
So, 14 months later: knee/shin still v. numb; but can bear most weight put on it, and I get fewer thigh muscle aches nowadays. Things definitely getting better. So, I am hopeful. Will report back if numbness ever goes away! Writing this has been useful in summarising things for myself and realising how much progress I have made; after reading so many cries of pain and despair above, it has also made me realise I have got off relatively lightly. I definitely recommend pilates to everyone - core strength and regular systematic stretching of all the major muscle groups. Also, listen to your body. I have been at least 90 mins at computer, I just realised, reading your site and writing this. Must get up and stretch and (gently) twist ...!