Hey TDawgRex, sorry to hear about your suffering.
I'll admit that I don't have the same issues as you, but I've done a lot of research over the past year or so in an attempt to get rid of nagging
pain issues that have been creeping up on me - one thing that keeps cropping up is the role of muscle tension in a wide range of issues (including
sciatica), and the almost complete lack of knowledge shown by doctors when it comes to these problems.
Reading through the thread, I think your issue has come about as follows:
1. The trauma to your right knee (either through the operations you've had, or the incidents leading to them) have caused the muscles in your right
leg to spasm/seize up in an attempt to 'protect' yourself from further harm. This is what's drawing your right leg up, making it appear to be
shorter than the left.
2. These spasms tend to throw you out of balance, resulting in further problems in other areas. You've stated you have back spasms - I imagine this
is at least partially due to the knee issue, although poor posture will play a part here too.
3. The back spasms are pulling your spine backwards, like a bow, causing your vertebrae to pull close together and resulting in the disc compression
that's showing up in scans.
4. The bulging discs are pressing against the sciatic nerve, resulting in your pain.
(Above is just my view so please don't take as gospel
A number of posters have given sound advice in terms of taking up Tai Chi, yoga etc - the reason these should work long term is that they encourage
relaxation and stretching of the muscles, which would release the spine and compressed discs. The only problem is this takes time and patience, which
can be short when you're in pain(!).
Chiropractic adjustment will often relieve pain almost immediately (as you've seen) because you're taking the pressure off the discs by putting the
spine back in place. This is fine if the issue is caused by a one off accident, but in cases where muscle tension is the root cause (which I believe
is your case), this will only be short term relief as the muscles will continue to pull the spine out of line. Obviously if you need the relief then
go to a good chiropractor, but you should continue to work on a long term solution as well.
Ultimately, your goal should be to regain control over your muscles and posture to stop the tension issues you're having. This should relieve the
pressure on your back and end the pain. As I said above, Tai Chi and yoga are good long term solutions for this but require patience (and preferably
supervision by a good teacher). Another possible idea is somatic exercises - these are specifically designed to help you become aware of and take
control of tense muscles. These can be learned from a book, but if you have a teacher/practitioner in your area a few sessions might help you to
progress more quickly.
Sorry for the long post, but having read the thread you've had a *lot* of different ideas thrown at you - hopefully I've helped to give you an
overview of the issue (at least as I understand it) and a more clear understanding of what's potentially going on. Obviously the most important thing
is for you to listen to your own body, and go with what seems to make sense to you. If you're interested in doing some reading (not everyone's cup
of tea, I know
) then I've included links below to the books I've personally bought. Most of the info in them is probably available online, but I
tend to find it's easier to digest if you find it in one place in a book.
Somatics (Thomas Hanna)
- contains a number of somatic exercises, good for learning somatics at home.
The Potent Self (Moshe Feldenkrais)
- the first book I bought on somatics, but more to do with the theory behind it. Good for interest but
won't be much help with your sciatica
Trigger Point Therapy (Clair Davies)
- shows you how to directly release tension caused by 'trigger points' in your muscles. Also
has info at the end about reducing your overall tension levels which may help - only just bought the book so I can't comment on how effective it is
of Qigong (Kenneth Cohen)
- provides a good overview of qigong (similar to Tai Chi) plus a lot of interesting detail. I found the exercises
relaxing, but didn't have the patience to keep at them (I probably should give them another go