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I thought I knew everything about sciatica. If so, I’ve forgotten a few details. That, or a body six-plus decades in the making expresses itself differently than one in its thirties.

Three decades ago I had a bad patch of  sciatica—undiagnosed for upward of three years (I’m guessing) because I didn’t have health insurance. Finally a friend, a masseuse, suggested the cause. And over time physical therapy provided the cure.

Here, in full color, are clues to nuances I didn’t remember from the first time around.

Carry this kit, slipped into a plastic bag inside your daypack or luggage: and if you have a choice, aim for the funnel style on the left.

Like — how much misery it provokes just to pee first thing in the morning. (Why? Details below.) Ditto with getting into your jeans—let alone your long johns on a cold winter day.

So ladies … here’s your sciatica morning kit: a couple of funnels from the auto-parts store and some strong cord (look closely for the safety pins stuck through the cord). More on that slotted spoon with the funny handle later.

Look for the tranny-fluid (aka power-steering fluid) funnels. The angle is perfect. Still, practice makes perfect … you don’t want to hit the toilet seat, after all. And if you’re doing this at night by a dim bulb … don’t you go slipping the funnel in backward. Because you’ll be dropping your undies in the laundry basket before you crawl back into bed. (Put on your undies and socks before you go to bed—they too will throw you out of kilter if you wait till morning.)

I suggest the style on the left—the narrower mouth, notched midway around its circumference, is a better fit for a woman’s anatomy. Buy two: one for your backpack or satchel; the other for home.

The cord? Tie each end to the belt loops on your slacks and slowly, slowly walk your way into them. It’s awkward, but sure beats the alternative. Don’t have belt loops? Thus the safety pins. And it’s lots easier to get jeans over silk long johns (or PJ bottoms).

The slotted spoon with wooden paint stirrers taped fore and aft — that’s a homemade back-scratcher; I’ve used it to clean my gutters too. Came in handy those mornings when I couldn’t quite lift the lid to the toilet.

Doesn't that yellow one look like a snugger fit? That's what you want. But if they only carry the wider type on the left ... well, you can make it work.

My first bout of sciatica was due, I’m sure, to the fifty- and hundred-pound grain and flour sacks I hefted back when I worked in a bakery … not to mention that fridge and the mattresses I hauled (by myself) up a steep, uneven flight of concrete steps to the place I was renting back in the early 80s … the massive flagstones and glacial erratics (look it up) from my landscaping days …  and all the other heavy work I did from time to time, not thinking twice about keeping my back strong, not even knowing there’s a right and a wrong way to lift and boy, I was doing it wrong.

There you have it. Stay fit, stay safe — but if you’re already in deep, this’ll help you get back into whack. Oh … I forgot; I said I’d explain that “first thing in the morning” bit. Well, I’m told our disks take on water in the night. So if a herniated disk is already butting in on a nerve channel, it’s worse if the disk has swelled during the night. You want to give your disks two hours to let that water seep back into … wherever …  before you do anything — like sitting, like putting on your socks.

True, the red isn't that much bigger. (And I'm told it comes in purple too.) You can work with it. But it'd be worth going to a couple of auto-supply stores before you settle on one.

PS. Such a crazy warm winter we had, I didn’t even get to practice writing my name in yellow snow. Next year!