The pain associated with the condition of sciatica is due to damage to the individual’s nerve tissue. In most cases, this nerve damage is not permanent.
However, there are some signs that could indicate a more serious condition, which will require immediate medical assistance, such as the following:
- If you feel numbness and/or weakness, surgery may be necessary- so if you are experiencing this
- If you experience bladder and/or bowel incontinence and/or an increase in weakness or loss of sensation in your legs
Separating Fact from Fiction about Sciatica
Your sciatic nerve starts in your lower back and travels down to your toes. This is true- your sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in your entire body.
It starts in the front of the piriformis muscle, which is deep in your buttocks, and encompasses the lowest two nerves exiting the lower spine- your L4 and L5 vertebrae- and your first three sacral nerves- your S1, S2, & S3.
Each one of these nerves has two branches, one on each side of your spine. The root of each of these nerves exits your spine between two of the vertebrae in your lower back, travels down the back of each one of your legs, and then branches out of your leg into each one of your feet.
Pain that radiates along your sciatic nerve is excruciating- and can even be debilitating for many individuals.
Leg Pain caused by sciatica is due to a problem in your lower back. This is true- even though most people believe that when they experience leg pain, it means that there is something going wrong with their legs.
However, due to the fact that your sciatic nerve goes through your lower back, into your legs, and finally into your feet, problems resulting in nerve compression in your lower back can cause you to experience pain in your lower back, your legs, your feet, and even sometimes causes your toes to be in pain.
The condition of sciatica is not genetic. Sciatica is the result of problems in the lower back that can be caused by the process of aging or an injury to the spine. Though many people seem to think that these conditions are genetic, they are not.
The condition of piriformis syndrome feels much like the condition of sciatica- but they are actually two completely different conditions.
When your piriformis muscle becomes tight, it can cause irritation to your sciatic nerve, which can result in pain that is much like sciatica, including numbness and/or be tingling that runs from your lower back through your rear and down your legs into your feet.
So, though the discomfort caused by piriformis syndrome is much like that of sciatica, they are the result of two different things.
Piriformis syndrome isn’t the result of a compressed nerve root, as sciatica is. Learning how to tell the difference can help with finding the right treatment.
Pain due to joint problems or arthritis is much more common than the condition of sciatica- and they are not related to each other at all- though they are often confused.
The truth is that arthritis and related conditions and the condition of sciatica actually are two completely different types of pain.
As already mentioned, sciatica is a radicular pain and is the result of a pinched nerve. Referred leg pain due to arthritis is often a dull and achy pain and will move around and vary in intensity.
Again, learning to tell the difference between the two can help you to find an effective treatment for your condition.
What are Bowel Movements?
The term “bowel movement” is synonymous with defecation or, to put it more bluntly, pooping.
While many people do not spend too much time thinking about what their bowel movements look like, what you plop into the toilet bowl every day can tell you a lot about your health.
Essentially, your bowel movements exist somewhere along a spectrum of being healthy or unhealthy, depending on their shape, color, consistency, and frequency.
Different Types of Bowel Movements
The way your bowel movements look can tell you a lot about how your gastrointestinal tract is performing.
Nurse Hatty illustrates in this YouTube video, the shape of your poop can indicate whether you are experiencing healthy or unhealthy gut functions.
The Bristol Stool chart, as she demonstrates, shows the seven different types of bowel movements.
According to the Bristol Stool Chart, you will have one of the seven following types of bowel movements:
1. Hardened, separate lumps (which indicate constipation)
2. Lumpy and sausage-shaped stool (which are indicative of mild constipation)
3. Sausage-like stool with tiny cracks in the surface (which is considered normal)
4. Smooth and snake-like (which is also considered normal)
5. Softened blobs with clearly-defined edges (which reflect a lack of enough fiber in the diet)
6. Mushy-looking with jagged edges (which indicates mild diarrhea)
7. Liquidy and lacking any solid areas (which is considered to be severe diarrhea)
Additionally, stool color can be a good sign of gut health. As Dr. Benjamin Wedro points out, a healthy bowel movement should be light to medium brown in hue.
Some mild changes in color are actually normal and shouldn’t raise any red flags concerning your health.
Changes in your diet and/or medication intake can cause your stool to change colors.
Iron supplements, for example, are known to cause blackened stool, especially when taken at high dosage levels.
However, dramatic changes in stool color can be linked to certain conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, and Diverticulitis.
Stool that is red or black in color could indicate that there is bleeding happening somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract and should be addressed by your doctor.
Can Sciatica Affect Your Bowels?
One of the most common symptoms of sciatica is a change in bowel movements.
Many who experience the searing pain of sciatica also deal with severe constipation.
Dr. Shannon Thieroff writes that not only does sciatica cause constipation, but it can lead to a loss of bowel control when the condition develops into cauda equina syndrome, which is the result of damage done to the nerve bundles located at the bottom of your spinal cord.
Oftentimes, constipation pre-dates sciatic nerve pain and is something that many patients do not seek treatment for early on. Stress and eating habits tend to play a role in the development of constipation as your gut flora becomes increasingly unhealthy.
Colon Pressing On Sciatic Nerve
When one of the nerves in your lower lumbar area becomes compressed or is damaged in some way, the pressure on the sciatic nerve sends pain shooting through your lower back and down into your leg.
Tingling and numbness can also result. The Sciatica Authority website states central, foraminal, and cervical central spinal stenosis are all known to cause constipation and sciatica.
Anything that places a good amount of pressure on the sciatic nerve can trigger sciatic pain. Spinal tumors and colon cancer can be culprits that cause sciatica.
Sciatica can also be triggered by distention of the bowels, which can press the colon onto the sciatic nerve.
Constipation and sciatic pain can occur separately or together, and it can sometimes be difficult to determine which one triggered the other.
Even a highly-qualified neurologist might need to run several tests on a patient and look at the correlation between symptoms before settling on a diagnosis.
As a non-spinal agent in causing sciatic nerve pain, when constipation is properly treated, some of the pressure placed on the sciatic nerve by the colon can be alleviated.
What is the Best Food for Bowel Movements?
What you consume either helps or hurts you; unfortunately, there is not too much in-between. Eating the right types of food can improve your bowel movements.
For those with sciatica and other chronic pain and inflammation symptoms, making dietary changes can be crucial in reversing the severity of those symptoms.
Prunes are one of the most abundant sources of dietary fiber, which the human body requires.
As Lever, Cole, Scott, Emery, and Whelan found in their review of several studies, the consumption of prunes at a dosage level of 100 grams per day seems to be effective at improving the frequency and consistency of bowel movements. In fact, just one prune has an entire gram of fiber.
Another food to add to your diet to help improve bowel movements is a kiwi.
Kiwi is a fruit that lacks fructose, which is known to cause gas and bloating. A single cup of kiwi contains 5 grams of fiber, and kiwi is also loaded up with vitamin C.
Flaxseeds are tiny powerhouses when it comes to fiber. Just one tablespoon of flaxseeds contains 2 grams of fiber, and with how easily they can be mixed into meals, a little bit of flaxseed can go a long way in regulating bowel movements.
Just make sure that you don’t eat flaxseeds whole since your body cannot properly digest them and garner enough of their nutrients that way.
One of the most important things that you can do to keep bowel movements regular is to drink enough water.
The colon’s main task is to reabsorb water, so when your body is dehydrated, it makes stools firmer and more difficult to pass.
Drinking at least 8 to 10 glasses of water per day can produce more normalized bowel movements, but those who suffer from chronic dehydration might need to drink even more.
Most Common Sciatica Treatment
Due to the fact that there are many different conditions that can cause nerve roots to become compressed and result in the condition of sciatica- one individual’s treatment options will most likely be much different than those for someone else. Check the prices for the bestseller Pillow for Sciatica Relief on Amazon
Of course, no matter who you are or what the cause of your sciatica, a combination of treatments is typically the most effective choice. Following are a few of the most common treatment options:
- Chiropractic treatments and physical therapy are often effective for relieving pressure on your sciatic nerve
- Using ice massage and heat therapies are often effective for relieving acute pain due to the condition of sciatica
- Anti-inflammatory medications and/or oral steroids are often used to relieve inflammation
- Steroid injections are often used to relieve inflammation around the nerve root and the back pain associated with this inflammation
- If you are using other non-surgical treatments, you can use pain medications (OTC or prescription, depending on the choice you and your physician make)
- Surgery may be considered as an option for treatment- typically only after the nonsurgical, or conservative, treatments have not been effective
While sciatica is typically a short-term condition- lasting only a few weeks when conservative treatments are used- this may not be true for everyone.
In some cases, the condition of sciatica may last for several months. This is why there are so many treatment options that must be adjusted according to the individual.
In some cases, surgery really is the best option. Of course, there is a fine line you must walk- surgery should not be done too early or too late.
You should give yourself time to use some of the more conservative treatments first- but if those do not work, you should not be suffering.
If you have reached a point where you have lost some of your functioning, surgery may be your best option.
While sciatic pain is typically excruciating, and can even be debilitating in some cases- if it causes you to have bladder and/or bowel incontinence, you should see your physician as soon as possible.
This way, you will be able to work together to rule out other more serious conditions.
If you are suffering from sciatica, the best thing to do is to take care of yourself- get adequate rest and exercise, but don’t do too much.
You want to give that nerve time to heal so that you can get back to your normal routine as soon as possible.
9 Essential Oils for Sciatica
Sciatic pain stems from nerve inflammation making essential oils an effective remedy for the condition compared to over-the-counter painkillers that only treat the symptom of the condition.
Try these 9 essential oils to not only relieve pain but also treat the underlying cause of the issue.
Best known as a digestive agent, ginger is actually one of the best oils for treating sciatica.
The oil contains helpful warming and soothing properties that relax the affected nerves and reduce pain.
The ginger rhizome, from which the oil is extracted, actually contains an important Phyto compound known as Zingibain that has been found as one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories.
Ginger also has important analgesic properties that help to soothe pain in the muscles, joints, and nerves.
Another powerful anti-inflammatory, marjoram is an aromatic oil that is effective for treating a number of issues related to sciatic pain.
The oil functions to reduce and control inflammation to not only relieve the pain common of sciatica but to actually eliminate the source.
The oil is also known for reducing stress and calming emotions, making it the perfect treatment option for those struggling with annoying back and leg pain.
According to LiveStrong, One of the most popular oils, peppermint is found in any number of pain-relieving blends. Its inclusion in pain-reducing combinations is as it should be, though.
Peppermint not only offers a unique cooling sensation, but it also reduces inflammation.
So this oil serves to calm the irritation in the nerve as well as reduce any muscle spasms that may be contributing to the pinched nerve.
A well-known cousin of peppermint, wintergreen is also known for its unique pain-relieving effects. Wintergreen doesn’t just relieve pain, however.
This oil is also an antispasmodic and analgesic, so it functions to stimulate the nerves to a point that they actually run out of pain-transmitting neurochemicals.
Wintergreen oil is also an effective anti-inflammatory that even works as a mild sedative to ease the body – physically and mentally.
A powerful warming oil, eucalyptus is both soothing and anti-inflammatory. Not only that, but this oil also has strong analgesic properties, so it is ideal for relieving stiffness, pain, and aches. Eucalyptus also has a wonderful smell that many find refreshing.
Though lavender is not quite as warming as some of the other oils, it is still a powerful anti-inflammatory that soothes back pain.
It is also widely used for reducing stress, fatigue, and anxiety, so it can help relieve many of the byproducts of ongoing sciatic pain.
A top-rated oil for backaches according to Dr. Mercola, rosemary is similar to lavender in that it serves a number of purposes.
Rosemary is a strong analgesic, so it is ideal for relieving pain. The oil also has tonic qualities so it acts to improve one’s overall feeling of wellness and energy.
Birch is a powerful detoxifying oil that has powerful pain relieving properties. The oil actually contains a notable amount of methyl salicylate and salicylic acid, which according to WebMD is a powerful NSAID.
With those components alone the oil is an effective pain reliever, but it also provides a cooling effect that reduces inflammation-causing chemicals in the body.
Another aromatic oil, clove does more than just smell good. This oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and antiseptic, so it not only reduces muscle cramping, but it also promotes effective blood circulation throughout the body – aiding in both toxin removal as well as oxygenation of the effective muscles and tendons.
All of these oils are best applied in combination with a carrier oil. For the best results, use sweet almond, coconut, sesame, jojoba, or hemp seed oil.
Make a blend using a combination of the oils above and one of the carrier oils and apply as needed to treat your sciatica safely and effectively.
Blends for Sciatic Pain
Try these recipes as a starting place for your ideal blend.
- 10 drops peppermint
- 10 drops rosemary
- 10 drops lavender
Combine the oils and dilute with one teaspoon of carrier oil.
- 2 drops marjoram
- 3 drops lavender
- 3 drops ginger
- 5 drops peppermint
Combine the oils and dilute with one teaspoon of carrier oil. If you are in less pain, dilute with up to one tablespoon of carrier oil.
Whether using an individual oil or a blend, be sure to dilute the oil as recommended until you know how your body reacts to it. High-quality oils have potent effects and can affect individuals differently.
Learn more about safely diluting essential oils in this informational video.