Constipation is a leading cause of low back pain in America and can cause a chain reaction in the rest of the body. When the digestional tract swells, it generates added stress on the back and surrounding nerves. Prolonged constipation and pressure can cause sciatica symptoms. Constipation sciatica can be relieved through chiropractic treatment, therapeutic massage, non-surgical spinal decompression, and functional medicine to alleviate symptoms and restore optimal body function.
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Sciatica is irritation, compression, and inflammation of the sciatic nerve, which supplies the thighs, lower legs, and feet. It is usually caused by a pinched/compressed of one or more spinal nerve roots between the vertebrae of the lower back. The buildup of stool in the intestines can cause a dull aching sensation in the low back that can radiate to surrounding areas. Common causes of constipation include:
- Insufficient water/hydration levels.
- An unhealthy diet.
- Vitamin deficiency.
- Little to no physical activity.
- Sporadic and unhealthy bowel movements.
- Overuse of laxatives or enemas.
Other causes of constipation include:
- Medication reactions.
- Antacids that contain aluminum or calcium.
- Calcium channel blockers.
- Iron supplements.
- Pain medications, especially narcotics.
Bowel movements vary for everyone, and not having a movement daily does not mean constipation is occurring. Some individuals have only three movements a week, while others have multiple movements daily. A recommended indicator of constipation is if there has been a sudden decrease in typical bowel movements. The digestive tract occupies a significant region of the lower torso. Back pain symptoms can present after the rectum becomes obstructed or stools have solidified in the colon. Once constipation has developed, the blockage presses against the nerves and muscles of the back. This causes a range of discomfort signaling by the brain, which worsens as the backup grows. Symptoms of general constipation include:
- Feeling full despite not eating anything.
- Abdominal cramping.
- Infrequent bowel movements.
- Discomfort or aching when trying to pass a stool.
- Hard and/or lumpy stool.
Constipation is considered chronic when two or more of the following symptoms occur for at least three months:
- Further decreased bowel movements.
- Straining to defecate.
- Stools do not loosen without the use of laxatives.
- Passage of hard pebble/pellet stools.
- Consistent abdominal pain that is relieved by even slight movement.
- Feeling as if the bowels are not fully emptied or a blockage in the rectum.
- Feeling the need to assist the release by pressing on the abdomen.
Chiropractic treatment can realign the spine, release compressed nerves, increase the frequency of bowel movements, and through the massage and relaxation of the muscles, help to soften stools. Intestinal muscles push the stool to the anus, where it leaves/evacuates the body. Special nerve cells in the intestine, known as ganglion cells, innervate the muscles to push. These nerves connect to the celiac ganglion, which connects to the spinal cord through nerve roots that exit the spine in the lower thoracic and upper lumbar region. The celiac ganglion innervates the liver, stomach, gallbladder, spleen, kidneys, small intestine, and the ascending and transverse colon. Treatment for constipation and back pain depends on the cause of the symptoms. For example, if the constipation is caused by dehydration, a chiropractor will instruct the patient on water intake as part of the personalized treatment plan.
Diagnosis to Recovery
Fernandes, Walkyria Vilas Boas, et al. “The effect of a six-week osteopathic visceral manipulation in patients with non-specific chronic low back pain and functional constipation: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial.” Trials vol. 19,1 151. 2 Mar. 2018, doi:10.1186/s13063-018-2532-8
Panarese, Alba, et al. “Chronic functional constipation is strongly linked to vitamin D deficiency.” World journal of gastroenterology vol. 25,14 (2019): 1729-1740. doi:10.3748/wjg.v25.i14.1729
Rédly, Monika. “The effects of chiropractic care on a patient with chronic constipation.” The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association vol. 45,3 (2001): 185–191.
Trager, Robert James, et al. “Association between radicular low back pain and constipation: a retrospective cohort study using a real-world national database.” Pain reports vol. 6,3 e954. 26 Aug. 2021, doi:10.1097/PR9.0000000000000954
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