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How can Turmeric Help Sciatica?

sciatica

Chances are that you know what sciatica is, know someone who has it, or at the very least have heard of this condition. Sciatica is literally a "pain in the butt" but you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that Curcumin, the anti-inflammatory ingredient in Turmeric has the potential to reduce nerve pain.

There are numerous studies showing that high-dose Curcumin helps inflammatory issues and nerve pain, but you need to get the right amount Curcumin per day to get the full benefits.

What is sciatica and what causes it?

Sciatica is defined as pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve originates in the low back and may branch out into the hips, glutes, and back of the legs all the way to the toes. Knowing the cause of your pain will help you reduce it.

The cause of sciatic nerve can be mechanical, ischemic (compression), or inflammatory and sometimes pain is a combination of all three including changes that occur in the brain too.

Mechanical sciatic nerve pain can usually get better with a specific treatment called the McKenzie Method, also known as Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT). The McKenzie Method analyzes the effects of movements and body positions on your symptoms through an extremely detailed assessment by a health care provider such as a physical therapist certified in the McKenzie Method.

Ischemic sciatic nerve pain can result from compression on the sciatic nerve resulting in ischemia (decreased blood flow). The goal to treat ischemic pain is to reduce compression on the nerve to allow the normal flow of electrical signals through the nerve fibers. Compression is typically caused by issues with bone spurs, disc herniations, or other degenerative changes that directly affect the nerve roots. In rare cases, it can be caused by a serious problem like a tumor encroaching on the nerve root.

Inflammatory nerve pain may be caused by damage to the sciatic nerve. As a natural defense system, the immune system responds by increasing inflammation around the nerve to initiate the healing process and protect the damaged tissue; however, excessive and lingering inflammation can lead to pain.

Symptoms of Sciatica and Prescription Medications

The symptoms associated with sciatica can vary for each person depending on the severity and where the compression is occurring. However, the symptoms are usually along the pathway of the sciatic in the lower extremities. These may include:

  • The hallmark symptom of sciatica is low back pain that radiates into the glute and down the back of the affected leg (or legs)
  • Mild to severe dull aching pain
  • Sharp electrical pain into the butt or down the back of the leg
  • Numbness, burning, tingling, or weakness in the affected leg

 

These symptoms are typically aggravated with coughing, sneezing, prolonged sitting or other flexion based activities of the spine. Occasionally both legs are affected, however symptoms typically only affect one leg.

You may also feel cramping in the legs at night, swelling, constipation, or unpleasant sensations and you should notify your doctor when you have symptoms that concern you or rapidly change.

Sciatic nerve pain can make it hard to complete normal daily activities like sitting at a desk, walking, sleeping and other routine parts of the day. Ultimately, this can lead to a lot of frustration, anxiety, and an overall decreased quality of life if not adequately addressed.

Ideally, the right treatment program can eliminate sciatic nerve pain, but it can be hard to complete this program if back and leg pain continually interrupt your ability to stay motivated and on track. This is where medication or supplements can be helpful to give enough pain relief to make it through the rough days.

Prescription medications like Diclofenac, Gabapentin, Baclofen, Neurontin, Codeine, Tramadol, or Oxycontin may provide temporary relief, but they come with immediate side effects such as drowsiness, headaches, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness. Some of those medications also come with long-term side effects such as seizures, hallucinations, liver and kidney problems, and addiction issues.

Those prescription medications play an important role in sciatic nerve pain management, but the holy grail of pain relief is to find alternative ways to reduce pain without relying on medications, injections, or surgery.  Exercise and movement are key parts of sciatic nerve pain treatment, but we'll focus on the anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing properties of Curcumin, the active ingredient in the turmeric and how you can get the right amounts of Curcumin to support your body during the healing process.

Turmeric Extract and Sciatic Nerve Pain

Turmeric extract contains the highest percentage of three curcuminoids: curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Curcumin is the most popular and researched curcuminoid due to it's anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

Injury to the sciatic nerve can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation. Curcumin has been shown to reduce oxidative stress by protecting the body from free radicals and reaction oxygens (ROS) which damage cells leading to premature aging and death of cells. Antioxidants can "neutralize" the threat of those free radicals and one of the most powerful antioxidants you can take is Turmeric Extract.

Inflammation is caused by excessive production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-α. Initially, inflammation is helpful to initiate the healing process, but the inflammatory response should decrease and be regulated after the initial injury. There are anti-inflammatory cytokines that slow or stop inflammation such as IL-10 and TGF-β. Curcumin is shown to regulate both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine production to promote a healthier inflammatory response providing you with great potential for pain relief.

A 2014 study compared the effects of taking 1200 mgs of Ibuprofen per day with 1500 mgs of Turmeric Extract per day for one month. Both groups of people in the study had knee arthritis and they reported significantly less pain and improved function except the people who took Ibuprofen reported more abdominal/discomfort.

A 2019 study compared the effects of taking 100 mgs of Diclofenac per day with 1500 mgs of Turmeric Extract per day for 28 days. Both groups of people in the study also had knee arthritis and again both groups reported significantly less pain except the people who took Turmeric Extract had less gas/flatulence. There was also an anti-ulcer effect from the Turmeric Extract. In contrast, 28% of the people taking Diclofenac were required to take H2 blockers which are used to control stomach acid and treat ulcers.

According to the studies above, Turmeric Extract is recommended for people who do not tolerate medications like Ibuprofen or Diclofenac. In some cases, Turmeric Extract can be used in combination with over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen to reduce the quantity of medication that you need to take throughout the day to control pain. Before you take any dietary supplement including Turmeric Extract, you should consult with your doctor to avoid adverse interactions with your existing medications or medical conditions.

Even though the research is very promising for Curcumin/Turmeric Extract, it's important to understand that Turmeric Extract is a dietary supplement and nutraceutical. It is not a drugs. Drugs are used to treat or prevent medical conditions. Nutraceuticals are derived from food or fortified foods that can provide physiological benefits. For example, Active Atoms Turmeric Extract would be considered a nutraceutical or dietary supplement used to promote a health benefit such as supporting a healthy inflammatory or immune response.

When managing sciatica, it's best to take a whole-person approach to address all the factors that may be causing you pain or discomfort. In addition to taking Turmeric Extract, a well-rounded recovery program may include some of the options below.

What are other ways to reduce sciatica?

There are several options for treating sciatica. Which option is best depends on the individual, recovery goals and beliefs, and other health issues.

  • Home remedies. These might include self-massage, ice, heat, a home exercise program, pain creams, or use of a TENs unit (electrical stimulation).
  • Professional options. Chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage therapy, and physical therapy are traditional medical treatments for sciatica. To understand the root cause of your pain and develop a personalized program, consider consulting a physical therapist.
  • Lifestyle modifications. Paying attention to your nutrition, fitness level, weight, sleep, and stress levels can help you better manage symptoms. Lifestyle management techniques related to these allow your body to properly cope and heal from an injury like sciatica.
  • Medication. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs), muscle relaxers, narcotics, anti-depressants, and anti-seizure medication are all possible options for relieving pain and inflammation. Unfortunately, these all come with nasty side effects, especially with chronic use. (Watch this video for a potential alternative to Ibuprofen and Diclofenac: Turmeric Extract vs. Anti-inflammatory meds).
  • Surgery. This is the least common option and is reserved for severe cases. Surgery should never be used to treat pain if no other neurological symptoms are evident.

Why do you need the right amount of Turmeric Extract?

High Potency Turmeric Extract has the potential to provide nerve pain relief without the yucky side effects that come with traditional medications like Ibuprofen. Plus, Turmeric Extract comes with a lot of additional health benefits such as boosting immunity, brain function, and digestion that you definitely don’t get with typical pain medication. When the entire body is functioning in better harmony, the healing process can be more efficient.

When looking for a turmeric extract supplement to purchase, there are a few key things to keep in mind to make sure you are getting the full benefits. First, make sure that the product contains Turmeric Extract and not just turmeric powder, which has far less potency.

A high potency turmeric supplement should contain at least 500 mg of curcuminoids (Turmeric Extract) for proper effectiveness and dosage, so pay close attention to labeling. Multiple studies used 1500 mgs of Turmeric Extract per day for 1-month, but many Turmeric supplements only contain 50-100 mgs of Turmeric Extract per capsule.

For example, the top-selling Turmeric supplement on Amazon has 50 mgs of Turmeric Extract per capsule. You would have to take 30 capsules per day to get 1500 mgs of Turmeric Extract.

Did you know this company also advertises that they have the "highest potency Turmeric available?" Before you purchase a Turmeric supplement, beware of misleading marketing tactics. Many companies list a high amount of Turmeric Powder, but Turmeric Powder is not the same as Turmeric Extract.

Turmeric Powder only contains 4-6% curcuminoids while Turmeric Extract contains 95% curcuminoids. You want to get at least 500 mgs of Turmeric Extract, not Powder if you want to best chance to get the health benefits shown in the studies. To help you understand how to read labels, we examined five popular turmeric supplements here: Misleading Turmeric Claims: 5 examples and how to read labels

Additionally, make sure our Turmeric supplement has been tested for lead. Lead contamination is a major concern with Turmeric products. A 2019 study by Stanford researchers found excessive lead in Turmeric products. Unfortunately, you won't find much information about lead testing from most Turmeric companies.

Active Atoms Turmeric Extract is regularly sent to an independent lab to test for lead. Our lab report shows undetectable levels of lead according to the strict values set for testing. The full lab report is available on our website.

Last but not least, you should take a Turmeric supplement that has high bioavailability. The bioavailability of a supplement can also make a difference for the way the body processes and absorbs the curcuminoids. Black pepper extract will your body absorb the high concentration of curcumin in Turmeric Extract.

Active Atoms Turmeric Extract contains BioPerine® which is a patented form of black pepper extract shown in research to increase the absorption of curcumin by 2000%. A well-absorbed Turmeric will allow you to harness as many health benefits as possible.

These are all factors to getting the right amount of Turmeric Extract. If you do your own research, you may realize that you'll have to take 15 capsules from several Turmeric supplements to get the optimal dose of Turmeric for inflammation. 

If you are looking to get the right amount of Turmeric Extract for a healthy inflammatory response, then try Active Atoms Turmeric Extract. We have the most Turmeric Extract per capsule on the market. Each capsule is packed with 750 mgs of Turmeric Extract so you only have to take 1-2 capsules per day.

Conclusion

As always, its important to speak with your physician prior to initiating any sciatica treatment or supplements, especially if you are unsure of where to start or if your symptoms are getting worse. As you discuss options with a healthcare provider, always keep in mind the important lifestyle factors like nutrition, exercise, and weight management as well.

A supplement or medication can never take the place of taking good care of your body. Take action today and get on the road to recovery to get back to whatever it is that you love to do.

About Dr. Marc Robinson, PT, DPT, Cert. MDT

1 Comment

  1. […] seems that a lot of people are now questioning the effectiveness of turmeric for sciatica. In some studies, it is being shown to reduce inflammation and swelling in the lower back, but how […]