Acupuncture for Sciatica Pain

Sciatica is the most common disorder seen in our acupuncture clinic. It is a form of nerve inflammation and getting rid of inflammation is what acupuncture does best.

Signs and symptoms: 

The sciatic nerve can literally be a huge pain in the butt.  It is the largest nerve in the body, which consists of a large bundle of smaller nerves that begin in the lumbar spine, travel down the buttocks, and move through the leg.  Technically, sciatica is not a disease, but a group of symptoms that affect the region of the sciatic nerve.  These may include back pain but there may be only hip, leg pain or even foot pain. Sometimes there is minimal pain and the patient mostly suffers from numbness or tingling, we call paresthesia. There may be leg weakness or coldness. The presentation is quite a bit variable and usually manifests on one side only.

There may be aching, stabbing or burning pains. There may be spasms, shooting pain or the leg may give out causing a fall.

Cause of Sciatica pain

In Chinese Medicine, it says“where is blockage, where is pain; where is weakness, where is pain (不通则痛,不荣则痛)”.  Generally there are six channels that flow through the arm which dominate the circulation and function of the hip,sacrum, thigh and hamstring. If any of these channels are blocked, it will affect the energy flow and blood flow therefore pain, numbness or spasm happens.  It is important to find out where the blockage is, and to clear it.

How do we find out where your blockage is?

When you come to our clinic, an experienced TCM practitioner will firstly review your holistic medical history, ask you to do several movement to decide which channels get blocked. We will also check your body through the traditional diagnosis method, such as pulse and tongue diagnosis. This will successfully find out what channel is obstructed, and then we will develop a treatment plan for you to help clear the blockages, rebuild your circulation and return function to normal. The treatment is dependent on your individual case such as; acupuncture or cupping or scrubbing or medication.

Important tips for helping sciatica pain

For my patients, sitting posture often has a profound effect on the course of their condition. We sit in the car, on the couch, in front of the computer, when we eat, or read, or watch or go out. Sitting is a very un-natural state. It is potentially very injurious. Large scale studies find sitting to increase mortality, meaning it causes people to die before their time. Problems with metabolism, circulation, digestion and immunity among other systems, exacerbated by sitting, increased the risk of what researchers called all cause mortality.

But sitting is really hard on the back. Tremendous strain is placed on the low back and hips especially when slouching.

Maintaining a lumbar curve while seated often improves the outcome. In some cases it was all that was needed. If the condition was caused by improper seated posture, I would first try correcting it.

Here we see two different postures. On the left is how we all sit. The right looks better. It is very difficult if not impossible to train yourself to sit up straight. You just cannot remember with the sort of consistency required. As soon as you move your attention to what you are doing, like driving, the low back flattens out and the whole back looks like a big “C”. 
I suggest a lumbar support. Not the kind intended for that purpose, another sort. This could be a conventional couch cushion. The idea is to select a support that is big enough and firm enough to prevent your lower back from flattening out and looking like a “C” (on the left). We want the support to help our back take on the shape of an “S” (on the right).

Treatment in our Clinic 

More treatments include Chinese Medicine median massage, hot or cold packs, stretching or strengthening exercises, ointments and liniments

I would suggest my patient to try 8-10 treatments along with conservative methods mentioned above, before they consider something more invasive such as injections of various types and in various locations and of course surgery.

It is also important to note that, during the treatment, depending on several factors, the symptoms of sciatica may vary. Even in the same patient, there may be dramatic variation from one moment to the next. This is common when nerves get inflamed. In our clinic, our experienced practitioner will decide a thorough treatment strategy that include a differential diagnosis, the attempt to figure out why the nerve is inflamed so as to treat the root cause of sciatica pain.

It is our responsibility as practitioners to try the most effective and most conservative modalities first.For this purpose, acupuncture is unrivaled. It is without risk, highly effective and not difficult to endure, as it is painless. It is also accessible to all, whether or not they have medical insurance. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, the relief comes quickly and often results in a permanent solution.