Every week it seems I get a new patient presenting with sciatica. The severity varies from burning in their glutes to sharp, shooting pain down their leg, making walking very difficult. But just sitting makes it even worse. Fortunately, acupuncture for sciatica works very well. There are many strategies for it in Chinese medicine, just as there are many different presentations of sciatica.
What is Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in our body. It starts at the nerve roots that come the lumbar and sacral spine. It travels through the gluteal region, down the legs and into the feet. Although “true sciatica” is only felt behind the calves and at the bottom of the feet, there are many more symptoms associated with the term sciatica.
Some major symptoms are:
- Low back pain
- Constant pain into the gluteal region
- Burning or tingling radiating down the legs
- Weakness in the legs
- Shooting pain down the legs making it difficult to stand
- Pain in glutes or legs that is worse when sitting
Some common causes of Sciatica are:
- Degenerative arthritis in the lumbar spine
- Lumbar or lumbosacral disc pathologies
- Spinal Stenosis
- Piriformis, low back or gluteal muscle spasm
How Does Acupuncture for Sciatica work?
There are many different strategies for treatment of sciatica with acupuncture. The first thing that needs to be done is an assessment, to figure out what is the cause of the sciatic pain. Very often, there is no need to treat the actual leg where the pain is occurring.
Regardless of the cause of pain, there are 5 very powerful acupuncture points on the hand that are excellent for sciatica going down the opposite leg. These points can immediately reduce acute sciatic pain. These five points allow more qi and blood movement through the leg and pain is reduced.
Now is when the assessment I’ve made is very important. When I find that sciatica symptoms are coming from the lumbar or sacral spine, I will use electro-acupuncture in the low back. If I find the sciatica is coming from muscle spasms, I will use dry needling techniques. This breaks up muscle knots, and relieves pressure that was causing the sciatica.
Usually, I like to see somebody for 8-10 treatments for sciatica. Everybody is different though, sometimes less is sufficient, sometimes more is necessary.