I often get asked if acupuncture can help with the pain of sciatica and the short answer is yes.
Sciatica refers to pain that radiates posteriorly down the leg from the buttock to below the knee. Numbness or tingling can accompany the pain symptoms. Sciatica is caused by inflammation or compression of the nerve roots in the 4th and 5th lumbar region and the 1st sacral level. Sciatica can cause severe discomfort and functional limitation.
As I am a physiotherapist as well as an acupuncturist, I can examine clients to find out the location of the pain, the nature of the pain (sharp or dull), and what factors trigger the pain, in order to provide the correct treatment to be administered.
Does acupuncture help sciatica?
Acupuncture can really help reduce the pain caused by sciatica by invigorating the flow of qi (the Chinese term for “Life Force”) and blood throughout the area in order to relieve the pain, reduce inflammation and promote the body’s own healing ability.
There is good scientific evidence to show that acupuncture helps sciatica and other nerve pain of the leg. There are a number of acupuncture channels passing from the area of the lower back and hip down the legs and these often follow pathways of pain. I use acupuncture in these areas to stimulate blood flow in the muscles and other tissues, which leads to increased circulation around and away from the site of pain, promoting healing.
Acupuncture for sciatica can also work to anaesthetise the area and reduce nerve sensitivity. It has been found to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. It works on local muscle and nerve tissue to promote the circulation of blood and encourage the immune system to work efficiently. It has been found to have an effect to reduce the sensitivity of pain receptors in the brain and promote levels of serotonin and noradrenaline which also help with pain control and speed up the repair of nerves.
Anxiety and stress can be triggers leading to the onset of sciatica, Acupuncture can improve levels of stress and tension in the body and enhance general relaxation. Additional acupuncture points used around the body to decrease body tension can assist to resolve some of the underlying causes of the sciatic symptoms.