Are you suffering from sciatica? Well, we have news for you.
Treatment options for sciatica can range from taking OTC pain killers and worse, undergoing surgery. But, for a natural and safer option, acupuncture is what you’re looking for.
While not necessary, your acupuncturist may also recommend some Chinese herbal medicines after your session. These supplements are customized and will help with the healing process.
So, how does acupuncture for sciatica work? Read on further to learn more!
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is any type of pain felt when the sciatic nerve is irritated. The pain can range from mild to severe and is normally caused by a compressed nerve down the lower spine.
But, sciatica shouldn’t be confused with lower back pain since it isn’t just limited to the back.
The sciatic nerve is the widest and longest nerve in the body. This means that sciatica can be felt from the lower back, down to your buttocks, along the leg, to below the knee.
Sciatica isn’t a spinal disorder in itself but is a symptom of a disorder. Some experts estimate that 40% of people will experience sciatica at least once in their lifetime.
Where is the Sciatic Nerve Located?
The nerve fibers begin at L4 and L5 (fourth and fifth lumbar vertebra) and the first segments of the sacrum.
It passes through a nerve passageway (sciatic foramen,) which is below the muscle that allows the thigh to rotate laterally (piriformis muscle.) It then goes back to the extension of the hip and to the lower part of the muscles in the buttocks (gluteus maximus, helps with thigh extension.)
The sciatic nerve then passes vertically down the back of the thigh and behind the knee. It finally branches into the calf muscle (the hamstring) and goes further down the feet.
What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
Sciatica normally affects only one side of the body: starting from your lower back or buttocks down your leg. Here are some of the common symptoms of this condition:
- a tingling, searing, or burning pain down the leg
- pain in the buttocks or leg that worsens when sitting down
- a constant pain on one side of the buttocks
- weakness or difficulty moving the foot or leg
- sharp pain that makes standing difficult
How Can Acupuncture for Sciatica Help?
Practitioners believe that the body has an energy force called Chi or Qi. If your Chi is blocked, according to them, physical illness starts to develop.
They believe acupuncture for sciatica works to restore an energetic and healthy flow of Chi.
Acupuncturists start by inserting hair-like and sterilized needles into precise points on the body called meridians. Meridians are another name for acupuncture points.
Meridians may correspond to certain parts of the body or to a body system such as the nervous, lymphatic, cardiovascular, or musculoskeletal system.
Since meridians are close to the skin’s surface, inserting the needles deep into the tissue isn’t needed. Some or all the needles can be gently heated or twisted during the treatment.
By inserting tiny needles into specific points on the body, acupuncture for sciatica helps trigger a response from the nervous system. This response leads the brain to:
- increase blood flow to that painful area
- make the body release natural painkillers (such as enkephalins and endorphins)
- relax the muscles in the surrounding area
Just remember that Eastern approaches to healing differ from the Western scientific concepts. This makes the two difficult to compare and doesn’t mean one is greater than the other.
Research on the Effectiveness of Acupuncture
A 2015 meta-analysis reviewed 122 different studies to determine the effectiveness of various treatment options for sciatica.
While there are a lot of treatments available for sciatica, patients who underwent acupuncture showed significant improvement. But, it shouldn’t be seen as a stand-alone treatment and should be paired with other pain management techniques.
Is the Treatment Painful?
Patients who have tried acupuncture for sciatica felt zero discomfort. Even those who are afraid of needles found the treatment a relaxing and painless experience.
However, just make sure to have your treatment done by a licensed acupuncturist. Working with someone inexperienced or has no knowledge is a sure way to worsen your condition.
Moreover, see to it that your acupuncturist only uses disposable needles. Check the facility for cleanliness, too, to prevent cross-contamination.
Sciatica and Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbal medicines are usually given after your acupuncture for sciatica session. These are carefully prepared and customized to your needs to help speed up the healing process.
Just make sure to only buy Chinese herbal medicines from legitimate sellers. Since more and more people are trying to sell them, it’s hard to determine which is authentic and which is not.
Acupuncture for sciatica is a safe and cost-effective way to relieve your condition. We suggest trying out our remedial massage, too, for some serious relaxation.