Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Articles
Acupuncture and Sciatica
by Patricia Kowal, Licensed Acupuncturist in Noosa
Sciatica is a common presentation at my acupuncture clinic. It can be a real pain in the bottom! Often patients have heard from their friends and family members that they have had good results with acupuncture, and often I get referrals from physiotherapists well for this condition.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is term used for pain caused by the sciatic nerve being compressed by a spinal disc that is protruding out of alignment, or other spinal problems that contribute to the bearing down upon the sciatic nerve. The compression on the sciatic nerve causes pain symptoms (sharp shooting pain, tingling, numbness) starting at your lower back and radiating down the backs of your legs or down the sides of your thigh. Some experience pain radiating to the back of the knee, others feel it radiating to the ankle and foot. This pain can be aggravated and triggered by too much activity or too much inactivity such as: prolonged sitting and standing, long walks or running. These activities put much force on your spine and the impact the spongy discs that are in between your spinal bones. In chronic cases of sciatica there may be serious damage to the spinal disc that is causing permanent compression of the sciatic nerve. These cases typically present with more serious pain symptoms. The image to the right shows how the muscles of our buttocks can easily compress the nerve travelling through them, causing the shooting pain and discomfort.
Acupuncture and Sciatica
Acupuncture starts with a goal of aligning your body so it is able to bring itself back into a proper structural state. In sciatica, this involves the muscles of the hip, hamstrings and back. Using acupuncture needles on sites away from your pain (lower legs and upper spinal muscles) will assist in relaxing your body and muscles in order to begin treatment on the site of pain. The needles are inserted nearby the spinal areas where the nerve root is located, the low back muscles are addressed with the goal of relaxing them so they are less likely to stay imbalanced or compressing on either side of the spine and nerves.
Treatment style and frequency will vary from each individual depending on their symptoms and how long the symptoms have been present. A more recent injury or experience of sciatic pain may have faster results than a condition that has been untreated for longer periods of time.
Alternative Treatments for Sciatica
Moxibustion for Sciatica
Moxibustion is the process of burning a Chinese herb, 'moxa', on the top of the acupuncture needle or hovered over the skin to help produce a penetrating warming effect on the muscle tissues. In conditions of sciatica, moxibustion may be used to assist in relaxation of the muscles in order to help lessen compression the the sciatic nerve. With sciatica the muscles of our body begin to become off balance due to the pain we are experiencing. Our healthy muscles are being taxed in order to compensate for the muscles that are tense, stressed and compressing on the spine and nerve roots. Moxibustion may be a good addition to acupuncture treatments due to its ability to penetrate through the muscle layers of the affected areas with the goal of relieving tension and increases circulation to affected areas.
> Moxibustion information
Research on Moxibustion for Sciatica
This study used 90 cases of sciatica separated into three groups in attempt to observe the effect of moxibustion on pain threshold. Warming moxibustion was compared with with a western oral medicine group and also with acupoint injection of a pain reliever group. The group receiving moxibustion resulted in a higher amplitude of pain threshold increase than the other groups. The conclusion: "Warming needle moxibustion can increase pain threshold, improve symptoms and raise quality of life for the patient of sciatica."
[Effect of warming needle moxibustion on pain threshold in the patient of sciatica]. Source: PubMed www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16419700
Cupping Therapy for Sciatica
Cupping therapy may assist with increasing the blood circulation to affected areas and may relax the tense muscles causing sciatic pain. In sciatica, the use of cupping may help the imbalanced muscles of the spine and the hip area to relax with a goal of decompressing the muscles pushing on the spine and sciatic nerve. Cups will be placed on spinal muscles and muscles of the posterior hip and lower leg for up to twenty minutes depending on your condition.
Research on Acupuncture and Sciatica
This research depicted below studied 50 patients with sciatica symptoms being treated with specific acupuncture points over a span of 10 treatments (one treatment per day every third or fourth day). The acupuncture points were chosen due to their direct relation to the sciatic nerve. The results of the study showed that the acupuncture points on specific areas were able to to reduce sciatic symptoms in the participants. Six months after the study, the researchers continued to follow the participants and results are shown below.
If you or anyone you know if suffering with sciatic pain and are interested in acupuncture treatments for sciatica, contact me today to set up your appointment!
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> Patricia Kowal is an AHPRA Licensed Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbal Practitioner in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.
Please follow up with your practitioner if you are unsure or are having questions about the information contained in this material.
Close To The Bone, David Legge, D.O.
[Effect of warming needle moxibustion on pain threshold in the patient of sciatica]. PubMed www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16419700
Wang C, Ma J, Xiao L. Treatment of 50 cases of sciatica by needling zanzhu and fengchi. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2003;23(1):51-52. http://www.jcm.co.uk/product/catalog/product/view/7270/treatment-of-50-cases-of-sciatica-by-needling-zanzhu-and-fengchi/