What is sciatica?
Sciatica is pain, numbness, or tingling due to a problem with the sciatic nerve. The pain often starts in the low back and extends down into the glute, thigh, and even all the way into the feet. There are many possible causes of sciatica and often times it may be difficult for your doctor to determine the exact cause. Somewhere along its’ path, the sciatic nerve becomes pinched or irritated and creates pain that radiates down the leg. Usually, symptoms are one sided but can occur on both sides.
How is sciatica treated?
Usually, conservative treatment for sciatica is recommended. This may include heat, ice, pain medication, exercises, massage, or acupuncture. Occasionally, surgery may be needed. Recently, more emphasis has been put on non-drug therapies, such as acupuncture, to address pain due to the growing overuse and abuse of prescription pain killers.
How does acupuncture help?
Acupuncture is really effective at treating pain of any kind; so it’s no surprise that it’s effective for sciatica too! Acupuncture can help relieve sciatica by:
- encouraging tight muscles to relax that may be contributing to the pain. Often, a muscle called the piriformis in the gluteal area can pinch the sciatic nerve because the nerve runs right under this muscle or sometimes right through the muscle.
- promoting a reduction in inflammation to decrease irritation around the nerve.
- initiating a release of endorphins to naturally reduce pain.
Of course, it’s always best to visit with your doctor about your health concerns to rule out any red flags. An acupuncturist cannot diagnose sciatica but may be able to provide pain relief.