Having been a sciatica patient myself, I understand how much pain and discomfort that sciatica could bring to your life. The most common symptoms are low back pain that travels from one side of the hip and buttock areas down one leg with a burning and/or shooting sensation (sometimes both legs are involved). The symptoms may appear suddenly or gradually and could last for days or even weeks. Sometimes the symptoms may get worse when sitting for a long period, or during coughing or sneezing. Lower back pain, however, does not always involve the sciatic nerve problem. So what is sciatica? Sciatica is a type of radiating back pain in the distribution of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is one of the largest nerves that runs from the lower back area down the back of the leg to the foot. There will be certain evaluation tests that your healthcare provider or doctor will perform on you. The pain can be severe but usually resolved in a few weeks with conservative treatments.
Sciatica could be caused by various reasons. It is commonly a result of an intervertebral disk herniation causing nerve compression in the low back spine. This intervertebral disk is a gel-like cushion that provides shock absorption and flexibility between the vertebrae in the spine. As a person ages, these gel-like cushion disks get worn out and weaker and will be more vulnerable and susceptible to get injuries causing nerve compression such as one in the sciatica condition. This compression causes pain, inflammation, and sometimes numbness in the affected side. Another reason for sciatica includes spinal stenosis in which the spinal canal inside the vertebrae gets narrowed and adds pressure to the nerves that pass through this canal. Once this canal is narrowed, symptoms such as sciatica may happen. Spinal canal narrowing conditions are usually more common in elderly people. Other causes of sciatica include piriformis syndrome, spinal tumors or injuries, and pregnant women adding pressure on the sciatic nerve during pregnancy.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), acupuncture treatment has been proven through controlled trials to be effective for treating sciatica. Back pain has been reportedly ranked the No. 1 reason for people seeking acupuncture treatment. Another report by the National Institute of Health shows and concludes that acupuncture can relieve the symptoms of sciatica (see report here). In addition, recommendations have been made along with guidelines from the American Pain Society and American College of Physicians that doctors should consider acupuncture as an alternative therapy for patients with chronic low back pain that conventional treatment cannot provide results (see report here). If you need acupuncture treatment and would like to discuss how acupuncture can help relieve your low back pain and sciatica, please feel free to contact me.
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References: Image from WebMD.com
Dr. Kang P. Tee is a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, New York State Licensed Acupuncturist and Board Certified Diplomate of Acupuncture and Herbalist by NCCAOM. His interests include musculoskeletal