The painful and elusive “sciatica” - what is it, and how does acupuncture help?
A large majority of our patients experience sciatic pain at some point in their lives. But what does “sciatica” mean? The term “sciatic” pain is used to describe pain caused by the impingement of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, and runs down the back of the spine and into the legs and feet. Irritation or impingement of the nerve can cause radiating pain, weakness, or a burning or tingling sensation. This discomfort can be felt in the low back, glute area, the side of or back of one leg, and sometimes in the shin and foot.
Many of our patients’ pain is due to an impingement of this nerve at the low back, while others have impingement in the buttock area (by a small muscle called the piriformis). The pain patterns of these two may be different.
Using acupuncture and other modalities (such as cupping and tui na - a type of bodywork) our practitioners are able to help pin-point the source of the pain, and help relieve patients’ symptoms. Decreasing inflammation and loosening tight muscles can be key to minimizing discomfort. In Chinese medicine this equates to unblocking meridians and ensuring the free flow of energy, or qi (pronounced “chee”). It is important to note that if sciatica is caused by a structural issue, such as a degenerative disc, acupuncture cannot reverse or help it. It can, however, be used to manage the pain. Patients who get acupuncture regularly often notice significant and long lasting results.
Below are a few causes of sciatic pain that Chinese Medicine can help:
- Herniated (“bulging” or “slipped”) disc
- Piriformis syndrome
- Back spasm
- Spinal Stenosis
- Disc Degeneration
- Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction