What is sciatica?
The main nerve in our legs is called the sciatic nerve. It is formed from several nerves leading from the lower back that travels through the buttock and down each leg.
When the sciatic nerve is inflamed, pain/numbness/weakness is felt in the buttock and upper thigh. In severe cases it can travel all the way down to the feet, where the pain is felt down the back of the leg or the outside of the leg depending on which part of the sciatic nerve is inflamed.
The pain may be constant or it may be a sudden pinching sensation.
What causes the sciatica?
There are thought to be many factors which lead to the development of sciatic pain.
These include having a weak back, poor posture and wearing high heeled shoes.
It is commonly seen in people who have jobs which involve a lot of heavy lifting, such as builders; those which involve long periods of sitting still, such as office work or taxi driving; those which involve long periods of standing such as a shop assistant.
Pregnancy is also a very common time for sciatica to develop where the mothers posture has to adjust to the additional weight it is carrying.
In severe cases of sciatic pain the cause may be a slipped vertebral disc which presses onto the nerve itself in the lower back (slipped disc),
How is sciatica commonly treated?
Sciatica is often treated with pain killers or anti inflammatory drugs. In some cases the doctor will recommend an epidural injection of an anaesthetic drug into the lower back. If the cause of the pain can be identified, such as a slipped disc, then surgery may be needed.
Helping Sciatica with Acupuncture
Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a holsitic approach to the treatment of sciatica. The acupuncture points used are mainly in the lower back and affected legs. The needles follow the path of the sciatic nerve and directly stimulate it. The body in response to the stimulation releases various natural pain relievers such as serotonin and opioid peptides and it is these that help to relive the pain felt.
The Chinese philosophy is to balance the energy flow in the leg and therefore relieve the pain.
It is common for an electro-acupuncture machine to be connected to the needles once they have been inserted into the body. This provides a continuous stimulation to the needles. Its works in a similar way to a tens machine.
Does treatment hurt?
No, acupuncture does not hurt although during a good treatment a dull ache or travelling sensation down the leg will be felt. This is a normal feeling of the acupuncture points being activated and will pass within several minutes of the needle being inserted. The needles are usually left in between 20-30 minutes.
How many sessions are needed?
Helping Sciatica with Acupuncture is not a quick fix solution and the recovery time depends on the severity of each case. This depends on the individual but usually 5-10 treatments are needed. Top up sessions thereafter help to prevent reoccurrence of the pain.
Are there any side effects from the acupuncture?
No, acupuncture for sciatica is very safe. Some patients may experience some drowsiness or slight bruising. It is also safe and very effective for pregnant woman with sciatica.
Lorena Molossi BSc (Hons) BM MBAcC Dip Tuina ITEC Dip Reflexology ITEC Dip Holistic Massage