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Acupuncture for sciatica pain

On this page

  1. Overview
  2. Symptoms
  3. Causes
  4. Treatment
  5. Acupuncture points
  6. Self-care tips
  7. Research proven benefits

1. Overview

Sciatica is a medical condition with pain along the sciatic nerve with pain radiating through the lower back, buttock and outer leg causing leg pain and numbness or weakness. It is caused by is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine (spinal stenosis) that pinch the sciatic nerve along the spinal cord and can be extremely painful. Usually pressure on the sciatic nerve causes sciatica pain.

2. Symptoms

Sciatic pain starts from the lower back (L4) through the tailbone (S1), buttock (piriformis syndrome) and down the outside of the leg to the foot. Symptoms of sciatica include tingling numbness, chronic pain and a disc herniation.

3. Causes

The causes of sciatica include:

An interesting observation is the increase incidence of sciatica among female athletes during their menstrual cycle. This is caused by the liver which controls the menstrual cycle in Chinese medicine, affecting its paired organ, the gallbladder, which travels along the same course as the sciatic nerve.

4. Acupuncture for sciatica

Conventional treatment includes advice to stay active and continue daily activities; exercise therapy; painkillers such as paracetamol, NSAIDs, an opioid; muscle relaxants; corticosteroid spinal injections to the nerve root; and referral for consideration of surgery. However, there is a lack of strong evidence of effectiveness for most of these interventions.

Strong pain relievers such as Tramadoil are now more commonly used for chronic sciatica. Unfortunately, these have side effects such as opiate addiction. Many patients don't like taking them for long term. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture can treat sciatic pain without side effects of addiction.

Other forms of treatment include spinal manipulation and physical therapy of the piriformis muscles from physical therapists.

Acupuncture treatment is very effective in relieving sciatica and reducing sciatic pain along the sciatic nerve pathway.

The sciatic pathway is the same as the gallbladder meridian channel in acupuncture. Stimulating acupuncture points along this channel in patients with sciatica with alternative medicine such as electro acupuncture helps to relieve sciatica, is anti-inflammatory and restores blood flow.

Watch my animated video below, which explains how acupuncture can relieve sciatica pain.

5. Sciatica acupuncture points

The main acupuncture points for sciatica are:

  • Baohuang - UB53
  • Zhibian - UB54
  • Huantiao - GB30
  • Ciliao - UB32
  • Fengshi - GB31
  • Yangliangquan - GB34
  • Yangfu - GB38

These are best administered by a qualified acupuncturist.

6. Self-care tips

If you have sciatica, I would recommend wearing thermals when the temperature is below 10 degrees, sitting on a hot water bottle (no cold packs), avoid driving a manual car, drinking coffee and sitting down for long periods of time. Practice yoga or Pilates daily.

7. Research

Research has shown acupuncture to be an effective treatment for sciatica.