Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have proven to be effective for many people who suffer from sciatica.
This condition, which is characterized by nervy and gnawing pain that radiates from the low back or buttock down one or both legs, can be debilitating and frustrating. Many patients have tried conventional therapies such as pain medications, physical therapy, and chiropractic but still struggle with the condition.
The sciatic nerve runs from the lower spine, through the buttock, and down the leg to the foot. Pain can be experienced anywhere along the nerve, and there are specific tests that can help determine whether the nerve is being compressed at the spine or in the buttock. In fact, many people think their sciatica is coming from a disc problem in their spine, when it is actually coming from a compression of the nerve as it passes through the piriformis muscle in the buttock. This latter condition is called piriformis syndrome, and acupuncture is very effective at relaxing the piriformis muscle so that the sciatic nerve can heal.
Acupuncture is a gentle treatment that is intended to be very relaxing, restorative and balancing.
As the primary goal is to relieve muscle tightness, increase blood flow, and reduce inflammation, patients typically notice an overall improvement in their sense of well-being. Most of my sciatic patients come for treatment 2 times per week for 3-4 weeks, at which time we assess for progress. The treatment plan depends upon the severity of the pain and how long it has been there.
Chinese herbal medicine can also play an important role in treating this condition. The following herbal formulas have all been proven to be useful in the treatment of sciatica:
du huo ji sheng tang: One of the main formulas for treating pain and spasm from the waist down
you gui wan: A kidney tonic formula that treats low back pain due to internal cold and deficiency
channel flow: A formula by Health Concerns that treats pain anywhere in the body
yao tong pian: One of the main formulas for all kinds of low back pain
There are also specific acupressure and movement techniques that are helpful for both prevention and for active flare ups.
With the right combination of therapies, sciatica typically responds very well to treatment. I recommend using acupuncture alone for a few treatments, adding Chinese herbs if necessary, and possibly adding some targeted movement and acupressure. This should go a long way in your recovery from this painful condition.
If you have sciatica, call Jim at 360-943-0306 to set up your first acupuncture appointment today!
Jim Stegenga, L.Ac.
Serving Olympia, Lacey, and Tumwater, and the South Puget Sound