What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a form of nerve inflammation and is one of the most common disorders seen in the acupuncture clinic. By carefully examining the location of the pain, the nature of the pain (whether it is sharp or dull) and what factors can aggravate or relieve it, an appropriate diagnosis and treatment can be administered.
Symptoms of Sciatic nerve pain
- lower back pain
- pain in the buttock, hip or leg
- burning, tingling down the leg
- weakness,numbness or difficulty moving leg or foot
- aching, stabbing, burning pain
- shooting pain usually down one side only.
Often, the pain extends from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg. Depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain may also extend to the foot or toes.
Depending on several factors, the symptoms of sciatica may vary. Even in the same patient, there may be dramatic variation from one moment to the next. This is common when nerves get inflamed.
What causes Sciatic pain or nerve inflammation?
Sciatica is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. A slipped disc is the most common cause of sciatica.
Additional common causes of sciatica include:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back)
- Degenerative disc disease (breakdown of discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae)
- Spondylolisthesis (a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another one)
- traumatic injury
Other things that may make your back pain worse include being overweight, not exercising regularly, wearing high heels, or sleeping on a mattress that is too soft.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture works by invigorating the flow of qi and blood throughout the area in order to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and promote the body’s own healing ability.
Acupuncture can work to anaesthetise the area and reduce nerve sensitivity. With associated techniques of electro-acupuncture and cupping, the best results can often be achieved.
It is best to approach sciatica using combination style treatment. An effective therapy many include acupuncture, massage, cupping, and stretching. The back, hip, and pelvis are very interconnected and the treatment should incorporate all of them. Overall, the treatment should relax and stretch the tendons and fascia while strengthening the muscles. This will help release the spastic muscles and strengthen them, allowing the back to naturally heal. It can even encourage an out of place disc to go back into place, depending on severity.
Colette Assor is a highly experienced acupuncturist and has been helping patients with back pain for almost 25 years. Colette completed two years massage training in 1996 followed by degree level TCM Acupuncture in 1999. Colette is the Acupuncturist at North West London Physiotherapy Centre, North London’s leading physiotherapy centre. Colette is a member of the British Acupuncture Council, the leading regulatory body for Acupuncturist’s in the UK.