Acupuncture As An Alternative Treatment for Sciatica


Sciatica is one of the most common disorders seen in an acupuncture clinic. Sciatic pain is a symptom of an underlying medical condition of the lower back area. The sciatic nerve originates in the lower back, runs through the buttocks, and down the back of each leg.  Portions of the sciatic nerve branch to various areas of the leg, like the calf or toes.  Sciatic pain occurs when there is a compression of the sciatic nerve in the lower back.  Often caused by an acute injury to the lower back or can be the result of long-term degeneration of the lumbar area.  The location of the painful symptoms depends on where in the lower back the sciatic nerve is being compressed. It is a form of nerve inflammation and getting rid of inflammation is what we as acupuncturists do best.

Sciatic pain (sciatica) usually affects only one side of the body, with the pain extending from the lower back/buttocks down the leg. When asked to specify what they’re feeling, our patients with sciatic pain generally describe the following:

  • Pain in the buttocks or leg that worsens with sitting
  • Burning, tingling, or searing pain down the leg
  • Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
  • Constant pain on one side of the buttocks
  • Shooting, sharp pain making it difficult to stand

Common treatments for sciatic pain often involve surgery to repair the underlying structural issues in the lower back, epidural steroid injections, pain killers, and hot/cold therapy. Regular acupuncture treatments offer a safe and gentle alternative for pain management. A large proportion of our patients with sciatica have responded quite well to acupuncture, both for acute pain relief, and also for help with managing and resolving their condition over time. While acupuncture cannot heal the structural issues of the lower back that cause sciatica, it is a useful, side-effect and drug free treatment for the management of the pain.

Our Process for Treatment

After completing an intake, a licensed acupuncturist will use differential diagnosis to determine the cause of the sciatic pain. This is done using the information obtained during the intake. The acupuncturist will then create and implement a treatment plan aimed at resolving the root issue as well as the symptoms it is causing.

Acupuncture points for treating sciatic pain vary, depending on the exact location and pathway of the pain. One of the more popular origins of sciatica from a Traditional Chinese Medical perspective is Qi and blood stagnation in the channels/meridians that travel down the back and sides of the legs.

To break it down, acupuncture relaxes the muscles around the nerve while reducing inflammation. When that happens, people feel relief from the sciatic pain. In my experience, acupuncture is very effective in eliminating sciatic pain. The sooner you make an acupuncture appointment for sciatica, the quicker we can begin the process of providing relief.


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