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Different types of sciatic pain

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 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

Sciatic pain and its causes

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 structural impingement or compression of the sciatic nerve in the lower back.  This occurs when there is 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 in the leg depends on where in the lower back the sciatic nerve is being compressed.

Common causes of sciatic pain

Degenerative disc disease (the breakdown of the discs that provide cushion between the vertebrae)

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
  • Spondylolisthesis (a fracture in the wing-shaped portion of a vertebrae that causes it to slip forward over another vertebrae)
  • Pregnancy (increased pressure on the lumbar spine)
  • Herniated lumbar disc A.K.A. Slipped disc, Bulging disc, Pinched nerve (the cushion between vertebrae is pushed to the outer portion of the spine)

How does acupuncture work physiologically for pain relief?

By inserting small needles into specific sites on the body, the needles trigger a response from the nervous system. This response from the nervous system leads our brain to:

  • release a cascade of natural painkillers (endorphins and enkephalins),
  • increase blood flow to the painful area,
  • relax the muscles in the surrounding area.

How we treat sciatic pain at AcuPro Clinic?

The most common treatments for sciatic pain 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 free treatment for the management of the pain.

Typically we treat sciatic pain by placing acupuncture needles along the inside of the lower calf/ankle and along the wrist/forearm area.  We take a two-pronged approach. First, we target the lower back, to increase blood flow and muscle relaxation around the lumbar vertebrae.  Then, we target the sciatic nerve to influence muscle relaxation and blood flow regulation along the pathway of the pain in the leg.

Ms. Ting Wang

Member of British Acupuncture Council (BAcC)

Clinician in Neurology department, Heilongjiang University of TCM Hospital

MSc. in Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture), London South Bank University

BSc. in Clinical Discipline of Chinese and Western Integrative, Heilongjiang University of TCM

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