Are you suffering from back or hip pain that can radiate down your leg or calf? Is the pain worse when sitting?
You may be suffering from a condition called
Sciatic is the pain of your sciatica nerve.
The pain can be a dull ache or sharp pain. It may start from the lower back and hip (buttocks), travelling down the leg to the back of the knee, calf, even down to the foot. The pain can also feel like a burning sensation, shooting pain or tightness that won’t go away with treatment or rest.
Sciatica is a condition that can be stubborn and difficult to treat with pain killers or other forms of complementary medicine.
Acupuncture has been proved to be one of the best conservative treatment for sciatica pain.
Sciatica – Risk Factors
People at risk of suffering from sciatica are those who have back injuries from over exertion or sports. Normally are those people who:
- Have manual labour jobs involving heavy lifting;
- Repetitive physical tasks;
- Sitting for long periods of time without being able to get up and walk around (e.g. driving and office jobs).
Sciatica is a condition that most commonly affects men and the elderly. However it can be a problem for anyone and especially those who suffer from lower back tightness, fatigue and pain in the leg.
Am I having Sciatica?
Main symptoms of Sciatica are:
- Lower back pain or without lower back pain;
- Aching or burning pain in the buttock;
- Pain in the back of the thigh (hamstring);
- Pain radiated to calf, ankle and foot;
- Pins and needles in the buttock, hamstring, calf or foot;
- Increased pain when lifting, straining or coughing;
- Loss of power to the muscles of the leg and foot.
If you experience two or more of these you may have Sciatica.
What causes sciatica?
Medically the pain is caused by the pressure on the longest nerve in the body – the sciatic nerve. This long thick nerve runs from your lower back, through the hip joint and down to the back of the knee. At the knee the nerve divides into two main parts – one runs down to the back of calf, and the other one runs down to the side of your calf. This is the reason pain is often felt from the lower back and radiates down the leg.
For some people they only have the pain from buttock down to the leg – without any lower back pain.
There are several causes for the sciatic nerve to be under pressure, they are:
- Bulging or prolapsed discs
Because the Sciatic nerve comes out of the spinal column in the lower back near the discs, a bulging or slipped disc may push on or narrow the gap where the nerve comes out causing pressure and pain.
- Piriformis syndrome
Piriformis muscle locates on your buttock. The sciatica nerve runs crosee piriformis muscle. Depends on the person, your sciatica nerve runs either above, through or under the piriformis muscle. Your sciatica pain starts when piriformis muscle compressing the sciatic nerve, such as sitting on a seat for long time, or sports injuries.
This condition is more common in older patients and causes sciatica when the discs start to degenerate with age and the bones move closer together which narrows the pathway the nerve comes out from.
- Sitting for long period of time
Causing pins and needles, lower back pain, stiffness and fatigue of the legs because the Sciatic nerve passes through the hip joint via the buttocks then down the back of the leg. Sitting for long periods of time on cold hard surfaces puts pressure on the Sciatic nerve where your butt makes contact with the ground. This results in poor circulation, compression of the nerve and pain.
How do you treat sciatica?
At Almond Wellness Centre you may be treated with one or more of the following techniques according to your condition. The treatments for your sciatica include:
You may have a few very fine needles put in the acupuncture points on your lower back or/and along the sciatica nerve. These points can direct deep stimulation of the injured area with pinpoint accuracy to alleviate pain. Sometime you may have Electro-acupuncture to stimulate the local area and relieve the pain.
How does acupuncture help sciatica?
There are lots of research found that acupuncture/electro-acupuncture help effectively relieve sciatica pain.
Acupuncture helps sciatica through:
- Increase blood circulation;
- reduce inflammation of the sciatica nerve and surrounding tissue;
- Acupuncture also has direct effect of reducing pain;
Often you may have instant pain relieve after acupuncture/electro-acupuncture treatment.
Tui Na (Chinese Remedial Massage)
Tui Na Chinese remedial massage uses the traditional unique manual skills including rubbing, kneading, grasping, and rolling. Tui Na helps soften and loosen the muscles to alleviate tension on the tendons and to improve circulation. Tui Na also uses special stretching techniques to loosen the possible compression of the root of sciatica nerve.
The application of heat to the area and to specific acupuncture points to increase blood circulation through the area.
- External application of Hua Tuo patches, Zheng Gu Xue
- Su Jin Tang to tonify blood and nourish tendons
- Tao Hong Si Wu Tang – herbal pills traditionally used to improve blood circulation.
Stretches and movement exercise twice a day can help maintain good circulation and nourishment of the area and to prevent further injury. These are especially useful for conditions that are worse with lack of movement or exposure to cold.
Ice pack /hot water bottles and external liniments may also be useful. You will be advised by your practitioner during your visit.
How often and how long do I need acupuncture for sciatica?
It depends on how bad the symptoms are.
In the acute stage, you may need twice per week treatment. When your pain is better, once per week, or longer is enough. Generally after five visits you may feel a lot better. You may have up to ten sessions as a treatment course.
You may feel instant pain relieve after treatment, however resting and exercises are important when you are not coming for treatment.
Other advice to improve your recovery and prevent re-injury includes:
- Decreasing or avoiding the aggravating activity;
- Ice pack over lower back/buttock area for acute pain;
- Stretching exercises to relive muscle tension and pain;
- Strengthening exercises for core muscles;
- Water exercises – hydrotherapy or water aerobics;
- Use of a back brace for acute lower back injury (normally I only recommend using back brace no more than one week).