Are you suffering radiating pain from your back down to your leg and calf? Is the pain worse when you are sitting?
You may be suffering from a condition called sciatica.
What is sciatica?
Sciatic is the pain of your sciatica nerve.
- It can be a dull ache or sharp pain.
- You may have pain start from the lower back and hip (buttocks). It travels down along your leg to the back of the knee, calf, even down to the foot.
- You can feel like a burning sensation, shooting pain or tightness that won’t go away with treatment or rest.
- Lower back pain is common however you can have no back pain at all.
It’s a condition that can be stubborn. Often 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.
Main symptoms of 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);
- Radiated pain 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.
Risk factors of sciatica
People at risk of suffering from sciatica are those who have back injuries. Often get from over exertion or sports injuries. Those people may have more risk:
- Have manual labour jobs involving heavy lifting;
- Repetitive physical tasks;
- Sitting for long periods of time, without getting up and walking around (e.g. driving and office jobs).
Most commonly sciatica affects men and the elderly. However it can be a problem for anyone.
What causes sciatica?
Pressure on the sciatica nerve causes the pain.
Sciatica nerve is the longest nerve of your body. 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, while the other one runs down to the side of calf. This is the reason that pain is often felt from the lower back and radiates down the leg.
Some people may only have pain from buttock down to the leg – without any lower back pain.
Causes for pressure on sciatic nerve:
Bulging or prolapsed discs
Discs are located in front the nerve where the sciatica nerve comes out. Bulging or slipped disc push on or narrow the gap. When pressure increases, the pain starts. Usually it happens from acute or chronic injuries.
Piriformis muscle locates on your buttock. The sciatica nerve runs cross piriformis muscle. Depends on the person, your sciatica nerve runs either above, through or under the piriformis muscle. If piriformis muscle compress the sciatic nerve, sciatica pain starts. These often happens after sit for long time, or having sports injuries.
This condition is more common in older patients as discs start to degenerate with age. As a consequence, bones move closer together, and narrows the pathway where the nerve comes out from.
Sitting for long period of time
Sciatic nerve passes through the hip joint via the buttocks, and down the back of your leg.
Sitting for long periods of time puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. This results in poor circulation, compression of the nerve and pain. Symptoms include pins and needles, lower back pain, stiffness and fatigue of the legs.
Acupuncture for sciatica, how does it work?
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 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 electroacupuncture to stimulate the local area and relieve the pain.
How does acupuncture help sciatica?
There are lots of research found that acupuncture/electroacupuncture 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 muscle tension 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.
Help reduce muscle spasm, and relieve pain;
At the same time, stretches improve circulation. The circulation include both blood and lymphatic circulation. Improved circulation helps take away of toxins and brings more blood and nutrients to the local area. This can accelerate the recovery of your body.
Core muscle and gluteal muscles are very important to your spine and hips stability. Strengthening exercises helps building up those muscle and prevent the pain from coming back.
How often do I need acupuncture for sciatica?
It depends on how bad your 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 and other management are important when you are not coming for treatment.
Other advices for sciatica pain
You will be advised by your practitioner during your visit. Some other advices to improve your recovery and prevent re-injury includes:
- Resting – decreasing or avoiding the aggravating activity;
- Ice pack over lower back/buttock area for acute pain;
- 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).