Is Acupuncture for Back Pain and Sciatica Effective?
Sciatica, including lower back pain with sciatica, is a commonly reported complaint. It's not a diagnosis, but rather a syndrome. It can impact the quality of life and decrease economic and social efficacy. There's a 1.2% to 43% prevalence rate for sciatica. In 90% of sciatica cases, a herniated disc with nerve-root compression is the cause.
The first line of treatment for sciatica is conservative treatment. Epidural steroid injections and medication are often used although they can come with complications like an epidural hematoma or side effects like dizziness and headache. Plus, the long-term benefits aren't certain. Many people turn to over-the-counter pain medication, but there's a better way — acupuncture. In fact, there's an increase in studies on acupuncture for sciatica. If you've been thinking to yourself, "where can I find acupuncture for sciatica nerve near me", or "does acupuncture help", keep reading.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is compression of your sciatic nerve, resulting in pain that radiates down your back or the side of your leg. It's often due to nerve root compression at a variety of levels in your spine or from sciatic nerve inflammation.
Degenerative disease is one of the common causes of sciatica pain, where there's a breakdown of discs that offer cushioning between your vertebrae. Another cause of sciatica pain is a fracture in the wing-shaped part of your vertebrae that leads to it slipping forward over another vertebra.
Sciatica often occurs in pregnant women because of the extra weight they're carrying that presses on their lumbar spine. Sciatic pain can result from a herniated lumbar disc, such as a slip disc where the cushioning between your vertebrae is pushed to the outer part of your spine.
Symptoms you might experience from sciatica are:
Low back pain
Tingling down your leg to your foot
Weakness of impacted areas
Common Causes of Back Pain
Around eight out of every 10 individuals will experience lower back pain sometime in their life. Back pain is a common reason why individuals seek medical treatment.
It frequently develops without a cause that doctors can identify with imaging studies or tests. There are certain medical ailments often linked with back pain, including:
Ligament or muscle strain: A sudden uncomfortable motion or repeated heavy lifting could strain your spinal ligaments or the muscles in your back. Constantly straining your back when you're in poor physical condition could cause painful or very uncomfortable muscle spasms.
Osteoporosis: You can develop painful fractures in your spine's vertebrae if your bones become brittle and porous.
Arthritis: Osteoarthritis can have an effect on your lower back. Sometimes, arthritis in your spine could result in spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the space surrounding your spinal cord).
Ruptured or bulging discs: Your discs act as cushions between the vertebrae in your spine. There is soft material in your disc that could rupture or bulge and press on a nerve. You can, however, experience a ruptured or bulging disc without back pain.
Why Choose Acupuncture for Back Pain and Sciatica?
Can acupuncture help with sciatica?
Acupuncture is a traditional therapy. It's based on the concept of energetics in your body. Acupuncture therapy consists of the insertion of needles at different body pressure points and through your skin. The needles shouldn't cause you any harm, pain or discomfort.
The acupuncturist targets energy (or in Chinese medicine, "qi") points for treatment. These are also referred to as meridians, which are often beneficial for painful muscles and nerves in your back.
There are several qi meridians acupuncturists might target for lower back pain. Some acupuncture and sciatica or lower back pain points include:
Lower back points
Back of the knee points
Upper back pain points also referred to as thoracic back pain, are typically different. You'll find these on your neck, head, upper back, and shoulders.
Through the stimulation of these points, also stimulates parts of your nervous system to relieve pain.
What clients say:
"I originally started seeing Kiya about 3 months ago for back pain & sciatica. I had spent the previous 5 months going to doctors, receiving x-rays, MRI’s and steroid injections. I was in much worse condition after all of this than when the pain had started and was afraid to even move, worrying it could cause more pain. I had missed a lot of work and my life became consumed with caring for my back, I spent most of my day laying on the floor. I was skeptical to try acupuncture but it was a last resort. When I first showed up to Kiya’s office she immediately made me feel better, her stories of dealing with clients with sciatica and how they all found relief gave me an ounce of hope again! After the first week I started to notice changes in my pain, where it was and how long it lasted.
Kiya was so excited to hear this as she knew my body was responding to the acupuncture! After about 3 weeks of acupuncture treatments, I was back to my normal life! Able to stay at work full time again and even able to go back to my yoga classes and resume my social life! At this point I was still hesitant as I had bouts of normalcy through the months followed by painful sciatica attacks. Now 3 months later I can say without a doubt that the attacks are a thing of the past! If I ever am having a stressful week where the pain is acting up, I know I can rely on Kiya to get me in right away and the pain will be fixed almost immediately. I am able to go a few weeks without needing the acupuncture for my back but I have noticed so many other improvements from it that my appointments have become my favorite part of the week! I have noticed a reduced stress level, reduced hormonal changes and reduced anxiety! I am now able to sleep comfortably at night knowing that whatever is thrown my way I can rely on Kiya to come to the rescue!"
- Katie F.
How Acupuncture Works for Pain
The way acupuncture works for pain isn't totally understood. But, there are several ways it's believed to work for back pain, including:
Releases neurotransmitters: Neurotransmitters are hormones that send out messages to regulate your different nerve endings' on/off mechanisms.
Stimulates your nervous system: Acupuncture stimulates different trigger points that help to release chemicals from your muscles, brain and spinal cord. Some of these can relieve pain naturally.
Releases opioid-like chemicals your body produces: Similar to the above-mentioned theory, acupuncture might help release pain-easing chemicals. These pain-relieving chemicals occur naturally in your body and have properties similar to those of opioid pain relievers (i.e. morphine or hydrocodone).
Triggers electromagnetic impulses in your body: This helps speed up the way your body handles pain, which includes releasing endorphins.
Acupuncture trials for back pain treatment show great results with minimal risk of side effects. One acupuncture for sciatica systematic review showed acupuncture improved symptoms of sciatica better than treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Acupuncture also helps improve the effects of medicine that doctors might prescribe for sciatica, so it can help decrease the dose and mitigate the side effects.
Once the acupuncturist inserts the needles into various acupuncture points, it increases endorphin production. Acupuncture can also help your muscles to relax and reprogram them to stay relaxed. And, since your hip, back and pelvis are extremely interconnected, this treatment helps incorporate all of these.
Overall, acupuncture therapy should stretch and relax your fascia and tendons, while strengthening your muscles. This helps release and strengthen your spastic muscle, which allows your back to heal naturally.
Once your sciatica and back pain is gone, it's important you keep your back in good condition. You'll want to keep your muscles relaxed by doing some stretching. You can also try other methods to maintain strength in your lower back, like meditation or tai chi, which helps relax it.
Can acupuncture help sciatica? As you've learned, it absolutely can. Therefore, your next question might be, "where can I find acupuncture for sciatica near me?" In that case, you can book an appointment with MFW Acupuncture Clinic.