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Sciatica and Acupuncture

What is Sciatica pain?
Sciatica nerve starts in the lower spine and runs down the back of each leg. Sciatica refers to pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the leg. It is caused by injury to or pressure on the sciatic nerve. In some cases, the pain is severe enough to make a person unable to move.
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Causes of sciatica
Common causes of sciatica include:

  1. Herniated Slipped disk
  2. Piriformis syndrome (a pain disorder involving the narrow muscle in the buttocks)
  3. Spinal stenosis
  4. Pelvic injury or fracture
  5. Tumors

Herniated disc (Slipped disc)
The spinal bones are separated by disks. These disks cushion the spinal column and put space between your vertebrae. The disks allow movement between the vertebrae, which lets you bend and reach. Herniated disc is a condition in which part or the entire soft, gelatinous central portion (nucleus pulposus) of an intervertebral disk is forced through a weakened part of the disk, resulting in back pain and nerve root irritation.
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The lower back (lumbar area) of the spine is the most common area for a slipped disk. These disks may move out of place (herniate) or break open (rupture) from injury or strain. When this happens, there may be pressure on the spinal nerves. This can lead to pain, numbness, or weakness.
Piriformis Syndrome
In 15% of the population, the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis muscle rather than beneath it. When the muscle shortens or spasms due to trauma or overuse, it can compress or strangle the sciatic nerve beneath the muscle. This condition is known as piriformis syndrome, which may be a cause of sciatica when the nerve root is normal.
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Spinal Stenosis
Other compressive spinal causes include lumbar spinal stenosis, a condition in which the spinal canal (the spaces through which the spinal cord runs) narrows and compresses the spinal cord or sciatic nerve roots. This narrowing can be caused by bone spurs, inflammation, or herniated disc, which decreases available space for the spinal cord, thus pinching and irritating nerves from the spinal cord that travel to the sciatic nerves.

How acupuncture can help

Acupuncture can help relieve sciatica by:
Stimulate nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord.
Reduce inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors.
Improve muscle stiffness and joint mobility by increasing local microcirculation, which aids dispersal of swelling.
Cause a transient change in sciatic nerve blood flow, including circulation to the nerve root.
Increase levels of serotonin and noradrenaline, which can help reduce pain and speed nerve repair.
Promote regeneration of the sciatic nerve.

Other Treatments

It is best to approach sciatica using combination style treatment. An effective therapy many include acupuncture, Tui Na (Chinese medical massage,) cupping, electric stimulation, and stretching. The back, hip, and pelvis are interconnected and the treatment should incorporate all of them. Overall, the treatment should relax and stretch the tendons and fascia while strengthening the muscles. This will help release the spastic muscles and strengthen them, allowing the back to naturally heal. It can even encourage an out of place disc to go back into place, depending on severity.

Chinese massage, or tui na, works to foster the acupuncture by releasing any extra tension in the fascia and connective tissue around the muscles. The technique called rolling is very important to deeply relax the muscles and improve circulation at the same time.

Please contact us now to book your free consultation!

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