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Acupuncture & Sciatica

Acupuncture and Sciatica

Acupuncture is an ancient branch of Chinese medicine which aims to balance the life forces in the body to allow for natural healing and to promote emotional and physical well-being. Modern acupuncture is used to restore, promote and maintain the good health of the body as a whole; it has gained acceptance in traditional medicine circles. While there is little specific research on acupuncture and sciatica, there is evidence that acupuncture does provide quality relief from pain. Acupuncture is an alternative sciatica treatment that gives relief to many patients.

How does acupuncture help to relieve sciatica pain?

  • Reduces the inflammation which is often present in sciatica, causing pain.
  • Stimulates the nerves in affected muscles and other tissue in the body which helps relieve pain and increases the release of endorphins, the body's own pain killer.
  • Improves blood circulation which in turn improves joint mobility and relaxes muscles which are tense or in spasm, causing pain.
  • Increases serotonin and noradrenalin levels which improves the patient's sense of well-being, speeds up the repair of nerves and reduces pain.
  • Promotes the regeneration of the sciatic nerve.

Because the theory behind Chinese medicine is that every part of the body is inter-connected, acupuncture for sciatica must be personalized for the individual patient. Before starting acupuncture sciatica treatment the practitioner will take a complete medical history and discuss the symptoms with the patient. The acupuncture will then be aimed at the root of the problem which is causing the sciatica symptoms and not merely masking the symptoms.

It has been shown that acupuncture is especially effective in relieving sciatica symptoms if it is commenced as soon as possible after the pain starts or the injury occurs. However, this is not always possible and many people only turn to an alternative therapy like acupuncture after the usual medical treatment has failed to correct their symptoms or completely relieve their sciatica pain.

How does acupuncture compare with medication as a sciatica treatment?

One of the most common medications prescribed or recommended for sciatica treatment is the NSAID group of drugs. These are anti-inflammatories and are known to have adverse side effects for most patients, the most common being gastric irritation and liver damage. Most over-the-counter and prescription pain and anti-inflammatory medication give good short-term sciatica pain relief by blocking the production of prostaglandins, the pain hormones.

Prostaglandins are also vasodilators which enhance circulation, so while these drugs relieve the pain for a while, they also restrict the blood supply to the affected area. This actually prolongs the recovery and the patient's return to good health.

Acupuncture increases circulation to the tissues that are causing the sciatica pain, helping the muscles to relax, the tissue to repair and the pain to subside. Good circulation to injured areas helps to nourish the tissues and also removes pain-causing substances like lactic acid and eliminates muscle fatigue.

Several acupuncture treatments will probably be required to get you to a position where your sciatica pain is completely gone. Learning meditation can be very helpful as a sciatica treatment in conjunction with acupuncture; the breathing exercises and relaxation techniques help to reduce stress, pain and tension. The muscles of the back and hip are frequently tight and tense in sciatica and may be in spasm. Both meditation and acupuncture help to release this tension so that the body can heal naturally.

Acupuncture is also able to reprogram the muscles to stay in a relaxed state which is a great help in relieving sciatica pain. As your sciatica pain reduces, it is really important that you stretch and strengthen these muscles so that they can support your spine in a balanced way. You might enjoy learning Yoga or Tai Chi which are both designed to strengthen body and mind to maintain emotional and physical health.

It is important to find a fully trained and accredited acupuncture practitioner for sciatica treatment so that you can have confidence in a positive outcome.

Video: Sciatica and Acupuncture Treatment

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