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Acupuncture and Natural Therapies for Sciatica

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have proven to be effective for many people who suffer from sciatica. This condition, which is characterized by nervy and gnawing pain that radiates from the low back down one or both legs, can be debilitating and frustrating. Many patients have tried conventional therapies such as pain medications, physical therapy, and chiropractic but still struggle with the condition.

In acupuncture theory, pain is seen to be due to impedance in the movement of blood and fluids in the body. This impedance may be caused by a number of factors, some of which are obvious, like an injury or a degenerative condition and some may not be so obvious such as stress tension or dehydration of connective tissues. In any case, pain is always a result of impeded circulation, which can lead to inflammation or degeneration. In the case of sciatica, there may be an issue of decreased fluid perfusion in the spine. This results in a degenerated disc which ends up causing nerve compression, leading to radiating pain down the leg. Or there may be tension in the piriformus muscle of the buttock/hip, which compresses the sciatic nerve causing pain to radiate down the side or back of the leg. This is often an unsuspecting area in which we hold stress and resultant tension.

Low back and sciatic pain are often linked to subconsciously harboring fear or feelings of being unsupported in life. When the pain is more in the hips and side of the leg, these fears are subconsciously turning to anger and frustration, as we feel there is no way out, or no way to turn at this time. This stress causes tension in the body and that tension for some people shows up in their hips and literally squeezes their sciatic nerve. Talk about getting on your last nerve!

Acupuncture is a gentle treatment that is intended to be very relaxing, restorative and balancing. As the primary goal is to regulate circulation and ease nervous tension, one often notices that their entire sense of health is boosted from the treatment: physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Electro-acupuncture is the use of very mild micro-current to stimulate rehabilitation, healing and relaxation around injured or inflamed nerves and other tissues. This is often very helpful when a problem like sciatica is really screaming at you!

Chinese and other natural herbal medicine can also play an important role in treating this condition. The following herbal formulas have been proven to be useful in the treatment of sciatica:

Du Huo Ji Sheng Wan: One of the main Chinese formulas for treating pain and spasm from the waist down

CuraMed: A formula by Terry Naturally that focuses on relieving pain by reducing inflammation

Other people have found the following supplements to be helpful for sciatica:

  • bromelain: anti-inflammatory enzyme

  • fish oil: (3,000 mg daily)

  • 5 HTP: (a natural precursor to serotonin; many people with chronic pain are serotonin deficient)

There are also stretches and exercises that can be supportive in returning to full, pain-free functionality. These should be adapted to each individual and their situation. I have a video that takes you through a short movement set to relax tension in the low back, hips and legs. You might try it out at your discretion and just skip or modify any portions that cause you pain. I use this set myself after gardening or other activity that makes my back stiff and sore. Here is the link to the video:

With the right combination of therapies, sciatica typically responds very well to treatment. I recommend combining acupuncture with Chinese herbs for a few weeks and possibly adding some targeted stretches and movements. This should go a long way in your recovery from this painful condition.

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