By Mary Vincent, L.Ac.

Many people think of acupuncture in relation to helping ease general low back aches and pains, but did you know it is also incredibly effective in reducing and easing symptoms associated with sciatica?

Sciatica [sahy-at-i-kuh] is caused either by compression or irritation to one of the lower lumbar
or sacral nerves that lead directly to the larger sciatic nerve (located in the buttocks), or by compression or irritation directly to the sciatic nerve itself. Symptoms of sciatica often include low back or hip pain but will also consists of all or some of the following complaints:

▪ Deep gluteal pain
▪ Pain that radiates down the side or back of the leg, sometimes past the knee and/or into the foot
▪ Paresthesias–otherwise known as “pins and needles”, tingling, burning, or numbness in the leg or foot

The main causes of sciatica are as follows:

▪ Spinal Disc Herniation: This occurs when the gelatinous substance within the spinal disc protrudes out and presses on the surrounding spinal nerves, causing pain to those nerves directly and to associated nerves (such as the sciatic nerve).
▪ Piriformis Syndrome: A less common cause of sciatic pain, it is caused by the spasm of the piriformis muscle (which runs from the sacrum into the buttocks). The spasm of this muscle then compresses or squeezes the sciatic nerve.
▪ Pregnancy: Pressure caused by the weight of the growing fetus can lead to compression of the sciatic nerve.

How can acupuncture help sciatic pain?

▪ Acupuncture may change and improve circulation in blood flow leading to the sciatic nerve (Inoue, 2008).
▪ Acupuncture stimulates the nerves, thereby leading to a release of endorphins in the body. This then changes how the brain perceives and [...]