Treatment of Sciatica with Acupuncture

What Causes Sciatica?

 

Sciatica occurs when something pushes on the sciatic nerve.  This can be a muscle spasm, the spinal discs, and sometimes even the spine itself.   Most often this pain is due to muscle spasms or a slipped disc, but it can also be a sign of serious illness and it is important to go to you doctor for a diagnosis.


Spinal Disc herniation, often referred to as a slipped disc, is when a small portion of the spinal disc bulges out of the spinal column.  This disc then pushes on the sciatic nerve causing pain.  In some severe cases, spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the spinal canal, can push on the nerve and cause pain.  Another serious cause of sciatica is spinal tumors, which require immediate medical attention.


Muscle spasms are also a common cause of sciatica.  Most often it is the piriformis muscle, but it can be other muscles in the lower back and pelvic region.
 

 

How Does Chinese Medicine View Sciatica?

 

Chinese medicine states that the body is interconnected. The diagnosis and treatment is based upon identifying specific imbalances in the muscles and the body as a whole. Correcting the imbalance does not just treat the symptoms or mask the condition, but rather corrects the root of the problem by encouraging self-healing of the body. The most common imbalance in acute sciatica is "qi" and blood stagnation in the back channels.  But it is also important to treat the underlying imbalance, which may be causing the qi and blood to stagnate.


Qi and blood stagnation in the channels often affects the soft tissue of the lumbar, hips, and pelvis.  This is what causes the muscle spasm and tension that triggers the intense shooting pain of acute sciatica.


Some common underlying imbalances are kidney qi vacuity, spleen qi vacuity with dampness, and liver qi stagnation.  By treating the underlying imbalance, you can prevent the sciatica from returning.
 

 

How Does Chinese Medicine Treat Sciatica?

 

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 very 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.


Acupuncture will help to reprogram the muscles to stay relaxed.  In effect, this is working to help the body heal itself.  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.


After the pain is gone, it is important for you to keep up you own back.  Stretching is essential.  Stretching will help keep the muscles healthy and relaxed.  And it is the best way for you to maintain your own back.  Also, doing tai chi, the Chinese exercise and meditation, is very effective to strengthen the lower back and relax it.
 

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