Sciatica is a syndrome caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, which begins in the lumbar and sacral spine, and travels down the back of the leg. This is the reason that pain associated with sciatica follows this path and feels sharp and shooting.
The most common reason for sciatica is a herniated disc that causes a compression on the sciatic nerve roots. However, sciatic pain may also be due compression of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle, which is known as piriformis syndrome.
Regardless of whether sciatic pain is caused by sciatica or piriformis syndrome, acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment option that can reduce uncomfortable symptoms.
An acupuncture treatment is created when the practitioner selects from hundreds of points on the body that are organized into lines called meridians. The meridians are a traditional part of chinese medicine theory, and many of the meridians that are located on the skin correspond with underlying anatomy. Interestingly, one meridian directly travels the path of the sciatic nerve, beginning at its lumbar and sacral nerve roots and following the sciatic nerve until it branches past the knee.
My acupuncture protocol for sciatica involves needling this meridian in combination with general pain-relieving points on the body. Patients who have had sciatica for a short period of time often notice immediate pain reduction, while those with long-standing sciatica may require more than one acupuncture treatment to get optimal benefits.
Studies have supported the efficacy of acupuncture for sciatica since the early 1990's, and a systematic review published in 2015 found that acupuncture was more effective than conventional medicine in treating sciatica.1
I recommend that anyone experiencing sciatica try acupuncture, since it is safe, effective, and can in many cases offer immediate relief from pain. If I can answer any questions about this treatment or naturopathic medicine in general, please book a free 15-minute consult!
(1) Ji M, Wang X, Chen M, Shen Y, Zhang X, Yang J. The Efficacy of Acupuncture for the Treatment of Sciatica: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:192808. doi:10.1155/2015/192808