Acupuncture For Sciatica Nerve Pain Treatment Northern Suburbs
According to the ABS 1 in 6 Australians live with back pain for a period of 6 months or more (ABS, 2015). Acupuncture may be a good option for treating pain, especially chronic low back pain. In our northern suburbs acupuncture clinic we come across sciatica primarily with chronic low back pain primarily but from time to time we will see sciatica type symptoms with acute low back pain, often where the pain has arisen from some type of trauma. When working with people with sciatica type symptoms, it is important to reassure them, as some can get very worried that the pain will last forever. It wont. In most cases sciatica will resolve in 6-12 weeks.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a term that most people are familiar with, for those that aren't here is a simple definition. Sciatica is sciatic nerve pain which affects the course of where the nerve travels, the lower back, the buttock and hip, and down the legs and even towards the toes in some cases. In addition to pain there may also be numbness and weakness. Sciatica is usually caused by compression of a spinal nerve root in the lower back, often owing to degeneration of an intervertebral disc. Sciatica is considered a syndrome rather than a more specific diagnosis, and in 90% of causes is due to nerve root compression. Sciatica usually presents unilaterally.
Causes of Sciatica
There can be number of structural and neurological causes such as
- Herniated Discs - A herniated disc can place pressure on the exiting nerve root and localised inflammation, causing nerve compression.
- Osteophytes - Due to degenerative changes the surface of the bones can be become rough and develop bone spurs which can irritate surrounding structures leading to inflammation, or in other cases directly compress nerve structures.
- Spinal Stenosis - A narrowing of the openings for the spinal cord can occur with age and spinal degernation. This spinal narrowing results in nerve compression.
- Spondylolithesis - The alignment of the vertebra is affected in this condition leading to pressure being placed on the nerve structures
- Trauma - Accident and injury can also lead to significant localised damage resulting in sciatica
What is Piriformis Syndrome?
Piriformis syndrome is an uncommon cause of sciatica syndrome. It causes pain that radiates from the buttock to the hip, lower back and legs. The piriformis muscle is a deep lying muscle in the buttock which can cause compression of the sciatic nerve. This can be sometimes due to the nerve passing through the muscle. Using acupuncture for piriformis syndrome may be an option to manage your pain.
Risk Factors to Developing Sciatica
Risk factors for the development of Sciatica include
- Advancing Age
- Being Overweight
- Work Related
- Sedentary lifestyle
Western Medical Sciatica Treatment
Diagnosis will be confirmed with imaging, although as with our discussion on using acupuncture for treating low back pain, imaging will tend to be used if the symptoms have not resolved after 3 months. conservative sciatic nerve pain treatment will be used initially, such as the use of anti inflammatory, advice to rest (but not bed rest), suggestions to use heat and cold packs. If your sciatica symptoms do not resolve, or are they are very severe, your GP may either refer you for additional medical opinion or suggest options such as cortisone or other injections. Surgery is usually considered the last resort.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Sciatica Treatment?
As will be shown below, acupuncture may help you with sciatica pain. During an acupuncture session we will chat to you about your pain, how far the sensation travels down the leg, which side is affected, what alleviates the pain and what makes it worse. Often when treating sciatica with acupuncture, we will often use cupping and electroacupuncture. We will talk to you after the consultation about what treatment approach and how many sessions may be needed for your acupuncture sciatica treatment. We may also discuss with you the use of chinese herbal medicine or liniments as part of your treatment plan.
Acupuncture for Sciatica - Research
We will restrict the research discussed here to systematic reviews, as they are considered a high level of evidence. There are three main reviews that we will focus on, all were published in 2015.
1. Lewis et. al. (2015) reviewed 122 studies, 90 of which were randomised control or quasi randomised control studies (RCT). This Systematic review looked at a number of interventions including acupuncture such as surgery, nonopioid medications, spinal manipulation etc. the findings supported the use of acupuncture for sciatica. It was also reported that acupuncture was 2nd out of all of the interventions for its global effect and reduction of pain intensity.
2. Qin et. al. (2015) reviewed 11 RCT's, 10 which were comparing acupuncture to medication and 1 was comparing acupuncture to a sham control. This review found acupuncture maybe more effective than anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, meloxicam, and diclofenac in reducing leg and lower back pain. It also reported that acupuncture may enhance the effect of medications. The authors identified that some of the evidence was limited and further well designed and Larger RCT's were required to confirm these findings.
3. Ji et. al. (2015) included 12 studies in their systematic review. Similar to the previous study they found acupuncture to be a safe and well tolerated intervention and effective for the treatment of sciatic pain. Acupuncture was found to be superior to conventional western medicine.
The Bottom Line
There is moderate evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating sciatica, and it is considered safe and well tolerated, but as with any other therapy, it can be occasionally associated with adverse effects in individual cases (McDonald and Janz 2016). Acupuncture can be a treatment option for those with Sciatica. Call our clinic today to see if we can help you.
Our Northern Suburbs Acupuncture Clinic
Our main aim is to work on reducing the overall pain you are experiencing. Acupuncture isn't magic, just as western medicine isn't either. You are likely to require a course of acupuncture treatment, just like you would if you saw a chiropractor, physiotherapist or an osteopath. This can vary based on your particular history, but generally it is weekly to twice weekly treatments for the first few weeks
Based in Melbourne, the Coburg Acupuncture clinic is located in the heart of Coburg on Sydney Rd and provides Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, massage and cupping services. The Coburg Clinic services people from Coburg and surrounding Northern suburbs such as Brunswick, Pascoe Vale, Preston, Fawkner, Thornbury, Northcote.
Call us to arrange an appointment on 03 9041 6569 or click the button below
ABS. ‘Table 2.3 Summary health characteristics — States and territories, Proportion of persons’, National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15, 2015 cat. no. 4364.0.55.001,
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.
Lewis RA, Williams NH, Sutton AJ, Burton K, Din NU, Matar HE, et al. Comparative clinical effectiveness of management strategies for sciatica: systematic review and network meta-analyses. Spine J. 2015 Jun 1;15(6):1461-77.
McDonald, John & Janz, Stephen. The Acupuncture Evidence Project : A Comparative Literature Review (Revised). Australian Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine Association Ltd, Coorparoo 2016
Qin Z, Liu X, Wu J, Zhai Y, Liu Z. Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Treating Sciatica: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:425108. 198.