Sciatic pain (sciatica) typically affects the body unilaterally, with pain extending from the hip / lower back down one leg. People often describe the uncomfortable sensation as a ‘pain in the butt cheek’, often worse when sitting, as numbness, burning or tingling which runs down the leg or even as sharp and shooting sensations from the hip the calf.
Sciatica is a symptom of an underlying lower back condition such as a structural impingement or compression of the sciatic nerve, which exits the spinal column around the upper sacrum. Trauma, chronic disk degeneration or even pregnancy can be the cause of the condition. Sciatica and Piriformis syndrome are two conditions which are often confused, they are quite different structurally however the pain and symptoms are very similar, pain management of both conditions resolves over time, and the symptoms of sciatica can be expected to improve in the absence of significant structural damage.
Sciatica is a condition, which can come and go over time; western medicine typically treats it with surgery, painkillers, anti-inflammatory medicine and even cortisone injections.
Research into acupuncture treatments has shown effective pain relief and the resolution of symptoms are manageable naturally with acupuncture. Fine needles are inserted into specific sites, which trigger a nerve system response including a cascade of natural endorphins and enkephalins for pain relief. Blood circulation to the area is increased which nourishes the surrounding tissue and over the course of several treatments it is likely to resolve the symptoms and prevent further deterioration of the condition (McDonald & Janz 2017.)
At Root & Branch Oriental therapies, Mark Davis [Dr of Chinese Medicine] treats sciatic pain using a combination of trigger points, electric stimulation, cupping and distal acupuncture using the ankles and wrists. Increasing blood flow and relaxing the muscles around the lumbar vertebrae is the first step followed by targeting the nerve itself to increase circulation and muscle relaxation along its pathway down the back of the leg.
Manual therapies such as Shiatsu can also contribute significantly to rehabilitation through stretching and by working on the tight muscle tissues of the Glutes, piriformis and hamstrings.
Table 1 & 2 of the Acupuncture Evidence Project (McDonald J, and Janz S, 2017) retrieved from: www.acupuncture.org.au