Acupuncture for Back Pain and Sciatica
Every-day life causes strain on the body. Sitting for hours, standing all day or overexerting at the gym can trigger pain. And pain does not discriminate! Many times, this pain stems from the lower back. Even in your own life you may regularly hear friends or loved ones say, “Ouch, my back! It’s my sciatica.” But what is the sciatica exactly and what’s the difference between it and lower back pain? How common is this issue and how can acupuncture help? Let’s examine…
SCIATICA: THAT’S SOME NERVE!
Sciatica pain comes from the sciatic nerve. It’s the largest nerve with the largest diameter in the human body. It starts at the lower end of the spinal cord (in the lower back area) and runs along each side of your lower spine, into your buttocks, wraps around to the back of the thigh, through the legs, calves and into the feet.
Typically, a person with sciatica pain will report feeling the effects on one side of the body. The pain is likely to extend from the lower back, all the way down the leg. Those with sciatica challenges often report feeling pain:
- From the buttocks or leg.
- Burning or tingling and running down one leg.
- Numbness or weakness in the leg or foot.
- Consistent pain on one side of the buttocks.
- Sharp pain that makes it difficult to stand.
It may become worse by prolonged sitting, standing up, twisting, lifting or straining. And while sciatic and back pain can be connected, they can also be separate issues. That’s why it’s so important to work with a skilled practitioner to identify the true root cause of your individual issue.
THE LOW BACK PAIN CONNECTION
The lower back is made up of five vertebrae (referred to as L1-L5) and they work hard to support most of the weight of the upper body. Back pain and sciatica are often used interchangeably because many lower back problems can lead to pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve.
Sciatic pain can be caused by a herniated disc. And most herniated discs occur in the lower back. A herniated disc, bulged, or ruptured disc can describe a fragment of the disc that gets pushed out into the spine which pinches the nerve. The nerve roots are highly sensitive, and the areas of the disc that herniate get inflamed, causing pain which can be chronic.
This type of pain can also be caused by a hip imbalance. This imbalance causes the piriformis muscle, a small muscle in the glutes, to put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Such an issue is often referred to as “piriformis syndrome.”
If you’ve struggled with lower back and/or sciatica pain, you are not alone. Approximately 80% of people experience low back pain at some point in their lives. And as many as 40% of people will get sciatica pain during their lifetime.
Risk for these pains increase if you:
- Have a sedentary lifestyle, or
- Are obese.
- And frequency of back pain and sciatica can increase as you age.
So even if you have never experienced it before, the numbers make it seem almost inevitable. So, what can you do to address it when it occurs?
ACUPUNCTURE FOR BACK PAIN AND SCIATICA RELIEF
If you’re new to the world of acupuncture you might wonder how it works to address such severe pain. Acupuncture has its roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which makes it a practice that has stood the test of time for centuries. It has been used in the West since the 17th century and today numerous studies have proven its effectiveness.
To understand how acupuncture works may require looking at disease from a new angle. The standard Western medicine model usually focuses on symptom relief. While acupuncture, from the TCM model, seeks to eliminate the root cause of the problem.
Acupuncture works with the body’s systems to stimulate important biochemical changes which cause pain reduction. When the ultra-fine needles are inserted on the skin, they stimulate the flow of oxygen, nutrients and blood throughout the body. The body also releases natural pain-killing chemicals (endorphins) which also impact the brain’s serotonin levels.
The philosophy of TCM is that the body is made up of energy, or qi (pronounced: chee). And dis-ease in the body is an imbalance of energy. Acupuncture needles are placed on meridians (energy pathways) which help dissolve energy blockages and restore balance to support wellness.
Western medicine has also theorized on how and why it works. Explaining the effectiveness of acupuncture by describing how it stimulates neurohormonal pathways, reduces pro-inflammatory markers and stimulates the hypothalamus and pituitary gland.
In one study, acupuncture as a standalone therapy had a total effective rate of 81.6% for the relief of sciatica pain. And in another study of over 17,000 patients with 4 chronic pain conditions, (back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain), patients who did acupuncture scored their pain 95% lower than the control group without it.
At AcuSportsTherapy we have a whole-body and balanced approach. We search for the root cause of the issue and come up with a customized plan just for you. Because the systems of the body are interconnected, we often see great success from integrating complementary therapies such as body work, and range-of-motion exercises to accompany acupuncture. We find this combined approach can work for many in just a few weeks. Of course, if the issue is more acute, we have an expert network of specialists in which to refer you if need be.
Whether it’s overuse as a weekend warrior or underuse of muscles from a technology-focused sedentary lifestyle, there are a wide variety of individuals suffering with back pain and sciatica issues in which acupuncture can help. We are confident that our holistic approach can help relieve your pain. Call us at 561-303-3436 or book your appointment here.
AcuSportsTherapy is a top acupuncture clinic in Delray Beach that helps people reach their highest potential for peak performance in life and sports. Holly Green, founder of AcuSportsTherapy serving Delray Beach, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach, incorporates principles from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western Sports Medicine to view the patient’s injury from a truly integrated perspective. Contact us to learn how we can help you recover faster, prevent recurring injury, perform at your highest level, and sleep better.