Sciatica is a common disorder that involves low back pain that spreads down the back of one leg. It usually occurs when the sciatic nerve is pinched. This causes achy, sharp, or burning pain down the leg along the pathway of the sciatic nerve. The pain is also commonly described as an electric jolt. There are many causes of sciatica. They include a herniated disc, degenerative arthritis of the spine, and piriformis syndrome.
Acupuncture is commonly used to treat sciatica. A 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis found acupuncture may effectively treat sciatica pain. At AcuWell LLC, we successfully treat sciatica frequently. Although a course of treatment is necessary for long-term results, many patients find pain relief after their first acupuncture session. We use acupuncture points according to the patient’s oriental medicine diagnosis. Additionally, we needle low back acupuncture points and points along the sciatic nerve distribution. In severe cases, we may use electro-acupuncture.
Acupuncture point Gallbladder 30 (GB30) is an acupuncture point that is commonly used to treat sciatica. This point is located between the sacrum and greater trochanter. If you are wearing jeans, this point can be found in the area around the center of your back pocket. Acupressure can also be applied here. Patients suffering from sciatica will commonly find this point is tender when pressed.
In Oriental Medicine, Sciatica is usually due to Kidney Qi Deficiency, Kidney Jing Deficiency, Liver Blood Deficiency, Liver Wind, or Liver/ Gallbladder Damp-Heat. We use information gathered during the intake along with your tongue and pulse diagnosis to determine the Oriental Medicine diagnosis. This allows us to choose the appropriate acupuncture points to treat the underlying energetic imbalance.
From a western perspective, it makes sense that acupuncture is also used to treat other nerve conditions such as Bell’s Palsy, Meralgia Paresthetica, and Trigeminal Neuralgia. Acupuncture stimulates peripheral nerves at the point of needle insertion. This may create a micro trauma which signals the body to send healing substances to the area. Another mechanism may be that needling acts to close the nerve gates that usually transmit pain signals. This is called the Gate Control Theory of Pain. Furthermore, acupuncture may increase endorphins and relax local muscles and tissues to decrease pain.
Bell’s Palsy involves the facial nerve and is characterized by sudden muscle weakness on one side of the face. It is commonly treated with acupuncture. It typically involves eyelid drooping, drooling, and dry eyes. It is believed that a viral infection typically causes inflammation of the facial nerve. A 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis found that acupuncture may effectively treat Bell’s Palsy symptoms.
Meralgia Paresthetica involves impingement of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve which runs down the lateral aspect of the thigh. It is characterized by a tingling sensation or numbness and burning pain felt on the outer thigh. Some common causes include tight pants, obesity, and diabetes or other conditions that affect the nerves. Case studies have shown electro-acupuncture to be effective.
Trigeminal neuralgia or tic douloureux is characterized by severe facial pain. A 2017 case-control double-blinded study which compared acupuncture to sham acupuncture concluded that acupuncture can effectively decrease pain in patients suffering from Trigeminal Neuralgia. While some acupuncturists may needle acupuncture on the face for this condition, we believe trigeminal neuralgia is best treated using microsystems such as Korean hand acupuncture.