Acupuncture Treatment for Sciatica


Do you suffer from sciatica? Here’s some good news, acupuncture can help you get back to your old-self! I have been able to help hundreds of patients suffering from sciatica. I’m not saying acupuncture is a cure all, but I have seen some of the worst cases of sciatic out there and still have been able to make a positive change pertaining to pain reduction i.e., intensity, frequency and/or duration. Acupuncture has a lot to offer when it comes to sciatica including pain and inflammation reduction, muscle relaxation, improved blood flow and even regeneration of the sciatic nerve. In this paper, we will explore the specifics of what acupuncture is able to do, but for now let’s start with the basics and discover more about sciatica.

Sciatica is defined by Hildreth, MD (2009), a writer for The Journal of the American Medical Association, as a pain experienced in the lower back which “radiates into the buttock, hip, and down one leg below the knee.” However, sometimes the symptoms can radiate into both legs. The pain is described as a “tingling, numbness, or weakness of the leg” (Hildreth, 2009). Sciatica can occur due several factors which compress and cause irritation to the nerves coming out of the spinal canal including herniated disk, degenerative arthritis, vascular problems, tumor growth, trauma and infection (Hildreth, 2009).

A correct diagnosis is imperative, and is made through gathering a complete medical history and physical examination. In my practice, you will be given an orthopedic and neurological examination in addition to a Traditional Chinese Medicine examination. I will use these methods of diagnosis to determine the proper course of action pertaining to your care. Often patients will already have seen their primary care physician, who may have recommended x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT). This information is helpful in making a diagnosis, but not always necessary. If those tests have already been done, great! Bring them into the office. If your examination warrants further exploration I would refer you to your primary physician for follow up testing.
Conservative medical treatment for sciatica, according to Hildreth (2009) includes analgesics for pain relief e.g., nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or steroidal injections to reduce the inflammation. Finally, if the above mentioned treatments are unsuccessful, surgery may be recommended. Hildreth (2009) mentions approximately 80% to 90% of people with sciatica recover without any surgical intervention.

As I mentioned, acupuncture can reduce pain and inflammation. Studies have shown that acupuncture releases endogenous opioids including dopamine (our body’s natural pain killer) (Liang, Xia, 2013; Lee et al, 2009). In fact, Sung et al found electrical acupuncture to be as effective as morphine, pertaining to its analgesic effect on the treatment of an ankle sprain injury (2002). Not only can acupuncture relieve pain, but a study at the University of Michigan Health System, found that acupuncture was able to “affect the brain’s long-term ability to regulate pain (2019).” Studies using rat models showed anti-inflammatory effects specifically antiedematous and analgesic through the stimulation of muscarinic and opioid receptors (Zhang, Chung, Zhan, 2013). Acupuncture also aids in muscle relaxation by reducing pain levels and improving blood flow. A study by UCLA Medical Center demonstrated acupuncture released nitric oxide throughout the body. Physiologists Joyner and Dietz define nitric oxide as a naturally occurring chemical in our bodies which acts as an intercellular messenger; involved with many crucial bodily functions e.g., vasodilation (relaxing and widening of the arteries (Joyner, Dietz, 1997). An animal study by La (2005), compared the effects of electroacupuncture with diclofenac (a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) and a control on the regeneration of crushed sciatic nerves in rabbits. Electroacupuncture was found to promote nerve regeneration more effectively than diclofenac and the control (p<0.01 and p<0.001, respectively).

In conclusion: we have explored what sciatica is and how acupuncture can help. We now understand how acupuncture works to reduce pain and inflammation (pertaining to stimulation and release of our body’s natural pain killers). We have also identified how acupuncture relaxes muscles through improving blood flow and accelerates the healing process. Acupuncture is an effective tool when it comes to sciatica symptoms acute and chronic, as stated it not only helps with the pain it actually aids in the healing process. When it comes to making choices in our health care, acupuncture makes sense on several levels e.g., more effective treatments and less side-effects. Haven’t you suffered long enough, give me a call and let me help you get on the road to recovery. Phone number: 502-897-3392


Electroacupuncture in Human Skin In Vivo Using Dermal Microdialysis. In Microcirculation,
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Hildreth, C. (2009). Sciatica. JAMA, July 8, 2009-Vol 302, No. 2. Retrieved from: by a National Library of Medicine User on 05/06/2014
Joyner, M., Dietz, N. (1997). Nitric oxide and vasodilation in human limbs. J. Appl. Physiol.
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La J-L et al. Morphological studies on crushed sciatic nerve of rabbits with electroacupuncture or diclofenac sodium treatment. American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2005; 33(4): 663-9.
Liang, J., Xia, Y. (2013). Acupuncture Modulation of Neural Transmitters/Modulators. Retrieved May 27, 2013, from Website:
Sung Tae Koo, Young Il Park, Kyu Sang Lim, Kyungsoon Chung, Jin Mo Chung (2002). Acupuncture analgesia in a new rat model of ankle sprain pain. PAIN – October 2002 (Vol. 99, Issue 3, Pages 423-431)
University of Michigan Health System (2009, August 11). Chinese Acupuncture Affects Brain’s Ability To Regulate Pain, UM Study
Zhang, S., Chung, W., Zhan, Y. (2013). Auricular Acupuncture for Pain and Inflammation. Springer Retrieved May 20, 2013, from website: