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Q: Sciatica and complementary medicine ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Sciatica and complementary medicine
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: steve236-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 09 Jul 2005 07:50 PDT
Expires: 08 Aug 2005 07:50 PDT
Question ID: 541536
Would acupuncture help with the symptoms of sciatica or would any
other complementary medical solutions be worth considering.
Subject: Re: Sciatica and complementary medicine
Answered By: umiat-ga on 09 Jul 2005 16:46 PDT
Hello, steve236-ga!

 Ouch! Sciatica is definately uncomfortable. I have had it myself
periodically throughout the years.

 Accupuncture, accupressure or trigger point therapy, massage,
chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation have all been shown to help
alleviate pain. Certain exercises can also promote posutral correction
to take pressure off the nerve.

 I have compiled some information explaining all of these alternative
remedies below:


"First, it is important to explain what sciatica is, as the term
sciatica is often misused and its definition often misunderstood.
Sciatica is a set of symptoms rather than a diagnosis in itself
(meaning it does not explain the cause of the pain). Sciatica is a
general term that refers to pain caused by compression or irritation
of one or more nerves exiting the lower spine that make up the sciatic
nerve, and there are a number of different conditions that can cause
this. The medical term for sciatica is a radiculopathy, which means
that a spinal disc has extended beyond its normal position and is
irritating the radicular nerve (nerve root), which connects with the
sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve branches off as it travels down the
lower extremity through the back of the leg, and thus pain can be
experienced along this route."

From the Spine Health website:


More about sciatica from CNN Health:


For a diagram of the sciatic nerve, scroll down to "What is Sciatica"


From Health A to Z - Sciatica

Alternative treatment:

"Massage is a recommended form of therapy, especially if the sciatic
pain arises from muscle spasm. Symptoms may also be relieved by icing
the painful area as soon as the pain occurs. Ice should be left on the
area for 30-60 minutes several times a day. After 2-3 days, a hot
water bottle or heating pad can replace the ice. Chiropractic or
osteopathy may offer possible solutions for relieving pressure on the
sciatic nerve and the accompanying pain. Acupuncture and biofeedback
may also be useful as pain control methods. Body work, such as the
Alexander technique, can assist an individual in improving posture and
preventing further episodes of sciatic pain."

"Most cases of sciatica are treatable with pain medication and
physical therapy. After 4-6 weeks of treatment, an individual should
be able to resume normal activities.


Also see "Sciatica" on the Dr. Weil website:


Fhe following excerpt and exercise links are also from the Spine Health website:

"Although it may seem counterintuitive, exercise is usually better for
healing sciatic pain than bed rest. Patients may rest for a day or two
after their sciatica flares up, but after that time period, inactivity
will usually make the pain worse. Without exercise and movement, the
back muscles and spinal structures become deconditioned and less able
to support the back. The deconditioning and weakening can lead to back
injury and strain, which causes additional back pain. Exercise is also
important for the health of the spinal discs. Movement helps exchange
nutrients and fluids within the discs to keep them healthy."

"Many sciatica exercises focus on strengthening the abdominal and back
muscles in order to give more support for the back. Stretching
exercises for sciatica target muscles that cause pain when they are
tight and inflexible. When patients engage in a regular program of
gentle strengthening and stretching exercises, they can recover more
quickly from a flare up of sciatica and can help to prevent future
episodes of pain."


* Although spine health diffentiates the causes of sciatica and shows
appropriate exercise, it is very possible that you do not know what is
causing your sciatica. Many of the exercise cross over into each
For sciatica from a herniated disc;

For sciatica from spinal stenosis:

For sciatica from a degenerative disc

For sciatica from isthmic spondylolisthesis

For sciatica from piriformis syndrome

For sciatic pain from sacroiliac joint dysfunction

Hamstring stretching exercises for sciatica


There is good evidence for the efficacy of both Acupressure and
Acupuncture in the treatment of Sciatica. (It is important to note
that most traditional acupuncturists do not refer to sciatic back pain
by name. Pain, in Chinese medicine, is due to an obstruction in the
flow of Qi, blood, lymph or other fluids.)

Please refer to the following two overviews on Accupunture and pain

"Low Back Pain and Sciatica: Acupuncture Chinese Medicine."



From "Accupuncture and Back Pain."

"Acupuncture can play an important role in the reduction or
elimination of back pain by reducing recovery time and preventing a
chronic condition from developing. Research has shown that acupuncture
causes the body to produce natural steroids and promote the production
of natural endorphins. Steroids decrease inflammation, while
endorphins are produced by the body to kill pain. Both substances can
play an integral part in the breaking up of the pain cycle. By
reducing acute back pain, acupuncture may also reduce the chances of
chronic back pain from occurring. It can help avoid the need for
costlier and more invasive surgical procedures. And if back pain can
be significantly reduced with acupuncture, it also lowers the need for
painkillers or other medications that can either cause unwanted
side-effects or prolong a patient's condition."

"Many styles of acupuncture may help ease back pain. Some
practitioners may advocate very few needles at particular acupoints on
the hand; other practitioners may employ electroacupuncture at several
points on the body simultaneously. In general, the longer the pain has
been present, the longer it will take for acupuncture to produce a
As with any other form of care, however, remember that not all
patients will respond to acupuncture. Make sure to discuss the
situation thoroughly with your acupuncturist before undergoing
treatment for back pain (or any other condition)."


See "Acupuncture and Back Pain," by Jennifer Dubowsky, L.Ac., MSOM

"When your practitioner treats your back pain with acupuncture, both
local (at the site of pain) and distal (away from the area of pain)
needles can be used to help resolve the problem. Distal points are
very important, especially in acute pain. Often, needles can be placed
in areas other than the back and you can get excellent and quick
relief. There are many local points on the back and often a
practitioner will palpate your body to find the most sensitive spots
and needle those. Other adjuncts to treatment might include: electric
stimulation of points, and cupping. Generally, it is advisable to have
frequent treatment initially and taper off as the pain diminishes.
Herbs can also be helpful in moving blood and reducing inflammation as
well as strengthening a deficient condition."

"In a Swedish hospital study with patients who experienced chronic low
back pain, doctors concluded that acupuncture provided long term pain
relief. They also observed improvement in activity levels, better
sleep, and consumption of significantly fewer analgesics for the
acupuncture group as compared with the group receiving a placebo

"Acupuncture continues to gain popularity in this country because it
is an effective treatment of acute and chronic backache. Acute pain
can often be cleared up in a few sessions. More treatments may be
needed if there is an underlying deficiency, or reoccurring problem,
or sciatica."


Excerpts from "Warm needle acupuncture, cupping & sciatica." Townsend
Letter for Doctors and Patients, Jan, 2005  by Honora Lee Wolfe

"In issue #5, 2004 on page number 27 of Gan Su Zhong Yi (Gansu Chinese
Medicine), Song Yu-fang published an article titled, "Observations on
the Therapeutic Efficacy of Treating 318 Patients with Sciatic Pain
with Warm Needle & Cupping." Because sciatica is a common problem in
clinical practice for any practitioner doing physical medicine
(acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, massage therapy,
osteopathy), a summary of the main points of this article is presented

"Altogether, there were 502 patients enrolled in this two-wing
comparison study. Of these, 302 were male and 200 were female aged
26-70 years. The course of disease ranged from one half month to 20

Study outcomes:

"Cure was defined as complete disappearance of all the clinical
symptoms with an ability to return to normal work and no recurrence on
follow-up within half a year. Marked effect was defined as basic
disappearance of clinical symptoms. However, there was still some
discomfort depending on the weather or after the patient over-worked
and became fatigued. These patients were also able to resume their
ordinary work. Improvement meant that the clinical symptoms showed
improvement. No effect meant that there was no change from before to
after treatment. Based on these criteria, in the treatment group, 144
patients were cured, 115 got a marked effect, 48 improved, and 11 got
no effect, for a total effectiveness rate of 96.5%. In the comparison
group, 66 patients were cured, 48 got a marked effect, 44 improved,
and 26 got no effect, for a total effectiveness rate of only 85.5%.
Therefore, it was concluded that the protocol using warm needle and
cupping was more effective than the acupuncture alone (P < 0.01)."

Read further..




According to Micheal Reed Gach, who wrote the book Accupressure's
Potent Points," the following pressure point technique can help

From "Sciatica."

"You can ease sciatic pain by pressing on appropriate acupressure
points, says acupressurist Michael Reed Gach, founder of the
Acupressure Institute in Berkeley, California, and author of The Bum
Back Book. First find the center of the depression at the sides of the
buttocks. Then press both sides simultaneously and hard, because the
acupressure points lie deep below the skin, Gach says. Keep the
pressure on for a count of 15, then release."


Piriformis syndrome, another cause of sciatic pain, can be relieved by
the following stretch:

"One of these spindle-shaped muscles lies deep inside each buttock.
The piriformis is the muscle you use when you turn out your hip and
raise your leg to the side--and it's often implicated in sciatic nerve

"Lie on your back on the floor and gently pull your right knee up
toward your left shoulder. Grasping the instep of the right foot with
your left hand, slowly draw the knee and foot across the body toward
the left shoulder. Stretch for 30 seconds or more to elongate the
piriformis deep in the back of the hip. Then lower your right leg,
switch to the left, and repeat."


If you want to buy Gach's book - "Accupressure's Potent Points"


More general information about Acupressure can be found on the IndianGayan website:


An excerpt from "Sciatica & Leg Pain."

"The chiropractic approach to treating sciatica is to find the source
of nerve irritation and relieve the pressure causing the pain. By
correcting the source of the problem, the body can heal naturally
without nerve interference. Sciatica, like other health conditions
that can be traced to the spine, often responds dramatically to the
restoration of normal spinal function through chiropractic care."

"Your chiropractor's methods will vary according to the specific
source of sciatica in each case. Treatment will vary according to the
severity of the condition. With most patients, a series of adjustments
to move the related vertebra back to a more normal position is helpful
to reduce the pressure on the nerve. In some cases, the use of
ultrasound and ice is needed. Massage therapy to reduce the pain
related to muscle spasms is frequently helpful. Combining adjustments
with physical therapy has proven very successful in treating most

Read more.....  


For and explanation of Osteopathic manipulation, please see the following article:

"Osteopathy in Practice," by Leon Chaitow N.D., D.O., M.R.O. 
(Excerpted from Osteopathy: A Complete Health Care System.)


From "What is Sciatica?"

"Active Release Technique has revealed that Back Pain and Sciatica is
more often caused by peripheral nerve entrapments rather than by nerve
route entrapments at the Foramen and Disc. Significant improvement or
resolution in Sciatica cases, within only two or three patient visits,
is not uncommon when ART is used to free up the peripheral entrapment
sites. In fact, in many of our previous patients that had been
diagnosed with disc problems, we have seen complete resolution of all

Read further....


You might also be able to find a chiropractor that practices ART. 

Read more in the following article:

"Active Release Technique for the Treatment of Sciatica," by Dr. Brian
Abelson DC.

 I hope these resources prove helpful to you!




sciatica and acupuncture
sciatica and acupressure
sciatica and exercises
chiropractic for sciatic pain
osteopathy and sciatica
ART and sciatica

Clarification of Answer by umiat-ga on 09 Jul 2005 20:01 PDT
Excuse me! In the second paragraph, "posutral" correction should read
"postural" correction! Sorry about that.
There are no comments at this time.

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