Acupuncture for Sciatica
Pain from a pinched nerve is some of the most intense, mind-numbing pain there is. It has an urgent, sharp, electrical quality all its own. And of all the nerves you might have pinched, the sciatic nerve is the largest, most intense one in the body. The sciatic nerve emerges from the spine at 5 vertebrae in the low back and sacrum. These nerve roots then join together and create a cable of sorts that runs through the buttock, often right exactly where a man sits on the wallet in his back pocket. When the nerve cable reaches the leg, it then splits again and runs down the back of the leg, the side of the leg, or wrapping round the hip and down the front of the leg. When any of the nerve roots become pinched, a person experiences low back pain combined with sharp, shooting pain down the leg, sometimes all the way to the foot. Sometimes there is a dull, numb feeling to the leg as well. Sciatica is extremely common, affecting anywhere from 15% to 40% of Americans, with the most common occurrences happening to people in their 50’s. Typical Western treatments for sciatica include NSAID’s, cold packs, massage, heating pad, steroid injections and surgery. This helps manage pain, but does not usually resolve it. Recurrences are common. This condition ruins your quality of life in about a day. As soon as you experience pinched nerve pain, you are on a mission to get rid of it. You can’t think straight, you can’t sleep well, and typically you are in a seriously bad mood. The good news is that acupuncture is outstanding at eliminating sciatic pain. I absolutely love treating sciatica, because it is so rewarding to see the relief people feel. It is like watching someone half-dead spring back to life. Acupuncture is so effective at treating sciatica because it treats the deeper reason WHY this is happening in the first place. This goes back to the health problems that people age 50+ experience: the waning of kidney function and diminished vitality of the blood. Acupuncture relieves the pain because it is accelerating the body’s own ability to heal. Kidney function becomes enlivened, boosting the strength of bones and helping them align properly. Blood becomes invigorated and enriched, circulating with more power and containing more moisturizing agents to soothe dry tendons. Muscles are stimulated, increasing strength and stability. I use a multi-faceted approach to treating sciatic pain, all of which my patients report is quite enjoyable. First I use tui na, a Chinese form of physical therapy which includes massage and acupressure. This warms up the muscles, increases blood flow, and activates the acupuncture points. Next is the acupuncture. I select points located on the back, arms and legs which control stimulation of kidney and blood function. This is very deep energy in the body, and the patient immediately feels calm and relaxed when it is accessed. Once the acupuncture is complete and the patient is resting comfortably, I add heat therapy. Patients love the heat lamp, which has a special mineralized plate. As the heat penetrates the muscles, trace minerals are infused which accelerate healing. It is very soothing. Most patients drift off to sleep. At the end of the appointment, I discuss dietary changes the patient might try to further increase the body’s ability to heal itself. Fruits and vegetables with deep rich color are best, especially spinach, kale and broccoli, which all boost the vitality of the blood. Sometimes we supplement with herbal medicine. Sciatica is a tough condition to live with. If someone you love is struggling with sciatica, ask them to give acupuncture a try. They’ll definitely thank you later, when they’re pain-free and enjoying life again. Call today to inquire if your healthcare plan covers acupuncture! (520) 318-5560. Candice Thomas is a licensed acupuncturist in Tucson, specializing in chronic pain, stress relief, and prostate health. Visit her at www.LightWorksAcupuncture.com.