I see many patients with lower back pain and sciatica pain in my clinic. Sciatica is not a medical condition by itself, rather it is a symptom that can caused by issues in the lower back and pelvic region, such as disc bulging or disc herniation. The compression, impingement or irritation of the sciatic nerve (with roots between L4 to S3), creating combination of sharp electric-type shooting pains, dull aching sensation, tingling, numbness and weakness anywhere between the buttock and foot. Usually this occurs only on one side. Pain relief medication, rest and physical therapy are typical conservative treatment for sciatica pain. However, there are many clinical studies proved that, acupuncture is also a very useful addition to conservative treatment for pain relief and recovery.
The systematic review of the effectiveness and efficacy of acupuncture for treating sciatica in 2015, concluded that acupuncture treatment effectively relieve leg pain/lumbago and improve global assessment of sciatica when compared with NSAID (ibuprofen, meloxicam, and diclofenac) treatment. Acupuncture stimulate inhibitory nerve fibers for a short period, reducing transmission of pain signal to the brain. In addition, acupuncture treatment initiates and activated endogenous analgesic mechanisms in human body. Clinical study shows that acupuncture treatment causes the secretion of endorphin which is an endogenous opioid and subsequently triggering the release of adenosine, producing a quick and effective analgesic action on radicular sciatica.
Extensive research has also shown that analgesic effect from acupuncture treatment is initiated by stimulation of high-threshold, small-diameter nerves in the muscles. There are also animal experiments on acupuncture treatment in which has revealed that acupuncture is a better treatment for regenration of crushed sciatic nerves than diclofenac sodium. In my clinic, I like to use electroacupuncture to treat sciatica pain and most of the time the patient get instant pain relief after the treatment session. Existing data demonstrated that electroacupuncture can attenuate pain via regulation of expression of multiple protein in the hypothalamus.
Acupuncture can be of particular therapeutic value, especially when coupled with other pain-management modalities. Consider first trying out some natural and less invasive options, rather than opting for something like surgery or injections straight away. Similar to western drug or medication, to achieve an effective result in treating a disease, prescribed dosage is very important. It is obvious that if less than the prescribed dose of medication is taken then it may not be effective. The same goes for acupuncture, if the treatment is spaced too far apart for a given condition then the desired result is less likely. I usually recommend having acupuncture treatment once or twice per week for 4 weeks as a starting point. However, it all depends on the severity of your condition, a thorough assessment is required at your first session.
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