The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and runs from the lower lumbar and upper sacral vertebrae to the pelvis and down the thigh and back of the leg. Pain experienced along this pathway is called sciatica. This is a type of referred pain where the pain is felt in areas supplied by the nerve, rather than the site of damage and suggests nerve root irritation.
Pain may be experienced in the lower back, extending down to the leg. The pain can be either mild or severe, with shooting or burning sensations. There may be muscle weakness or burning or tingling in the leg, foot or toes, or muscles spasms in the buttock or leg. There may also be loss of nerve reflexes in the knee or ankles.
The causes of sciatica are varied but it is often the result of a slipped (prolapsed) disc. The disks in the spine are thick, gel filled pads enclosed by a wide, fibrous ring. Pressure on or damage to, the discs can cause them to spill out their centre into the nerve roots at the spinal cord. Depending on the severity of the pressure, there may be minor backache or extreme, debilitating pain which makes walking very difficult. The pain can run right down to the foot and there may be a loss of power in the muscle.
Sciatica can be associated with pregnancy and childbirth. It may be the after effects of a strain caused by heavy lifting, stress, injury to the back, and/or an abnormality or misposition of the sacroiliac joint. Rarely a tumour may be pressing on the sciatic nerve. Sometimes there is no obvious cause for the condition.
Acupuncture is a holistic approach to medicine, where the aim of the treatment is not only to cure health problems but to balance the body, which has the effect of strengthening the immune system and preventing other illness form getting a foothold.
Much of the acupuncture consultation will be dedicated to a detailed system of TCM diagnosis (Traditional Chinese Medicine).
Successful acupuncture treatment depends on an accurate TCM diagnosis, so the initial consultation begins with typical questions such as: Your complete medical history, the symptoms you are experiencing, any pain you have had or are suffering from and what makes it feel better or worse, your sleep patterns, whether you experience any sensations of hot or cold, and whether you experience dizziness, what you’re eating habits are, bowel movements and family health history.
During the consultation the acupuncturist will also note certain observations, such as: posture, facial colour, facial expression, the brightness of your eyes or lack of, for example: a white face is linked to disharmony within the body or cold deficiency syndromes, a yellow complexion is related to dampness and a red complexion is a sign of excess heat syndrome.
The tongue is looked at and the pulse is taken and again this is done according to TCM principles. The colour, shape and coating of the tongue can reveal many patterns of illness and the pulse can give an indication of how individual organs are working in the body and whether they are underactive or overactive and whether your body is in a state of excess or deficiency.
Once the initial consultation is complete a TCM diagnosis is formed and from this diagnosis acupuncture point selection is then possible.
The length of treatment will depend on several factors, such as: the type of illness you have and its duration i.e. chronic or acute, your age, your individual healing abilities, how well you respond to acupuncture and whether you can avoid the conditions/cause of your presenting health issue. However many people can feel a difference in their health with only one or two appointments, but in general you should see some improvements after 3-4 treatments.
Because everyone is an individual, response times to acupuncture can vary, for example. After your first acupuncture appointment you may feel no improvement in your presenting complaint, however many people feel sleepy, revitalized, or sometimes a little spaced out after treatment. You can also feel an immediate improvement after acupuncture; alternatively you can feel a little worse, before you start to feel better. Acupuncture can bring emotional, mental and physical problems to the surface, however this is a positive sign so don’t worry about it. As with any treatment, complete recovery takes time and patience. For more information on what to expect from acupuncture treatment please refer to our FAQ page.
A case of Sciatica
Steven S. Age 54 presented to the clinic complaining of sciatica he has had this problem for 3 years and during this time he had tried several therapies all with varying degrees of success, Steven’s symptoms were typical of sciatica with lower back pain and a numb tingling sensation down the sides and back of his legs. Steven worked as a taxi driver doing 12 hour shifts 5 days per week so his job involved being in the seated position almost for his entire shift.
Stevens treatment involved acupuncture 3 times per week in order to get the pain under control, however each treatment would completely remove the pain, but within 3 to 4 hours of doing his shift in the taxi the problem would return. After a couple of weeks of acupuncture treatment the best result achieved was, he was pain free for one of his entire shifts. As with any form of medicine if you can find the cause and eliminate it you can often successfully cure the patient. However in Steven’s case the cause was prolonged sitting that caused the disk to bulge and press against the sciatic nerve. In order for this case of sciatica to be treated effectively Steven would need to find another occupation.
Three months later Steven made another appointment for acupuncture treatment for his sciatic pain, he had now left the taxi industry and went back to his old profession which was as a social trainer. Treatment began again with 3 appointments in the first week, 2 appointments in the second week and finally weekly appointments for another 4 weeks.
Steven also received Bowen therapy to complement each acupuncture treatment, a bio-med remedy specific for his sciatica and an herbal supplement also specific for sciatica. With this regime Steven experienced a 50% reduction in his pain level in the first couple of weeks and every session gradually improved his condition, Steven was also given an exercise regime to do at home twice daily, by the end of Stevens acupuncture treatment he was completely pain free.
A case of Sciatica
Jason H. Age 38. Presented to the clinic complaining of Sciatica, he first noticed the problem over ten years ago. Jason made an appointment with his doctor and was referred to a specialised and sent for some scans. Over the next few months Jason’s condition had not improved so he went back to his doctor complaining that his condition had become worse, Jason was then sent to another specialist and surgery was recommended for his condition.
Jason agreed to have surgery on his lower back and after several months of post operative recovery he was back on his feet with only minor discomfort that disappeared over the next few months. 8 years later Jason’s sciatica came back so he decided to give acupuncture a try, Jason’s treatment plan consisted of 3 acupuncture sessions per week for the first 3 weeks to get the symptoms under control followed by weekly appointment for the next 6 weeks he also received Bowen therapy after each acupuncture session and was given a tailored exercise regime to do at home along with a natural antinflamatory supplement. His treatment went well and Jason made remarkable progress from the very first appointment with the end result being pain free at the end of his treatment plan.
2 months later Jason returned to the clinic complaining that his sciatica had returned so after going through his case I found that Jason had started to do his old sport of running 10 Ks per day. After asking detailed questions about the return of Jason’s symptoms it was clear the exercise level of 10 Ks per day was simply too much for him, he had created a muscle imbalance in the Psoas muscle (this muscle is a hip flexor muscle involved in running) and this was causing his disc to bulge and touch his sciatic nerve. Jason’s treatment plan now consisted of acupuncture twice per week for 2 weeks followed by Bowen therapy and some deep tissue work on his Psoas muscle, Jason was again pain free after only 2 weeks, he was advised to cut back on the running and to thoroughly stretch his muscles before and after exercise. Jason followed these instructions and decided to include some gym work using some light weights and run 5 Ks every second day. As a result of this Jason has now been pain free for over 1 year.
Regardless of your medically diagnosed condition natural medicine has something to offer.
If you would like to find out if acupuncture can help your health and wellbeing then call, 94781415 or email us via our contact page to discuss your requirements or to find out more about acupuncture please go to our FAQs page. Alternatively give acupuncture a try and make an appointment now.
Best of health.
Paul Neilson CMP. L.Ac. ND. DHM.
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