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Acupuncture for Sciatica

Sciatica is one of the most frequently encountered conditions by physiotherapists. If you haven’t had it, be glad that you haven’t! Often sciatica is characterised by severe pain, which can be extremely debilitating. Along with pain killers, physiotherapy is the first line treatment for it. Luckily, there are several things in our physiotherapy tool box that that can help. Acupuncture is one of them. Read on below to understand more about sciatica as a condition and how acupuncture can help.


What is sciatica?

Sciatica is actually a non-specific term. It is used to describe pain radiating down the back of the leg, caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. You can think of sciatica as a symptom, rather than a diagnosis. Most commonly it occurs as a result of something going on in the lower back such as a ‘slipped disc‘ (disc prolapse) or age related changes such as arthritis (Spondylosis) or Stenosis. Occasionally, the sciatic nerve can become irritated as it passes through the buttocks (Piriformis Syndrome). All of these conditions can irritate/compress the nerve which affects the blood supply to the nerve which results in pain and/or tingling/numbness.


How do I know if I’ve got sciatica?

Sciatica is often characterised by pain, which is typically reported as a stabbing, burning or shooting sensation. It can be present anywhere in the back of the leg from the buttock to the foot and toes. It’s also not uncommon to experience tingling (pins and needles) and/or numbness in the same distribution. You may also notice some weakness in the affected leg. Sciatica can affect just one leg at a time, or in some cases two.


Can acupuncture help?

The pain experienced with sciatica is often quite severe, extremely so in some cases, so getting the pain to a manageable levels as soon as possible is the priority. This is where acupuncture comes in. Acupuncture has its origins in Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been in practice for thousands of years. Here at the Physios, we practice Western Acupuncture, primarily for pain relief. You can read more about what acupuncture is here.

Studies have shown that acupuncture can be very effective in the management of sciatic pain. It can be used to treat leg and back pain associated with the condition.


I think I’ve got sciatica, is acupuncture appropriate for me?

If you are experiencing tingling/pins & needles, numbness or muscle weakness in your leg because of sciatica it is important that have a comprehensive assessment of your symptoms. As experienced physiotherapists we will be able to examine your symptoms and provide a diagnosis of what may be causing your pain.

There are a few health conditions for which acupuncture is contraindicated, i.e. not at all appropriate. We would rarely encounter these conditions in a musculoskeletal clinic. It is also not suitable for anyone who has a needle phobia or is very anxious at the thought of acupuncture. Other conditions such as diabetes, being prescribed blood thinning medications and pregnancy are conditions we need to be aware of, but we can proceed with caution.

If you are experiencing tingling/pins & needles, numbness or muscle weakness in your leg because of your sciatica


How do I book an appointment?

We don’t offer appointments for acupuncture as a stand alone treatment, it will always be in conjunction with exercise and ‘hands on treatment’ (where appropriate), so you will need to book an initial consultation with one of our physiotherapists first. Tell you physiotherapist that you are interested in receiving acupuncture as part of your treatment and they will discuss this further with you at the time.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

View more articles from Sarah Brownhill (née Crisp)


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