Acupuncture For Sciatica

Facts About Sciatica (or Sciatic Nerve Pain)

  • Sciatica refers to pain in the sciatic nerve, which runs through the lower back, hips, and legs.
  • It is usually due to a herniated disc in the spine.
  • It can cause pain, numbness, and tingling feelings in the lower back and radiating down the legs.
  • Sciatica is most common in adults ages 30-50.
  • Pregnant women have an increased risk of sciatic nerve pain.
  • Obesity and diabetes are also risk factors for sciatica, as well as activities like heavy lifting and prolonged sitting.
  • While mild sciatica will usually go away on its own after a short time, there are serious cases that don’t go away. If your sciatica is getting worse or lasting for weeks on end, it’s time to get treatment!
  • At its most serious, sciatica can last for several months and may even cause weakness, numbness, and loss of bowel/bladder function.


How does acupuncture for sciatica work?

Depending on who you ask, you might get different answers for why acupuncture works for sciatic nerve pain.

  • According to Chinese medicine, acupuncture works by unblocking the flow of chi—your vital energy force—and allowing it to circulate freely around the body. But there are several other theories, and doctors are learning more about acupuncture all the time.
  • A common theory is that acupuncture stimulates or increases the level of painkilling, inflammation-fighting hormones in the body.
  • Many Western doctors think that acupuncture points are connected to the nerves, hypothalamus, and/or pituitary glands.

Why should I try acupuncture for sciatica?

Other commonly-prescribed treatments for sciatica include:

  • waiting until it gets better
  • applying ice
  • taking anti-inflammatories or painkilling medications
  • physical therapy

If these treatments aren’t sufficient, or if you’re uncomfortable with taking medications on a regular basis, you should consider acupuncture.


What kind of training does my acupuncturist have?

Their education and training depend on what country you live in. They may be a licensed physician, or they may simply have a master’s degree in acupuncture or Oriental/Chinese Medicine. In any case, they have trained for a long time before they’re allowed to become a licensed acupuncturist. 

Since it can vary, it’s always a good idea to ask your new acupuncturist about their education, their training, and their years of experience in the initial consultation. That will help you decide if you can trust them to treat your sciatic nerve pain.


What is an acupuncture treatment like?

You’ll feel better about your first acupuncture appointment if you know what to expect, so here’s what a typical appointment will look like:

  • Your acupuncturist will ask you to either sit down or lie face down—usually on a padded massage table.
  • After you’ve gotten into a comfortable position, your acupuncturist will place the needles at the right acupuncture points.
  • During this stage, you may feel only the slightest pricks, or in some cases you might feel mild discomfort.
  • Then, you’ll remain in the same position for about 10 to 30 minutes while the needles stay in the acupuncture points. The acupuncturist will probably leave the room and let you relax during this stage, returning when it is time to take the needles out.
  • If needed, they will insert new needles into different insertion points and you’ll repeat the same process over again.
  • After they’re done removing the needles, your acupuncturist will swab the insertion points to make sure they don’t get infected. The tiny punctures will heal very quickly.
  • And you’re done! Hopefully you’ll start feeling results right away. Many people feel relaxed or invigorated after their acupuncture treatment.


Do I need to prepare for my appointment?

No, you shouldn’t need to undergo preparation before your acupuncture appointment. It’s best to wear loose clothing and show up feeling relaxed, but beyond that, there’s nothing you need to do!


How many treatments will I need?

It’s impossible to say upfront. Most people need about 2-3 treatments pre week for sciatic nerve pain, though it may vary depending on the person and the severity of their condition.


How do acupuncturists know where to place the needles?

Acupuncturists study for a very long time to learn the many acupuncture points on the human body. At your first appointment, they will consult with you to find out your specific needs. If your main concern is sciatica, they will use the acupuncture points that are known to help with sciatic nerve pain.


How long will my appointment take?

Most acupuncture appointments only take about 30 to 45 minutes total. Most of the time, your acupuncturist will place the needles and leave them for about 15-30 minutes before removing them. You’ll be walking out of the acupuncturist’s office feeling relaxed and invigorated in no time!


How big are acupuncture needles?

Not very big at all! Most acupuncture needles are about .00325 inches in diameter. That’s a lot smaller than the type of needles you are used to seeing! They can be anywhere from ½ inch long to 1 ½ inches long.


Can acupuncture cause pain, bleeding, soreness, or infection?

When a licensed acupuncturist performs the treatment, there is very little risk involved. While you may experience some mild soreness, you are very unlikely to experience bleeding or infection. The whole process is safe, gentle, and sanitary. After all, its purpose is to reduce pain—not cause it.


Is acupuncture safe for pregnant women?

Since sciatica often occurs during pregnancy, acupuncturists are frequently asked whether acupuncture is safe for pregnant women. Thankfully, most doctors believe that acupuncture is very safe when pregnant. Acupuncture is used to treat sciatica in pregnant women as well as morning sickness, headaches, and lower back pain!


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