‘Sciatica’ is the term used by the medical community to describe a specific set of symptoms—symptoms which are related to the inflammation, compression, or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is particularly unsettling because the sciatica nerve is the longest and largest nerve in the body, and symptoms can have serious consequences.
The right and left sciatic nerves extend from the nerve roots in the lower back and down the legs. Hence, symptoms can affect the foot, leg, or lower back and might include pain, numbness, muscle weakness, and tingling. In some cases, serious restrictions are placed on movement.
There a number of conditions that can cause sciatica symptoms. Chief among these is a disc injury (bulged or herniated disc material pressing against the nerves). Additionally, sciatica may be the result of pregnancy, trauma, spondylolisthesis (displacement of one of the bones of the spine), and, very rarely, spinal tumors.
The use of pain medications is not recommended for sciatica. Because this condition can be effectively treated with physical therapy (including lumbar or cervical traction) as well as chiropractic and deep tissue massage, there is no reason to inflict additional damage on the body during the rehabilitation process. In fact, our office specifically offers physical therapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, and acupuncture in one location in order to provide patients with rehabilitation practices that improve the health of the body while relieving pain and promoting better movement and flexibility.
Medications for pain should be used only as short-term solution. Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs can have serious consequences on the health of the body, including the health of the kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal tract.
Acupuncture and Sciatica
According to the tenets upon which the practice of acupuncture is based, a healthy body is one in which the flow of life energy (known as Qi ) is balanced, unobstructed, and free to move throughout the body. When the flow of Qi is out of balance, pain and illness is present. Acupuncture works by stimulating specific points in order to restore health and harmony throughout the entire body.
We know that the human body is equipped with many weapons to fight pain—without drugs. Acupuncture is a proven tool for channeling these weapons in the search for physical and emotional relief. For example, acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins and natural painkilling substances (these are known as endogenous opioids). Furthermore, by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, acupuncture works to suppress the stimulation of nerve signals that cause pain while simultaneously boosting mood.
In order to accelerate healing, acupuncture improves the circulation of blood, thereby oxygenating damaged tissues and cycling out waste chemicals. It also reinforces the rehabilitation process by calming the body and lowering blood pressure; patients in distress often heal more slowly than those who are relaxed.