Sciatica: Latest Research

Sciatic-Nerve-Pain-Relief-111Sciatica is a diagnosis shared by 10% of the US population, with a 40% lifetime incidence.  Not only does the World Health Organization recognize it as a condition that acupuncture is effective in treating, but it also appears in most “commonly treated” lists.

What is Sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is the largest in the body and begins in the lower spine travelling down the buttocks and through the leg.  “Sciatica” is often caused when something puts pressure on the nerve, including muscle spasms of the piriformis.  The irritation of the nerve results in radiating pain, often with tingling and numbness.   Causes vary and may include: occupational injury, high heeled shoes, long periods of sitting or standing, and pregnancy.

Self Help:

  • Avoid sitting for long periods get up from your desk and stand/stretch every hour
  • Avoid crossing your legs.
  • Engage in strengthening exercise, especially of the core region.
  • Massage will help relax the muscles that may be spasms causing the nerve irritation.
  • Acupressure (we can show you how to locate acupressure points to use).

How Acupuncture Can Help:

  • Acupuncture reduces the pain and inflammation of sciatica by stimulating endorphine release.
  • It improves blood flow to the lower back increasing circulation.
  • It can relax muscle spasms that may be irritating the sciatic nerve.
  • It can promote regeneration of the sciatic nerve.

Research on acupuncture for sciatica is robust, over 10,000 scholarly articles have been published. The challenge in accessing much of this research is that not all have been translated into English.  Here are three abstracts; two from China and one meta-analysis.

Abstract 1: Qiusheng, Z. G. L. G. Z. (2009). Effect Estimate in Lumbar Hernia of Intervertebral Discs and Sciatica with Therapy of Electric Acupuncture.Guangming Journal of Chinese Medicine2, 069.

“Objective: To explore the effect of the lumbar hernia of intervertebral discs and sciatica with the therapy of electric acupuncture.

Methods: 120 cases of lumbar hernia of intervertebral discs and sciatica patients were distributed to the observation group(60) which were acquired lumbar traction,low frequency impulse electrotherapy and electric acupuncture treatment and the control group(60) which were acquired lumbar traction and low frequency impulse electrotherapy treatment. After two weeks of therapy, the pain of the visual analogue scale(VAS) in each group was recorded, the clinical assess of lumbar function was judged by the grade score table ,the effect was judged by the clinical symptom and sign.

Results: There was significant difference in acesodyne effect and lumbar development after 2 weeks of treatment in contrast to pretreatment in two groups (P0.01).There was significant difference after 2 weeks of treatment in the acesodyne effect and lumbar development between the two groups(P0.05).The experimental group got more cure rate and total effective rate than those of the control group(P0.01).

Conclusion: It was effective to the lumbar hernia of intervertebral discs in the lumbar traction and low frequency impulse electrotherapy.  It could get better effect to the lumbar hernia of intervertebral discs and sciatica at the basis therapy of lumbar traction and low frequency impulse electrotherapy adding to the electric acupuncture.”

Abstract 2: Zhao, Y., & Wang, G. L. (2011). Randomized controlled study on proximal needling for sciatica]. Zhongguo zhen jiu= Chinese acupuncture & moxibustion,31(5), 425.

“OBJECTIVE: To compare the effect of proximal needling and routine acupuncture for sciatica.

METHODS: Sixty patients with sciatica were randomly divided into a proximal needling group and a routine acupuncture group, 30 cases in each group. The proximal needling group was treated by proximal needling at Huantiao (GB 30). The routine acupuncture group was treated by acupuncture at Huantiao (GB 30), Yinmen (BL 37), Weizhong (BL 40), Yanglingquan (GB 34) etc. with routine acupuncture method. The Numerical Pain Rating Scales (NPRS) the Japanese Orthopaedic Association Scores (JOA) were all observed before, after treatment and in following up.

RESULTS: The total effective rates were 100.0% (30/30) in both groups, with no significant difference between the two groups (P > 0.05) in 3 month follow up. After 5 treatments, the total improvement rate of 100.0% (30/30) in the proximal needling group was super to that of 80.0% (24/30) in the routine acupuncture group. The NPRS and JOA scores were all improved significantly after 5 treatment and in following up compared with those before treatment in two groups (all P < 0.01). After treatments, the improvement of the NPRS and JOA scores in the proximal needling group was greater than those in the routine acupuncture group (both P < 0.05).

CONCLUSION: The proximal needling treatment has rapid and obvious therapeutic effect and analgesia on sciatica.”

Abstract 3: Lewis, R., Williams, N. H., Sutton, A. J., Burton, K., Din, N., Matar, H. E., … & Wilkinson, C. (2013). Comparative Clinical Effectiveness of Management Strategies for Sciatica: Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analyses. The Spine Journal.

“Background: There are numerous treatment approaches for sciatica. Previous systematic reviews have not compared all these strategies together.

Purpose: To compare the clinical effectiveness of different treatment strategies for sciatica simultaneously.

Study design: Systematic review and network meta-analysis.

Methods: We searched 28 electronic databases and online trial registries, along with bibliographies of previous reviews for comparative studies evaluating any intervention to treat sciatica in adults, with outcome data on global effect or pain intensity. Network meta-analysis methods were used to simultaneously compare all treatment strategies and allow indirect comparisons of treatments between studies. The study was funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) HTA programme; there are nopotential conflict of interests.

Results: We identified 122 relevant studies; 90 were randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or quasi-RCTs. Interventions were grouped into 21 treatment strategies. Internal and external validity of included studies was very low. For overall recovery as the outcome, compared with inactive control or conventional care, there was a statistically significant improvement following disc surgery, epidural injections, non-opioid analgesia, manipulation, and acupuncture. Traction, percutaneous discectomy and exercise therapy were significantly inferior to epidural injections or surgery. For pain as the outcome, epidural injections, and biological agents were significantly better than inactive control, but similar findings for disc surgery were not statistically significant. Biological agents were significantly better for pain reduction than bed rest, non-opioids, and opioids. Opioids, education/advice alone, bed rest, and percutaneous discectomy were inferior to most other treatment strategies; although these findings represented large effects, they were statistically equivocal.

Conclusions: For the first time many different treatment strategies for sciatica have been compared in the same systematic review and meta-analysis. This approach has provided new data to assist shared decision-making. The findings support the effectiveness of non-opioid medication, epidural injections and disc surgery. They also suggest that spinal manipulation, acupuncture, and experimental treatments such as anti-inflammatory biological agents, may be considered. The findings do not provide support for the effectiveness of opioid analgesia, bed rest, exercise therapy, education/advice (when used alone), percutaneous discectomy or traction. The issue of how best to estimate the effectiveness of treatment approaches according to their order within a sequential treatment pathway remains an important challenge.”

Wildwood Acupuncture Center has treated thousands of patients with sciatica effectively.  We are a family owned medically based clinic who will work in collaboration with other treatments you are receiving to enhance your treatment results.

Call us today to schedule a consultation: 301-530-5308