If you suffer from sciatic nerve pain and are searching for a mainstream or an alternative pain relief, it is a good idea to understand the possible causes of your pain.
On this page we consider Western classification. On our Sciatica Symptoms page you can find out how ancient Chinese Medicine differentiates it.
What is Sciatica?
The word sciatica itself is a medical term for a pain caused by low back conditions.
Experienced usually on one side of the body, the pain radiates down the back or outside of the leg along the nerve and/or its branches, often all the way to the ankle even toes. When it is consistently felt below the knee the condition is considered ‘genuine’ sciatica.
The root of the sciatic nerve, the longest peripheral nerve of the body, emerges from the spine in the lumbar area, where the nerve roots may become irritated, inflamed, compressed or some other way adversely affected. The cause of sciatic nerve pain could be one of these conditions.
Starting where the sciatic nerve emerges from the spinal canal in the lumbar area, a disk that is suppose to provide cushion between the vertebra, may have lost its shape and is now pressing on the nerve therefore causing sciatica symptoms.
The name Bulging Disk is used when the gel-like center pushes against the disk’s outer wall. And when the center breaks through the bulge, the condition is called a Herniated Disc. In both cases, the gel-like center presses on the root causing pain.
Herniated Disk results in a more severe condition because the disc material that leaks out contains an acidic chemical irritant (hyaluronic acid) that causes nerve inflammation.
Degenerative Disk Disease (DDD) is a result of an ageing process, which affects the healthy shape and function of the discs. This can result in a bulging or herniated disk and therefore in sciatic nerve pain.
Piriform Syndrome. The sciatic nerve runs under the piriformis muscle. From the lower back, this muscle connects to the thighbone and helps you rotate your hip. A muscle spasms in the Piriform can compress and cause pain. Not easily identified by X-ray or MRI, it may be difficult to diagnose and treat.
In Pregnancy the extra weight of the womb can cause pressure on the spine and compress the sciatic nerve. After the childbirth, the symptoms usually subside.
Spinal Stenosis. The nerves travel through the spinal canal and if the canal space in the lower back narrows because of a bone overgrowth, for instance, the pressure can be the reason for the sciatic nerve pain.
Spinal Tumors and Spinal Infections are rare but if this happens, they can compress the nerve causing pain.
In a condition called Spondylolisthesis, a vertebra slips over the one below it. This can pinch the nerve root leading to sciatica.
Trauma in the lower back as a result of an accident can cause a pinched nerve and therefore acute pain that radiates along the side or back of the leg.
It may also be that the body has had earlier injuries such as ski accidents, which I personally experienced when young. The pressure on the nerve root increases year by year finally manifesting in excruciating sciatic nerve pain.
In my case, the disk between the third and fourth lumbar vertebrae became herniated therefore pressing on the nerve root and causing the pain which increased slowly.
For years, the pains I experienced were treated with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Remedies but periodically, particularly when the weather was cold and damp, they returned with vengeance.
Eventually, a successful Micro Disectomy was performed, which set me permanently free from pain. For this, I am truly thankful for our modern medicine.
In addition to the above classification, the chronic back and leg pains can be seen as Rheumatic Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteo Arthritis and Gout.
Job Dissatisfaction, Stress or Emotional Distress are often correlated with both, acute and chronic back and sciatic nerve pain.
Chinese Medicine provides an effective Sciatica Pain Relief
We experience painful sciatica pain when the sciatic nerve becomes irritated or inflamed.
Usually affecting only one side of the body, sciatica back pain radiates to the hips and down along the back or side of a leg, in severe cases all the way to the ankle even toes.
This kind of back and leg pain can be burning and sharp, but it can also be dull, making some areas feel numb, and there could be difficulty in controlling movement.
Sciatica symptoms can be constant or occasional, and is often affected by damp and cold weather.
Acupuncture for Sciatica Pain
Not as analytical as Western Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) aims to penetrate into the cause of pain as well as the person’s environment in order to understand and treat any pain or disease.
We ask, Is this Internal or External condition, is it Hot or Cold, Excess or Deficiency, and finally how do the symptoms relate to the overall Yin/Yang state of the person, since the ultimate goal is to establish complete balance for the whole being?
By visiting a well-trained Chinese Medicine doctor in your area you could learn about your body’s strengths and weaknesses. By asking questions you would know which of the patterns of disharmony is predominant in your particular situation and could receive further suggestions for your sciatica pain.
Patients who present lumbago or sciatica symptoms in a TCM clinic are usually diagnosed as suffering from a type or a combination of the following Bi syndromes:
Wandering Bi, which relates to wind
Painful Bi, which relates to cold
Fixed Bi, which relates to dampness
Febrile Bi, which relates to heat and feverish conditions
All of them involve blocking or slowing down the Chi or/and blood flow, often in the lower half of the body. Weakness and/or a serious injury to the back are often important factors underlying a sciatica pain. Since ancient times Bi syndromes have been considered to be the influences of cold, damp, and wind. Because this kind of lower back pain’s tendency is to radiate down the leg, the condition is frequently attributed to a combination of cold and damp, which are Yin factors with a natural downward course.
Wind, as an external pathogenic factor, contributes to the wandering nature of the pain, particularly if the surface Chi or vital energy of the body is weak. Kidney ‘domain’, which includes all urinary and sexual functions as well as the bone marrow and the brain, is the foundation of life according to TCM. These functions can become weakened, and what is first Kidney Chi deficiency can develop into Kidney Yang deficiency seriously upsetting the Yin/Yang balance of the whole body. This happens usually by a loss of sperm through excessive sex (in men) or other factors and advancing age in both genders. The body may not be able to ward off the cold and damp affecting the lower body, therefore creating a Yin excessive condition, which for the lack of movement ‘stagnates’. In this case, the external wind may not be the main factor, but with cold and damp can exacerbate it and make it appear as if the symptoms wander.
Finding relief is our number one priority when experiencing any kind of pain whether it is acute, chronic or episodic. And today many people search for alternatives to prescription drugs for sciatica pain relief. Acupuncture is a growing trend. As a part of TCM practice, the art of acupuncture involves unblocking Chi, the body’s Vital Energy Force that flows through channels continuously. If Chi is blocked or weak, physical or mental illness develops. The purpose of acupuncture is to restore a healthy flow of Chi throughout the body in order to have perfect balance and harmony in all its functions. In the case of sciatica symptoms, when the channels are opened they have their natural warmth, the dampness is overcome and the whole body strengthened to withstand wind, cold and damp.
A new Nano Acupuncture is a non-invasive, gentle therapy for the clinic or home use. This acute and chronic pain relief system utilizes Tourmaline stone treated with nanotechnology and was developed, tested and is already used in many hospitals in China. These remarkable stones are designed to replace needles in acupuncture. When used according to the accompanying instructions the Holistic Healing Disks:
Are easy to use
Have no side effects
The healing Disks offer a natural pain relief including for lower back and hip pain because they can be applied locally to the painful areas in addition to using them according to the acupuncture theory.
Not losing their potency, they last for years and their use can alleviate most disharmonies, including many stress-related illnesses such as anxiety, insomnia, depression etc.
Chinese Healing Herbs for Lumbago and Sciatica Pain
Herbal Remedies as a sciatica pain relief target to warm the kidney yang, to dispel cold, to clear dampness by invigorating the spleen function and to resolve the overall wind-cold-damp influence.
There are many useful anti-rheumatic herbs and certain ones are especially good in lumbago and sciatica treatment. One of the formulas containing them is ‘Du Huo Ji Sheng Wan’. You may purchase it from a Chinese Herbalist, who may suggest others especially suited for your needs.
Other painful conditions of the lower limbs, such as gout and knee arthralgia are treated with similar herbs and formulations.
Many patent formulas are now available from North American manufacturers. Please see the recommendations below.
DMSO is a Western natural product used topically. Gently rub a few drops of it to the painful area. Penetrating through the skin, it flushes out toxins and excess fluids, therefore easing the pain.
The experience of a typical sciatica pain on the right side of my body stretched over a period of several years. Most of the time my lower back and leg pain was agonizing and I had to be super careful to keep my back, hip and leg warm at all times.
Searching for Pain Relief
When young, I was an avid cross country skier and remember having several minor accidents where I landed on my tail bone. I believe that those experiences were the beginning of my lower back pain, which through the years developed into a herniated disk and full-blown sciatica.
I searched and used many forms of therapy, particularly natural pain relief with Acupuncture and Chinese healing herbs, but the pain kept coming back when the weather was cold and damp. I had to be careful and use the above methods as soon as the first symptoms emerged.
As in any form of back pain therapy, it is important for you to know what the cause of sciatica is before you design an exercise program. After the diagnostic assessment, an acupuncturist or a physiotherapist can be of help.
In my case I learned that moving and doing exercises is better than bed rest. My choice was to incorporate a few Yoga stretches into my Non-invasive Acupuncture and Chi Kung self-healing program. This combination was helpful for many years.
A Small Surgery to Relieve Pain.
As I mentioned earlier, the cause of my pain was a herniated disc pressing on the root of the sciatic nerve. Finally, a micro-operation was done, which relieved the pressure and pain. For this, I am extremely thankful to our Western medicine and the skillful surgeon who performed the task!
Just in case you or your loved ones back and leg pain are caused by a herniated or a degenerative disc, have this checked out by an MRI or X-ray. If your doctor recommends a micro-operation, please consider it for it is a safe, one-day procedure which can make you permanently free of sciatica.
My body is still sensitive to cold and damp, and I continue to use the DIY acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, but now as a strengthening and preventive measure. This way my body stays completely pain-free and supple, I don’t get colds, I have good stamina, and I am happy. And I wish the same to you!
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the kidneys are the foundation of life. As we get older the aches and pains we experience are usually associated with Kidney Yin and/or Yang weakness.
One or a few visits to a well trained Chinese Medicine doctor in your area could give you an understanding of your body’s strengths and weaknesses. By asking questions you would know which of the patterns of disharmony are predominant in your particular situation and learn about the needle-less acupuncture for healing and rejuvenation.
Please read and purchase our strategies and tools, which will enable you to live in glorious freedom from all pain. Click to see the program outline: