Does Acupuncture Work For Sciatic Nerve Pain? This Is What I Learn From A Licensed Acupuncturist

Are you suffering day and night from terrible sciatic nerve pain? I was too, but then acupuncture came into my life like a breath of relief. You must be thinking that does acupuncture work for sciatic pain? This centuries-old therapy relieves sciatica pain and keeps it from coming back. It works by stimulating the central nervous system, which, in turn, triggers the release of serotonin and other brain chemicals that alter the experience of pain.

So What Is Sciatica?

This disorder is caused by pressure or irritation of the sciatic nerve, which originates from the spinal column. The pain may extend to the legs or toes. Sciatica can be triggered by a herniated disc, lumbar spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, spondylolisthesis, and other conditions. Symptoms vary from a mild ache to sharp, burning pain and severe discomfort. Most people also experience numbness, weakness, tingling, and difficulty moving their legs.

My Experience With Acupuncture And Sciatica Pain Relief

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. It would alternate sides from time to time, and I still experience bouts of it occasionally.

I was a competitive runner in my 30’s and running, particularly in colder weather, used to trigger my pain. I tried all conventional treatments, including thermal pads, therapeutic ultrasound, pain medications, and stretching, but they only gave me little to no relief.

One of my colleagues had been suffering from sciatic pain in his lower back for quite some time. He told me about acupuncture and how he had great results from the sciatic nerve acupuncture treatment. After listening to his story, I had to try it for myself and see whether it would offer me any relief.

I also found out that we can do DIY acupressure (another form of acupuncture) at home to stimulate the relevant pressure points for treating sciatica. Instead of needles, we can easily massage the same acupoints with hand to find relief.

How Many Acupuncture Treatments Are Needed For Sciatica?

So, does acupuncture work for sciatic nerve pain? Well, I went to a licensed acupuncturist who asked about my problem and examined my symptoms. He also checked my skin and eyes, searched for blocked energy, and measured my heart rate. After assessing my overall health, he inserted tiny needles at specific points on my body.

This, according to the acupuncturist, would trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin, change brain chemistry, and increase the flow of pain-killing chemicals in my body, leading to pain relief.

I could hardly believe it myself, but the proof was right there in front of me. I was effusively thankful for the relief I got from that single acupuncture treatment, and eventually, after another 4 to 5 sessions, my pain had resolved entirely.

The number of treatments required to ease sciatica symptoms depends on how long you have been suffering from it and how intense the pain is. Your acupuncturist will suggest a course of treatment according to your severity and symptoms.

Best Acupuncture Points For Sciatic Pain

Below are some of the top acupuncture or acupressure points. At home, you can try to massage these acupoints to relieve sciatica pain.

Acupoint: GB-30 (Other Names: Gallbladder-30/Huan Tiao/Jumping Circle)

It is situated on the lateral side of the buttocks at the intersection of the lateral 1/3 and the medial 1/3 of the line joining the main trochanter and the sacrum’s hiatus. You can find the acupoint easily by bending your leg, as shown in the diagram above.  Your heel will be touching GB-30 directly. This is one of the top acupuncture points for sciatic pain and piriformis syndrome. Underneath the glute muscles, there is a relatively tiny fat muscle called the piriformis. The piriformis is attached to the hip from the sacrum. The sciatic nerve lies beneath the piriformis muscle. When you stimulate GB30, you relax the piriformis muscle and reduce the sciatic nerve’s pressure.

Acupoint: GB-34 (Other Names: Gallbladder-34/Yang Ling Quan/Yang Mound Spring)

This fantastic point for sciatica is located in a depression one cun (one finger width of the thumb) anterior and inferior to the fibula’s head below the knee’s lateral aspect. If you can’t find the acupoint, try to rest your finger at the base of your knee cap. Then, move the finger gradually outward until you feel the protruding fibula’s head. The depression immediately below the fibula’s head is GB-34. This point helps sciatica and issues with the lower back, hip, lower limbs, and knees.

Whenever you have a tendon or ligament problem or pain, Gallbladder 34 is the point you should go for. GB34 is best for all types of issues related to tendons and ligaments.

Acupoint: Bl-54 (Other Names: Urinary Bladder-54/Zhi Bian/Order’s Limit)

Here is another excellent point for sciatic pain. It is located near the sacrum and on the left and right sides of the spine’s end. It is about 3 cun (4 fingers’ width, excluding the thumb) lateral to the lower border (GV line) at the level of the 4th posterior sacral foramen (S4). This point is useful for sciatica pain, especially if the pain radiates along the leg’s posterior aspect. It also helps activate the meridian, strengthens the lower back, alleviates pain, muscular atrophy, numbness, and motor impairment of the lower extremities.

Acupoint: Bl-37 (Other Names: Urinary Bladder-37/Yin Men/Gate of Abundance)

You can find this point on the posterior thigh, in the depression between the hamstrings, 6 cun (8 fingers’ width, excluding the thumb) below Chengfu (Bl-36). It is easier to locate Bl-36 first because it is the midpoint of the fold of the buttock.  Bl-37 is perfect for strengthening the spine and alleviates pain, especially lower back pain, sciatic pain, local hamstring, thigh, and leg pain. It is a very practical acupoint for sciatica or paralysis of the legs.

Acupoint: Bl-40 (Other Names: Urinary Bladder-40/Wei Zhong/Middle of the Crook)

BL40 is a unique acupoint that extracts heat from the channel. Acupoints that clear heat from the channel are beneficial for pain-related problems. Bl 40 acupuncture point can help relieve a sore throat, headache, toothache, foot pain, back pain, sciatic pain, hip pain, and knee pain.

You can find it in the center of the crease that marks the back of the knee between the tendons of biceps femoris and semi tendinosis.

Acupoint: Bl-57 (Other Names: Urinary Bladder-57/Cheng Shan/Support the Mountain)

This point is located on the lower leg’s posterior midline, halfway between Bl-40 and Bl-60. This acupoint is at the depression that appears under the gastrocnemius muscle when you straighten the calf and lift the heel.

BL57 is the perfect acupuncture point for hemorrhoid pain and helps relieve constipation, sciatica, and lower leg pain.

Acupoint: Bl-60 (Other Names: Urinary Bladder-60/Kun Lun/Kunlun Mountains)

This point is situated in a depression midway between the tip of the external ankle bone and the Achilles tendon’s outer edge.

It is a powerful point for alleviating pain in any region of the spine and improves chronic lower back pain or lower limbs’ numbness.

Try Ear Seeds For Sciatic Pain

I also found this technique known as ear seed or ear acupressure to help sciatic pain. For this, you would require small black seeds of the Vaccaria plant, which you can put on your ear over specific acupressure points using an adhesive tape. The seeds stimulate the acupoint in the ears by exerting mild pressure and offer relief from sciatic pain. You can find out more about the benefits of Ear Seeds here.

Bonus: Download free ear acupressure points chart

The Final Verdict

So, does acupuncture work for sciatic pain? It certainly did help in my case. My body is still sensitive to cold and dampness, and I continue to use the DIY acupuncture or Acupressure technique at home as a strengthening and preventive measure. This way, my body stays completely pain-free and supple, I don’t get colds, have good stamina, and am happy, and I wish the same to you!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio, by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels and  Katherine Hanlon on Unsplas

Author: P. Sze

P. Sze P. Sze is the founder of TCM Tips and Dragon Acupuncture®. She graduated from the National University of Singapore with a first-class honor in Civil Engineering. S he also holds a master’s degree in Engineering and is the brain behind the innovative TCM products of Dragon Acupuncture®. She is the author of The Beginner's Guide to Auricular Therapy: Application of Ear Seeds (ISBN 978-1520451398) and Facial Gua Sha - Fight the Signs of Aging Naturally and Inexpensively (ISBN 978-1980678922). She has dedicated her life to ensuring that the complex theories behind oriental medicine and the seemingly dangerous techniques that involve needles and fire do not scare you from trying oriental medicine. This is why she writes endlessly about acupressure and its countless health and wellness benefits.

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