Causes of Sciatica Pain
Sciatica refers to irritation of the Sciatic Nerve. This is one of the largest nerves in the body, leaving the lower spine in the lumbar vertebrae. It then travels down through the buttock and all the way down to the heel. It provides us with sensation and use of our lower limbs. Due to the many number of branches which come off this nerve, combined with its size, means it can easily be irritated. For the nerve to become irritated there needs to be some pressure or inflammation being applied to it. Often this comes about from pressure on the nerve where it leaves the spine.
As discussed in lower back pain, if damage occurs to the discs of the spine, they can put pressure on the nerves. This pressure causes the nerve to fire constantly which results in pain. Where and how severe the irritation determines how severe the pain is. Common causes I see for sciatica are:
- Bulging discs due to injury putting pressure on the nerve
- Tight gluteal muscle putting pressure on the sciatic nerve
- Arthritis of the spine, causing bony growths to press on the nerve
Types of Sciatica Pain
The sensation of pain can vary a lot between clients. I have seen many different presentations of sciatica over my years of practice. It can be characterised as:
- Shooting pains all down the leg
- pain just from the calf down
- numbness and tingling in different areas of the leg
- a burning sensation down the hamstrings
- Numbness through the buttocks
Again, due to the large size of the nerve, there are many different branches which can be affected. This type of pain though should not be ignored. Nerve impingement can be a an indicator of spinal injury and should be investigated.
How I use Acupuncture to Ease Sciatica Pain
The type of pain you feel tells me the type of blockage that is occurring. Sharp pain means blood stagnation, an aching pain means Qi stagnation. Numbness implies Damp accumulation. Though these sound odd, this is how Acupuncture explains the different types of pain nerve impingement can create. It is also why it can be so helpful in resolving the pain. As stated with lower back pain, if serious structural changes have occurred, we can expect to fully resolve your pain. But, the human body has a marvellous way or finding ways around damaged areas. Acupuncture is used to help the body find these pathways, as well as remove the local blockages. This not only helps reduce the pain, but also prevents further degeneration of the condition. If the sciatica is caused purely by muscle tightness then the prognosis is much better, can often be resolved. Scientific research has shown that Acupuncture has a strong anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Another study has shown that Acupuncture can even help nerves regenerate.
Remember, even if your condition can’t be resolved, this doesn’t mean you should let it continue to deteriorate. With regular maintenance you can still enjoy a long and healthy life, even with existing injuries.
Ways to manage Sciatica Pain Yourself
- don’t carry wallets, keys or phones in your back pocket, this can put direct pressure on the nerve
- Lie on the floor with a tennis ball or massage ball in the area of tightness to help relieve the pressure
- Ensure you do regular stretching and exercise to keep your back muscles loose and healthy
- Make sure your chair and desk is ergonomically set up so you don’t put excess strain on your hips and buttocks