Sciatica is compression of the sciatic nerve which results in pain radiating down the back or side of the leg. It is commonly caused by nerve root compression at various levels in the spine or inflammation in the the sciatic nerve itself.
Symptoms associated with sciatica are low back pain, numbness or tingling down the leg as far as the foot, and weakness of the affected areas.
The sciatic nerve originates in the low back at spinal nerve levels from L4 to S3. It goes through the pelvis, then down to the knee, where it branches out into the tibial and peroneal nerves. The tibial nerve travels through the posterior lower leg, and the peroneal nerve travels down the lateral part of the lower leg. This nerve pathway explains why people can experience numbness and tingling all the way down the leg when they have sciatica.
Acupuncture works by relaxing tight muscles, improving blood circulation, regulating the nervous system, and releasing neurotransmitters to reduce pain.
Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment for sciatica without the side effects of prescription pain medications like NSAIDs and muscle relaxers. It is also a safe, non-surgical treatment option that can relieve sciatica pain.
One systematic review of acupuncture for sciatica found that acupuncture improved sciatica symptoms better than NSAID treatment. Acupuncture also helps enhance the effects of medications that may be prescribed for sciatica so it can help reduce the dosage and mitigate the side effects.