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Acupuncture Treats Sciatica

Acupuncture has been shown to be effective at treating sciatica, where other treatment methods may not have had success. Many of those who have used medication, physical therapy, or surgery to treat their sciatica still experience pain. Fortunately, studies show acupuncture is a safe alternative that shows promising results for patients diagnosed with sciatica.

Sciatica is a pain that radiates from the lower back down the leg, caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. It is a relatively common condition, affecting up to 40% of people at some point in their lives. The pain can be mild to severe and can be accompanied by numbness, tingling, and weakness in the leg.

Acupuncture can be used in conjunction with other treatments, such as medication and physical therapy, to help reduce and modulate pain while improving muscle function. This integrative approach works by stimulating specific points on the body to release neurotransmitters, such as endorphins and serotonin, which are natural pain relievers. It also improves blood flow, balances the central nervous system, relaxes muscle tension, and decreases inflammation and swelling.

In 2015, researchers from the University of Hong Kong conducted a systematic review of the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating sciatica. A systematic review is a type of research that collects and analyzes all the available research on a particular topic. They examined 11 randomized controlled trials, which are the gold standard for medical research.

These randomized controlled trials made the following comparisons:

  • Effectiveness of acupuncture to sham acupuncture -- placebo acupuncture which may use the same acupuncture point with no needle insertion, or needle insertion close to but not on an actual meridian point.

  • Effectiveness of acupuncture to Western medicine -- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen, diclofenac, and meloxicam.

The researchers used a statistical technique called meta-analysis that combined the results of 962 participants experiencing chronic or acute sciatica across multiple studies to get a more precise estimate of the effect of acupuncture treatment.

The results of the meta-analysis are as follows:

  • Acupuncture was more effective than sham acupuncture in reducing pain intensity.

  • Acupuncture was associated with a significant decrease in sciatica and lumbago related pain compared to NSAIDs.

  • Acupuncture combined with NSAIDs was more effective in relieving pain than NSAIDs alone.

  • Acupuncture did not produce adverse effects.

Acupuncture is a safe, non-surgical, and effective treatment that can help you regain your mobility and alleviate pain. Acupuncture may take several sessions to see results, so please be patient and work with your acupuncturist to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Please give us a call at 301.880.3232 and it will be our pleasure to schedule a comprehensive evaluation for you.



Cleveland Clinic. (2017). Sciatica & Leg Pain | Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic.

Qin, Z., Liu, X., Wu, J., Zhai, Y., & Liu, Z. (2015). Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Treating Sciatica: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015, 1–13.

Ji, M., Wang, X., Chen, M., Shen, Y., Zhang, X., & Yang, J. (2015). The Efficacy of Acupuncture for the Treatment of Sciatica: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM, 2015(192808).

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