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Research: Acupuncture Treats Sciatica

Sciatica is one of the most commonly reported complaints affecting quality of life. Research has established acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment option for chronic pain. A 2015 systematic review of 12 studies, totaling 1842 participants, was conducted on the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of sciatica.

The summary of results indicate that acupuncture is:

  • clinically effective for the treatment of sciatica

  • effective in reducing pain intensity

  • effective in increasing pain thresholds

Acupuncture has been demonstrated to be effective, safe, and well tolerated by patients for acute and chronic pain by:

  • stimulating the body to release endorphins and other neurohumoral factors that change the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord

  • reducing inflammation by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors

  • increasing blood circulation and reducing swelling

  • causing a change in sciatic nerve blood flow

  • influencing neurotrophic factor signalling, important to neuropathic pain

  • increasing noradrenaline and serotonin to reduce pain and speed nerve repair

  • promoting the regeneration and improving conductivity of the sciatic nerve



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.

Hopton A, MacPherson H. Acupuncture for chronic pain: is acupuncture more than an effective placebo? A systematic review of pooled data from meta-analyses. Pain Pract 2010; 10: 94-102.

Lewis K, Abdi S. Acupuncture for lower back pain: A review. Clinical Journal of Pain. 2010; 26(1)(pp 60-69)

Sherman KJ, Coeytaux RR. Acupuncture for the treatment of common pain conditions: Chronic back pain, osteoarthritis, and headache. Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management. 2009a; 16(5)(pp 224-230), 2009a.

Yuan J, Purepong N, Kerr DP, Park J et al. Effectiveness of acupuncture for low back pain: a systematic review. Spine. 2008 Nov 1;33(23):E887-900.

Ammendolia C, Furlan AD, Imamura M, Irvin E, van Tulder M. Evidence-informed management of chronic low back pain with needle acupuncture. Spine J. 2008 Jan-Feb;8(1):160-72

Wang ZX. [Clinical observation on electroacupuncture at acupoints for treatment of senile radical sciatica]. Zhongguo Zhenjiu 2009; 29(2): 126-8

Chen M-R et al. The warming acupuncture for treatment of sciatica in 30 cases. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2009; 29(1): 50-53.

Inoue M et al. Acupuncture treatment for low back pain and lower limb symptoms - The relation between acupuncture or electroacupuncture stimulation and sciatic nerve blood flow. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2008; 5(2): 133-43.

Wang B-X, La J-L. Therapeutic effects of electro-acupuncture and diclofenac on herniation of lumbar intervertebral disc. Chinese Journal of Clinical Rehabilitation 2004; 8(17): 3413-5.



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