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Sciatic Pain: Acupuncture as an Effective Treatment

Sciatic pain, also known as sciatica, stems from irritation of the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the human body. This nerve originates from the nerve roots in the lumbar spinal cord, located in the lower back, and extends through the buttock region, down the lower limb, and ends at the feet. The pain associated with sciatica is a result of irritation to the sciatic nerve and is often referred to as sciatic nerve pain.

Sciatica is a syndrome characterized by the impingement or inflammation of nerve roots, leading to neurological symptoms in the corresponding areas served by the affected nerve roots. The pain of sciatica typically radiates from the lower back, through the buttocks, and down one or both legs, sometimes reaching as far as the calf. The key symptoms include unilateral leg pain that extends to the foot or toes, surpassing the intensity of low back pain. Accompanying symptoms may consist of numbness, tingling sensations, muscle weakness, and loss of tendon reflexes. Additionally, there may be increased pain during straight leg raises and neurological symptoms limited to a single nerve root. The severity of sciatic pain can range from mild to extremely distressing, with durations varying from a few days to several months or even years. Over time, the pain tends to worsen and can be exacerbated by activities such as sneezing, coughing, laughing, prolonged standing or sitting, and bending backwards.

One treatment option that has demonstrated clinical efficacy in addressing sciatica is acupuncture. Multiple studies have shown its effectiveness in reducing pain intensity associated with sciatica.

A recent comprehensive review evaluated the existing clinical evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of acupuncture therapy for treating sciatica, providing support for its use in this context. The review encompassed 30 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving 2,662 participants. The findings revealed that acupuncture was superior to conventional medicine treatment (MT) in terms of enhancing the overall effective rate, reducing pain scores measured on the Visual Analog Scale (VAS), increasing pain thresholds, decreasing recurrence rates, and minimizing the occurrence of side effects.

Based on these results, the researchers concluded that acupuncture therapy is both effective and safe for patients suffering from sciatica. They further suggested that acupuncture can be considered as a viable alternative to conventional medicine treatment (MT). By embracing acupuncture as a treatment option, patients can experience relief from sciatic pain and potentially avoid the side effects associated with traditional medications.

In summary, sciatic pain, or sciatica, is a condition characterized by pain radiating from the lower back down to the leg, often accompanied by numbness and muscle weakness. Acupuncture has been identified as an effective treatment option for relieving sciatic pain. Numerous clinical trials have demonstrated its superiority over conventional medicine treatment, showcasing its ability to improve pain scores, increase pain thresholds, reduce recurrence rates, and minimize side effects. Consequently, acupuncture can be considered as a safe and viable alternative to medication for patients suffering from sciatica.


Zhihui Zhang et al Front Neurosci. 2023; 17: 1097830.

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