Sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica, is a collection of symptoms caused by a wide array of underlying health issues. While there are numerous treatments for the treatment of sciatica, a doctor's treatment plan for back pain and sciatica may also include alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, acupressure, biofeedback, and/or yoga. Many patients have reported that alternative treatments have helped relieve their sciatic nerve pain. If you're experiencing symptoms of sciatica, you might want to try the following alternative treatment options.
Acupuncture practitioners have the belief that your body has an energy force called Qi or Chi (pronounced "chee"). They believe that if Chi is blocked, it can create physical disease. Both acupuncture and acupressure (see below) function to restore a healthy, energetic flow of Chi. (All these Eastern approaches to healing are distinct from Western scientific concepts. That doesn't make them better or worse; it only makes them different.)
In order to perform acupuncture, acupuncturists insert very fine needles, which are sterilized and disposable, into specifically exact points on the body. These points are known as meridians. Each meridian is the same as a channel, referred to as an acupoint, or acupuncture point. Because meridians run near the skin's surface, it is not necessary to insert needles deep into the tissue. Meridians correspond to specific sections of the human body or to a human body system like the nervous, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, or lymphatic system. During an acupuncture treatment, the acupuncture practitioner will usually gently twirl or heat some or all of the needles.
It's common for individuals to question whether acupuncture is uncomfortable, however, even patients who have been afraid of the needles at first, have found acupuncture to be a relaxing and painless experience. If you would like to pursue acupuncture treatment, please make sure to look for a licensed acupuncture practitioner who uses sterile and disposable equipment.
Acupressure has often been formerly compared to acupuncture. Acupressure is a non-invasive, secure, and gentle therapy which is believed to help unblocks Qi without using needles. The acupressure practitioner uses their thumbs, fingers, and elbows to put an exact quantity of pressure to specific points in the body. Acupressure therapy comprises the use of consistent pressure to one or more points and briskly rubbing against the acupressure point to stimulate it. Acupressure points and acupuncture points are identical.
This type of alternative treatment option involves much more than simply telling your body to "stop feeling pain" Biofeedback is a mind-body therapy which rewires the brain by teaching you how to change or control a habitual reaction to pain or stress.
Could a person just "believe their pain away" with biofeedback? Unfortunately, it's not that simple. As a matter of fact, it requires a much more demanding effort from the individual. Biofeedback frequently requires intensive patient participation and it is not an alternative treatment option for everybody. Some experts view biofeedback as a controversial therapy because its use in the treatment of low back pain or sciatica has not been adequately researched. In spite of this view, many individuals have benefited from biofeedback.
Biofeedback involves using special equipment to quantify and provide "feedback" to the individual about his or her physiological reactions to certain stimuli, like stress and muscle tension. By instructing the patient to perform deep breathing techniques, visualization, and mental and physical exercises, the individual learns how to control their response to stress and pain related to muscle tension, in this scenario, muscle tension that may contribute to sciatica.
Yoga stretches can decrease symptoms of sciatica when the trigger is piriformis syndrome (sometimes a controversial diagnosis). Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle found in the lower portion of the spine compresses the sciatic nerve. This muscle aids in hip rotation. Gently stretching this muscle may help reduce sciatic pain. However, certain yoga stretches may aggravate symptoms of sciatica. Poses such as forward bending and twisting can irritate sciatic nerve pain. Any exercise which involves extending the back of the thighs (hamstrings) can irritate sciatica. As with any exercise, the patient must remember not to push their body beyond their pain limitations. Respect the body, and remember: Gently stretch.
As part of your treatment plan, you might want to try other sciatica treatment options. The following list are sciatica treatment, you may want to research to determine if they're appropriate for you:
- Chiropractic care
- Physical therapy
Chiropractic care is a popular, alternative treatment option commonly utilized to help treat sciatica. The purpose of chiropractic care is to promote the body's capacity to heal itself naturally, without the need for drugs/medications or surgery. It's based upon the scientific principle that limited spinal movement leads to pain and decreased function and performance.
A chiropractor may use a variety of methods or techniques to improve sciatic nerve pain. The type of chiropractic care provided depends on the reason for the individual's sciatica. A sciatica treatment program may include ice/cold treatments, ultrasound, TENS, and spinal adjustments or manual manipulations. Below are more details on these chiropractic care modalities.
- Ice/cold treatment reduce inflammation and help improve sciatic nerve pain.
- Ultrasound is gentle heat made by sound waves which penetrates deep into the soft tissues. Ultrasound increases circulation and helps to reduce muscle spasms, cramping, swelling, stiffness, and pain.
- TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is a small box-like, battery-powered, mobile muscle sculpting system. Variable intensities of electric current control acute pain and reduce muscle spasms. Bigger versions of this home-use TENS units are used by chiropractors, physical therapists and other rehabilitation professionals.
- Spinal adjustments and manual manipulations are at the core of chiropractic care. Manual manipulation frees restricted movement of the spine and helps reestablish misaligned vertebrae in the spine. Spinal adjustments can help reduce nerve compression responsible for inducing pain, muscle spasm, inflammation and other symptoms associated with sciatica. Spinal adjustments and manual manipulations have been proven to be safe and effective.
Furthermore, a chiropractor may utilize physical therapy to help improve symptoms of sciatica. After a careful diagnosis, a doctor of chiropractic can recommend a series of appropriate stretches and exercises which, together some of the chiropractic care modalities mentioned above, can help speed up the recovery process. Chiropractic care focuses on healing through movement, helping to restore the proper connection between the brain and body in order to promote natural healing of sciatica nerve pain.
Dr. Alex Jimenez's Insight
Because sciatica can be caused by a variety of underlying health issues, many different treatment modalities can be used to help relieve the common low back pain complaint. However, alternative treatment options, such as acupuncture, yoga and chiropractic care, have become increasingly popular in the treatment of sciatic nerve pain. Among the wide array of alternative treatment options, chiropractic care has become one of the most well-known modalities for improving symptoms of sciatica. Chiropractic care utilizes spinal adjustments and manual manipulations to carefully correct misalignments in the spine, or subluxations, which are often the most prevalent cause of sciatica. Other alternative treatment options can also efficiently help treat sciatic nerve pain without the need for drugs/medications or surgery.
Can Alternative Treatment Options Help Treat Sciatica?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question: several alternative treatment options can help relieve your sciatic nerve pain but they may not provide the same relief to another individual. If you're considering trying alternative treatment options to address your own sciatica, discuss the options with your doctor. They might also have recommendations for healthcare professionals which can ultimately help improve your sciatica. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic as well as to spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Sciatica
Sciatica is medically referred to as a collection of symptoms, rather than a single injury and/or condition. Symptoms of sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica, can vary in frequency and intensity, however, it is most commonly described as a sudden, sharp (knife-like) or electrical pain that radiates from the low back down the buttocks, hips, thighs and legs into the foot. Other symptoms of sciatica may include, tingling or burning sensations, numbness and weakness along the length of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica most frequently affects individuals between the ages of 30 and 50 years. It may often develop as a result of the degeneration of the spine due to age, however, the compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve caused by a bulging or herniated disc, among other spinal health issues, may also cause sciatic nerve pain.