Healing Sciatica and Piriformis Syndrome with Acupuncture
Sciatica is a real problem for many people at some point in their lives and it is a real pain in the butt! With our sedentary lifestyle these days, sitting at desks and in cars which are not ergonomically correct, the head has a tendency to lean forward, while the arms are high at a computer or steering wheel, and the upper back pressure eventually causes lower back pressure. In cranial-sacral theory it states that what affects the cranium (the head) will end up affecting the sacrum (at the base of the spine). It is important to get regular maintenance on the body with massage, acupuncture and chiropractic so the body stays in alignment and the muscles are relieved of their tension. Like a car, the body needs tune ups!
The Piriformis muscle is one of the main culprits for it connects to the sacrum on the lateral side and extends over to the ball and socket joint. As we sit, over-use and under-use this muscle two distinct issues occur:
- The muscle tightens causing a shortening, which can then spasm and become inflamed
- The muscular connections, tendons and ligaments which connect to the bones become weak
When this type of shortening occurs and as the Piriformis muscle gets inflamed, it becomes so big that it nicks the sciatic nerve, which lies just below. In fact, in some bodies, the sciatic nerve passes through this muscle. So, if this muscle is angry, it can make a very angry sciatic nerve. This leads to the following symptoms:
- Pain in the buttocks region
- Pain that radiates down the leg, to the outside or down the back of the hamstring. This can extend to the knee, calf and foot
- Tingling and numbness down the leg into the feet
- Pain in the hip region near the ball and socket joint as well as the sacrum
- Lower back pain
Check out this video for a detailed explanation of this important muscle which can be one of the leading culprits of Sciatica.
This video is amazing because it shows exactly how this muscle works, which is so difficult to visualize underneath the large muscular tissue of the buttocks. So, how do you get this muscle to calm down? Acupuncture! I have found Acupuncture to be the most effective way to relieve this painful issue. If given the right treatment by a trained Acupuncturist who knows how to treat Sciatica, it can alleviate this pain. Acupuncture works by going into the inflamed muscle and relaxing it. In addition, the needle just barely nicks the sciatic nerve causing relief, as that nerve is now being directed to fire down the nervous system pathway. Does this hurt? Almost never. When in severe pain as with sciatica and Piriformis syndrome, a person will do anything to get relief. Typically patients will feel relief in the first session. Subsequent sessions may be needed to keep this at bay but not always. Of course it is always suggested to continue maintenance before the issue causes major pain and immobility.
Equally as important as acupuncture treatments, are stretching exercises to not only loosen this muscle but to strengthen the hip joint. Studies have shown that the combination of stretching and strengthening along with acupuncture treatments can lead to a full recovery. However, it is important to stretch several times throughout the day. This typically only takes about 5 mins per session. Anytime that piriformis starts to feel flared up or the back, buttocks or legs start hurting, it is advised to drop to the floor and begin stretching. Doing this throughout the day will have a cumulative effect and will alleviate much of the inflammation in this area.
It is advised to NOT get dry needling for this syndrome. For one, this is acupuncture that is being performed by physical therapists who are not properly trained. In essence it is bad acupuncture. This can often cause further aggravation, pain and nerve damage because the needle is going too deep. Find a qualified licensed acupuncturist to perform your treatment. Acupuncture should be performed one to two times per week for up to six sessions before re-evaluating. Often times, by releasing this muscle, the strain from the sacro-iliac joint is released which then released pressure on the lumbar spine. By simply getting acupuncture, stretching and strengthening this area, this can help with bulging and/or herniated disks as well. For simple stretching and strengthening exercises, please watch this video!
Acupuncturist in Nashville Tennessee-Amy L. Suplee
Amy is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Board Certified by the NCCAOM, the governing body for Acupuncturists in the United States. She received her Master’s Degree in Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine at Five Branches University in Santa Cruz, California and is a graduate of University of Colorado. Amy is the Founder and CEO of the International Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Association.
Amy specializes in Women’s Health, Fertility, Pain Management and Chronic Illness. She has been trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Classical Chinese Medicine and 5 Element Emotional Balancing and Acupuncture. She has a long history in Western Medicine so she has the ability to integrate an Eastern and Western approach.
Amy is passionate about her work and enjoys seeing results in her patients. As an Acupuncturist and resident of Nashville, she is dedicated to helping individuals achieve their health goals. She has taken on some of the most difficult cases, and treated patients who have seen multiple doctors who had not previously had relief from their ailments.