Why does acupuncture help sciatica pain relief?

To investigate the clinical efficacy of acupuncture treatment for lumbar spinal canal stenosis and herniated lumbar disc ...Meiji University of Oriental Medicine did a research about this,they found that :For the animal study, increase in sciatic nerve blood flow was observed in 56.9% of the trial with lumber muscle acupuncture, 100% with pudendal nerve stimulation and 100% with sciatic nerve stimulation. Sciatic nerve stimulation sustained the increase longer than pudendal nerve stimulation. One mechanism of action of acupuncture and electrical acupuncture stimulation could be that, in addition to its influence on the pain inhibitory system, it participates in causing a transient change in sciatic nerve blood blow, including circulation to the cauda equine and nerve root.

Sciatic Nerve Compression
Several different types of spinal disorders can cause spinal nerve compression and sciatica or lumbar radiculopathy. The six most common are:

a bulging or herniated disc
lumbar spinal stenosis
spondylolisthesis
trauma
piriformis syndrome
spinal tumors

The interesting thing about sciatica is that exercise is actually part of the healing process. According to spine-health.com (a reputable site that is 100 percent peer-reviewed by medical professionals), "While it may seem counterintuitive, exercise is usually better for healing sciatic pain than bed rest. Without exercise and movement, the back muscles and spinal structures become deconditioned and less able to support the back . . . which causes additional back pain. Exercise is also important for the health of the spinal discs. Movement helps exchange nutrients and fluids within the discs to keep them healthy."
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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 Jun;5(2):133-43

If a group of patients begins acupuncture treatment for their spine pain, here are the likely results:

31.25% won't finish nine weeks of acupuncture, because it doesn't work for them.
15.6% will switch to another form of care - after they spend nine weeks figuring out acupuncture doesn't work for them.
9.4% will find relief during the nine weeks.
43.75% will continue to use acupuncture, even though they haven't achieved complete pain relief.

Twice as many chronic spine pain patients can expect to find complete relief from acupuncture compared to drugs. This is slightly more encouraging, but it still translates to less than one out of 10 patients experiencing relief from pain.
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What does this have to do with sciatica? Actually, a lot! If you have sciatica, you know low back, buttock, and leg pain can make working painfully difficult. Applying simple ergonomic principles to everyday activities may help get you through the work week - hopefully with less pain.

Take a Seat
Sitting for long periods of time isn't going to feel good. If possible, take a stand up break every 20 minutes and walk a couple of laps around your workspace.

Make sitting more tolerable by choosing a well-designed ergonomic chair, or adding low back support, such as a rolled-up towel.

Other tips include: Don't cross your legs, position feet flat on the floor, and keep hips and knees bent at a 45-degree angle.

Take a Stand
Don't bend at the waist to get up from your chair! Bending over at the waist can stretch and aggravate an already irritable sciatic nerve. Instead, slide to the front of the seat and stand up by straightening your legs.

Do Wheelies
If your chair has wheels, use them! Instead of twisting and turning your body, use the chair to move your body as a single unit.

Stay Close to Work
Keep your work close to avoid bending forward. Again, forward bending can aggravate your sciatic nerve. Keep your shoulders relaxed and rest your elbows and arms on the desk.

Standing Around
Avoid standing in one place for a long time. If your job requires standing, try resting one foot on a small sturdy box or stool. Alternate every 10-15 minutes.

However, there are situations when you may want to go ahead with spine surgery:

You have bowel or bladder dysfunction. This is rare, but it may occur with spinal cord compression.
You have spinal stenosis, and your doctor feels that surgery is the best way to treat it.
You are experiencing other neurologic dysfunctions, such as severe leg weakness.
Your symptoms become severe and/or non-surgical treatment is no longer effective.

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