Chinese Medicine and Sciatic Nerve Pain

Sciatica is a painful condition which begins in the lower back and radiates down one or both legs sometimes into the feet. It is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve which extends from the lower back down the back of the leg.

Sciatica is usually cited as the result of a structural issue; a herniated or ruptured disc, muscle spasm of the low back or inflammation of the vertebrae or sacroiliac joint.

Traditional Chinese Medicine observes that this condition occurs more frequently during the cold damp weather of fall and winter.  Though structural problems are most often used to explain the pattern of pain, TCM also considers individual imbalances along with the external influences of cold, damp, heat or wind in combination as key in creating many painful conditions.

In TCM, sciatica and low back pain are thought to be the result of cold or damp blocking the body’s circulation, trauma creating energy and blood stagnation or from an underlying condition of deficiency in the body.

Acupressure and acupuncture are very effective in treating sciatica.  They help to identify the cause and contributing factors to the condition.  Muscle groups involved in creating the spasm can be successfully released. When the muscles lengthen they no longer pull on sensitive structures and the pain diminishes.

Though many people may present with sciatica, they may have different contributing factors or causes. Therefore, the treatment will depend on the individual’s specific symptoms.

Chinese Medicine and Sciatic Pain

The sciatic nerve originates from the lower spine and goes down the side of the leg to the foot. When inflamed or compressed it sends intense pain down the buttocks to the back of the leg and foot. It can also cause numbness or tingling and difficulty walking or standing.

Some causes of sciatica, aside from the structural issues of herniated discs, tight muscles or spinal stenosis, could be prolonged sitting on hard surfaces, keeping a wallet in your back pocket, sudden twisting or improper lifting of heavy objects.

Since many of us are traveling this time of year, it’s important not to overstuff suitcases and lift carefully. Acupressure and myofascial release are very effective in treating sciatic pain. They help to balance the energy, release tight muscles and increase circulation to alleviate discomfort.

Myofascial Release

Most of my blogs have been about acupressure and Chinese Medicine which has greatly impacted my life for the better. In the almost 30 years that I have been experiencing it and the 19 years that I have been practicing it, there is always more to learn. It is such a rich study and despite the fact that it was developed over 5 thousand years ago, it still holds validity for us today.

In this blog I want to discuss a large part of my practice, Myofascial Release. I was first introduced to Myofascial release in 2009. A friend of mine had a session and recommended that I try it. In those days I had constant neck pain/ discomfort from an old whiplash injury. The acupressure and other therapies I had tried improved my discomfort but if I slept in an awkward position I’d wake up in pain. After one session I knew that this was something I needed to continue with and to study. I could feel that my neck problems were connected to restrictions in the muscles in my back.

Similar to Chinese Medicine Theory, Myofascial Release as developed by John Barnes, describes the entire body connected by the fascial system (connective tissue) a three dimensional web which along with the muscles supports our body and facilitates movement. When we are injured or overworked our muscles and connective tissue can develop restrictions or blockages that obstruct the flow of energy and create soreness or tightness and decreased mobility. Overtime these restrictions grow similar to a spider web and attach to other structures or bones and can create pain. The restrictions become tighter and can squeeze the vertebrae together to create nerve pain.

Myofascial Release helps reduce the chronic pain and improve mobility by utilizing sustained pressure into the restrictions and releasing them one by one. Overtime you will experience relief from not only temporary tightness but also long held tension. Without the pull of tight fascia muscles can stay lengthened. As a result, people often notice long lasting increased comfort and mobility.

Myofascial Release is especially effective in relieving stiff necks, chronic headaches, plantar fascitis, low back pain and shoulder pain.