Acupuncture for Sciatica

Sciatica is a pain in the butt. And the back. And the hip. And the leg.

Unfortunately, sciatica will affect up to 40% of us at some time in our lives. Yet, there are few conventional ways to calm this angry nerve condition aside from pain killers and surgery.

Here’s the good news: a natural, side-effect-free therapy can help you stop sciatic pain from the root. That therapy is acupuncture.

Is your aching back and burning leg pain holding you back from living your normal life? With a targeted acupuncture pain-relief treatment from Wellnest Denver, you can relieve your sciatic pain and step into a healthier, pain-free life. Here’s how!

What Is Sciatica?

The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back, down through the buttocks, and down the back of the leg. True sciatica occurs when this nerve is injured, but we often use the term “sciatica” to refer to any time the sciatic nerve is compressed, inflamed, or irritated.

What Does Sciatica Feel Like?

Pain is the most common symptom of sciatica. Sciatica can be felt anywhere from the low back to the buttocks, hip, or down the entire leg.

This type of nerve pain tends to be burning or shooting and may feel like it’s radiating around the front of your thigh or down the leg or into your feet. In addition to pain, you may also feel numbness, weakness, or heaviness.

For most people, sciatic pain is one-sided, affecting one leg or the other. Pain is usually aggravated by certain postures like sitting, bending forward, twisting the spine, lying down, sleeping, or even when coughing or laughing.

What Causes Sciatica?

Herniated or slipped disk

The most common cause of sciatica is a slipped disk, which happens to about 1-5% of us at some point in our lives. A slipped disk moves out of alignment in the spine and puts pressure on the spinal nerves in the surrounding area. In the case of sciatica, it is usually a slipped disk between the L4 -L5 or L5-S1 vertebrae that causes irritation and pain (although other disks may be involved).

Degenerative disk disease

As we age, the disks in our spine gradually wear down. This causes spinal stenosis which limits the amount of space the spinal nerves have to comfortably rest. Eventually, the nerves become compressed which causes pain and inflammation.


Osteoarthritis is another common cause of sciatica. In this condition, tiny bone spurs develop on the edges of the spine and irritate the sciatic nerve.

Trauma, injury, or tumors

A direct injury or tumor growth near the sciatic nerve or nerve canal is likely to cause pain and inflammation.

Piriformis syndrome

Piriformis syndrome or a tight piriformis can cause sciatica. The piriformis is a small muscle in the buttocks that contacts the sciatic nerve. Then this muscle spasms or becomes too tight, it puts pressure on the sciatic nerve and causes pain.

Pregnancy or weight gain

Shifts in body size, as with pregnancy or weight gain, increase the pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Acupuncture for Sciatic Nerve Pain

If you suffer from an aching back, buttocks, or leg due to sciatic nerve pain, acupuncture can help. Let’s look at the main benefits of acupuncture for sciatic nerve pain:

Acupuncture reduces inflammation of the sciatic nerve.

Acupuncture works as a natural anti-inflammatory. In fact, research shows that acupuncture even outperforms conventional Western medicine like NSAIDs for sciatica treatment!

While we are still learning the biological reasons why acupuncture works for pain, there is good evidence that one key reason is inflammation. Acupuncture has been proved to reduce pain-causing inflammation by moderating pro-inflammatory molecules like cytokines. The result? Inflammation reduces, the pain subsides, and the nerve can start to heal.

Acupuncture releases endorphins and relieves pain.

Along with reducing inflammation, acupuncture also helps by releasing endorphins and calming the nervous system. This naturally reduces the pain signals to your brain and allows your body to relax. As a result, any tense or spasmed muscles release, and the nerve can start to heal – without the side effects of conventional muscle relaxers.

 Acupuncture relaxes tight muscles.

Sometimes, sciatic nerve pain isn’t an issue with the nerve at all. Rather, it is the result of tight muscles that compress the sciatic nerve which causes pain, tingling, or numbness down the leg.

This is commonly the case with piriformis syndrome. In piriformis syndrome, a small muscle that lies deep in the buttocks spasms or tenses. This puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, which lies close to it. Acupuncture helps relieve a tight piriformis muscle by relieving the spasm and relaxing the muscle fibers.

Can Acupuncture Help Your Sciatica Pain?

Not all sciatica pain is treated the same with Chinese medicine. Unlike conventional treatments that cover up the issue with pain killers, acupuncture goes deeper to heal the root of the problem. Understanding why and how you developed sciatica is often the most important key to a successful treatment.

Let’s look at a few common examples of how we treat sciatica holistically at Wellnest Denver:

Acupuncture for Sciatica During Pregnancy

Sciatica in pregnancy is common – and it’s easy to see why! As your body rapidly grows and changes, there is increased pressure on certain areas, especially the low back, hips, and lower body.

At Wellnest Denver, we offer gentle and safe acupuncture for relieving sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy. Along with relieving the pressure on your spinal nerves, we’ll also address any other pregnancy symptoms you may be experiencing and set you up for a relaxed and healthy delivery.

Acupuncture for Sciatica and Desk Posture

Human bodies weren’t meant to sit at a desk all day long, yet our modern lives often demand it. Thankfully, there are many ways you can manage or prevent sciatica even if you work long hours at your desk.

Acupuncture helps to restore healthy circulation through your spine and entire body. We’ll also stimulate the muscles of your back, core, and legs to address any tightness, stiffness, or weakness that could be contributing to your pain. Because piriformis syndrome is often the result of extended sitting, we’ll also use acupuncture to relax a tight piriformis muscle.

Then, we’ll share ways you can improve your desk posture and daily habits to stay pain-free.

Acupuncture for Sciatica in Runners and Athletes

Athletes are no stranger to pain, especially runners. The repetitive movements of the back and legs can lead to increased wear and tear on the spinal disks and spinal nerves. Poor form (in running, weight lifting, or any exercise) increases the risk of injuring the back or developing degenerative disk disease early.

Thankfully, acupuncture can help you relieve sciatic pain and get back to the sports you love. At Wellnest Denver, we use specific sports medicine acupuncture protocols to relieve pain and heal injuries more completely. Not to mention, acupuncture also keeps your body in tip-top shape so you can prevent future injuries, enjoy better performance, and reach higher goals.

Acupuncture Versus Chiropractor for Sciatica

Both acupuncture and chiropractic care are excellent ways to manage your sciatica pain naturally. While acupuncture helps to reduce pain, inflammation, and muscle tension, chiropractic can be used to adjust any bulging disks or misalignments in the spine.

Depending on why you are experiencing sciatica pain, you may need the help of both an acupuncturist and a chiropractor. For instance, if your sciatica is due to a misaligned vertebra that is pressing on the sciatic nerve, a chiropractor can help to realign the spine to take the pressure of the nerve. Then, acupuncture relieves the inflammation, heals the irritated nerve, and strengthens the back to prevent the misalignment from returning.

How Many Treatments Will I Need?

When starting acupuncture treatments for sciatica, many people wonder how many treatments are needed for sciatica pain relief? This all depends on what is causing your sciatica, how long you have been in pain, and your overall state of health. To find out more about what your unique sciatica relief plan might look like, contact us here.

Heal Your Sciatica at Wellnest Denver Acupuncture

If sciatica pain has robbed you of your comfort, your sleep, or prevented you from doing the things you love, that can all end now. At Wellnest Denver, we are dedicated to helping you find relief from limiting pain and step into the healthy life you deserve.

Ready to heal your sciatica with acupuncture? Contact us for more information or book your visit today!

Looking for a Denver acupuncture clinic to help you with all of your general health, mental health, chronic pain, fertility, gynecological, facial acupuncture, or digestive needs?

Contact Wellnest Acupuncture + Holistic Medicine at 720.618.0770 or book an appointment online.

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