Over the past few months I have seen a significant number of patients with sciatica pain that radiates down either the back of the leg or the side of the leg. I have a pretty good success rate treating sciatica, either with or without accompanying low back pain. However, I can also usually tell within a few treatments whether acupuncture will solve the problem or manage the pain sufficiently. Quite frankly, people come to me to avoid back surgery and a common question is whether or not I think they will need surgery.  The type of acupuncture I do allows me pretty quickly to tell whether or not they need to go back to the neurologist for a re-evaluation.

If there is pain relief on the table and when walking out of the office, the chances are pretty good that acupuncture will work for them. If there is still pain at the next visit, but the intensity, duration, frequency or location of pain is less, then we are on the right track. The patient is usually already more energetic and hopeful due to better sleep and movement with less pain. However, if the pain returns to its original level with no change within 4-6 treatments, it usually means there is a ruptured disk or equivalent. Surgery will more than likely be required.  For those who are not surgical candidates, acupuncture might help reduce the pain to a more manageable level over an extended period of time.

Just this past week I had a man come in who has suffered with sciatica pain down the back of his leg for a few months. A friend suggested he try acupuncture. After the first treatment I was pretty sure he needed to see a medical doctor although the xrays he had were inconclusive. Because his pain was so intense with little relief after the treatment, I referred him to an orthopedic doctor and a neurologist and suggested he go to the one who could see him first. He called a few days later saying he indeed needed surgery for a ruptured disk.

The good news is that most of the patients who come in get relief.  One of my favorite sciatica stories is of a woman who had been plagued by leg pain down the side of her leg for twelve (12) years. She had stopped traveling, was unable to play with her grandchildren and was in chronic pain. After 5-6 treatments, her pain was significantly reduced and within a few months she was pain free. She has since traveled abroad and within the U.S., plays with her grandchildren and has a full life of movement without pain. She still comes in for maintenance treatment every few months. She has been virtually pain free for 4 years.

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