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Top 10 Acupuncture Points for Sciatica

Sciatica pain is a very common complaint. It is more of a syndrome than a diagnosis as it refers to the pain that travels along the path of the sciatic nerve which goes from the lower and stretches out all the way along each leg, with pain radiating even into the foot.

It can be caused by various factors:

  • Structural changes on the spine
  • Inflammation of the piriformis which stiffens muscles that then pressure the nerve
  • Poor posture that pushes muscles, discs and joints beyond their tolerable limits
  • Lifestyle that is shaped by physical inactivity, sitting too much etc.

TCM approach

The sciatica nerve belongs to the gall bladder meridian and the urinary bladder meridian. Whether one opts for moxibustion, massage, acupuncture with needles or laser, the key of this holistic approach is in gently stimulating the body to activate its self-healing mechanism so it can ultimately adopt a healthier living pattern which will eliminate the root of the problem altogether as opposed to only treating the painful consequences in which case it is only a matter of time when the issue will reappear.

Working on the right acupuncture points has the power to:

  • Relax stiff muscles that ‘press’ the sciatic nerve
  • Improve joint mobility by boosting blood flow and microcirculation that alleviates pain
  • Reduce pain by stimulating the release of endorphins known for being a natural analgesic as hormones change the processing of the brain
  • Reduce inflammation by promoting the release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors
  • Promote regeneration of the sciatic nerve.

Here are the 10 most used points to address sciatic pain:

BL 23 Acupoint (Shenshu)

Located in the lower back region, this point is known as “Sea of Vitality” as it is the place we go to when we need to strengthen both the yin and yang energy of the kidneys that store our vital substance Jing. Along with using its replenishing powers that are very useful in these stressful times (when undergoing a personal transformation seems to be mandatory), we use its power to strengthen the lower back and knees which can do a great deal in alleviating sciatica pain.

BL 57 Acupoint (Chengshan)

Signifying “support the mountain”, we add this point to BL23 described above to ease spasm and lumbar pain, especially in cases of morning stiffness related to tendons.

GB 30 Acupoint (Huantiao)

This is an especially important point because it is a crossroad of the two meridians we are concerned with (GB and BL). Besides activating the meridian and removing obstructions, it sorts harm caused by both wind and dampness, the two evils that weaken our health.

Known as the Jumping Circle, stimulating this point strengthens the lower back and all leg joints, alleviating sciatic pain and even rheumatism as it relaxes tendons and helps restore joint mobility.

GB 34 Acupoint (Yanglingquan)

Nourishing for joints, tends and ligaments, it is used for pain relief of these regions, but more importantly, this point activates the entire gall bladder meridian as it is the place known as the He-Sea point where the qi of the meridian collectively enters the body, while also stimulating Liver Qi as liver and gallbladder are simply designed to go hand in hand.

BL 40 Acupoint (Weizhong)

These knee-back points are known as the Commanding Middle and they do a great job in reducing stiffness in the knees, the back and especially the sciatic region. Knees are said to store our ‘pride’ and therefore, knee problems could indicate being stuck in the ego state by being too proud to bend. Yet, change is the only constant in life and not being flexible when faced with change is not a wise way to go through life. It is no coincidence that we address the knees when dealing with sciatica because this nerve itself goes through our legs that ‘carry’ us through life. Legs give us the ‘ability’ to move forward and to make progress, but to do so, we must be adaptable. Therefore, resisting a life change could easily be one of the reasons behind sciatica pain.

GB 31 Acupoint (Fengshi)

Named as the “Master Wind point” because it eliminates pathogenic wind from the body, stimulating this point alleviates pain in the lumbar region and lower extremities while activating the meridian and strengthening the bones. Interestingly, it is the first stop in treating itching because wind is the major culprit behind this uncomfortable feeling of discomfort. It’s no secret that winter weather, that comes with wind as well as dampness, increases the severity of sciatic pain, so addressing both internal and external wind is always a good idea.

BL 25 Acupoint (Dachangshu)

Located on the right side of the lower back, this point is known as the regulator of the large intestine but is also used to strengthen lower back and remove obstruction along the bladder meridian that is concerned with sciatica. This point is particularly useful when a person is emotionally constipated and needs to let go what is no longer needed. Interestingly, it is also helpful in the opposite ‘diarrhea’ scenario as well when a person needs help in retaining what is truly valuable. Its power lies in being regulating the large intestine altogether- freeing it of stagnation that causes buildup of toxins but also in cases of fast movement when water and important minerals cannot be absorbed and are lost like waste.

BL 54 Acupoint (Zhibian)

This point tonifies the spine, with its name symbolically being made of words “order” (zhi) and “edge” (ban). It is used to alleviate lumbosacral pain, especially when it comes with motor impairment of the lower extremities. In simple words, our spine is what gives ‘order’ to our body, it is our ‘edge’, it is what connects everything and makes us stand straight which is what differentiates us from our four-legged animal companions. Therefore, a spine can be considered as a symbol of our evolution so here’s another argument for wondering if sciatic pain is our body’s way of telling us that we are resisting to evolve which any changes requires.

BL 36 Acupoint (Chengfu)

On the posterior aspect of the thigh, this point symbolizes “support” and is used to relieve pain related to lumbar, sacral, gluteal and femoral regions by easing tendons while also invigorating the bladder meridian that helps us flush out all that no longer serves us.

GV 3 Acupoint (Yaoyangquan)

Located in the lumbosacral region, stimulating this governor vessel point eases pain in that area by dispelling both wind and dampness, while tonifying our vital energy as it is known as “low back Yang passage”.

Li 4 Acupoint (Hegu)

Known as the hand valley, activating this universal point alleviates pain from head to toe and therefore, in any location, which is why we made this last stop on the liver meridian. It is very helpful in acute pain situations, as well as when sitting through a long car ride or a long day at work.

Diverse application

Along with the treatment that should ease the pain, improve circulation and restore the body’s function, it is important to avoid putting pressure on the sciatic nerve which can cause pain to flare up, such as by sitting in non-ergonomic chairs or wearing uncomfortable shoes. Additionally, when choosing the approach, one must note that synergy always gives more than a mere sum of individual factors where 1+1=2. This could be the secret behind moxibustion as stimulating the acupuncture point with herbs and heat of the moxa stick creates an entirely different set of biochemical reactions. After all, the history of using this multitasking method dates back more than 2,500 years so the fact it survived the test of time already speaks for itself.

Last remarks

Although one can never afford to be too simplistic, it is a good starting point to assess the emotions that weaken the gall bladder and urinary bladder that govern meridians that the sciatic nerve belongs to. Gall bladder is stressed when we feel bitter and bladder suffers when we have a lot of toxins to release, including disharmonious emotions such as frustration. Therefore, one could start by asking oneself do we feel stuck in a situation which is making us feel bitter and frustrated so our bodies are signaling us with sciatica pain that we need to let go ad simply move away. Besides being a great tool to ease sciatic pain, acupuncture points are great at showing us where we took the wrong turn as pain always appears when we’re on a path that does not align with our soul. These acupuncture points are found on the qi river that goes through our entire body –sciatica will go away once we stimulate them to remove the blockages that contain this energy from flowing freely.

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