Sciatica is a term that is loosely thrown around amongst people to describe pain in their  backsides. True sciatica, however, comes from irritation of the sciatic nerve. This irritation causes pain  in the low back, buttocks, and shoots down the back of the leg. Sciatic pain is typically described as  sharp, stabbing and intense. Sciatic pain is not usually constant; it is felt with change in position or quick  movement. Most people only experience the symptoms on one side of the body. In order to relieve  sciatic pain, it is important to have an understanding of the anatomy of the structuresinvolved. 

Sciatica is aptly named because the symptoms follow the path of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic  nerve is a large nerve the runs along the backside of the legs, stemming from the nerves of the low back.  Depending on where the nerve is irritated, different parts of the buttocks or leg can be affected. 

Sciatic nerve irritation usually comes about when something compresses part of the nerve and  causes irritation. This compression can be a result of back issues, arthritis, muscle tension and pressure.  Some people are more prone to develop sciatic pain, including those with low activity level, obesity,  older age, pregnant or with diabetes. 

Even though the pain associated with sciatica can be quite severe and limiting, the symptoms  are often resolved with conservative management, including specific stretches and acupuncture. 

In a study published in 2013, researchers reviewed findings of 122 published studies that  examined treatment interventions for sciatica relief. They looked to see what treatment interventions  showed positive outcomes and what showed no effect. This meta–‐analysis determined that there were positive outcomes for medical interventions of pain medication, epidural injections and spinal surgery.  They also found that acupuncture showed positive outcomes with resolution of symptoms after  intervention. The benefit of acupuncture is that it is minimally invasive, unlike epidural injections and  spinal surgery. In addition, acupuncture combines appropriate stretching for maximal outcomes. 

Home stretches are important to relieve sciatic pain. They are easy to do and don’t take long. Find  an open space on your floor or bed and allow your muscles to relax. Follow these stretches for sciatic  relief: *Remember, you should feel a comfortable pulling sensation; do not push a stretch into pain. 

1. Piriformis stretch: The piriformis is a triangular shaped muscle that runs closely to the sciatic  nerve in the buttocks. When this muscle is tight, it can cause rubbing and irritation of the sciatic  nerve. It is important to stretch the piriformis as part of your exercises. 

a. Lay on the floor with your legs straight. Bring your left knee up toward your right  shoulder. Reach with your right arm to give a gentle pull on your knee. You should feel  a stretch in the side of your buttocks and hip. Hold this position for 30 seconds and  repeat 3 times. Then, repeat on the other leg. 

2. Knee to chest stretch: The buttocks muscles need to be stretched as they can contribute to  sciatic nerve compression. The knee to chest stretch is easy and effective. 

a. Lay on the floor with both legs straight. Bend one hip and knee and bring your knee  straight up toward your chest. Hold this position with your arms until you feel a stretch in your buttocks. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. Repeat on the  other leg. 

3. Hamstring stretch: Because the sciatic nerve runs right along the hamstring muscle, it is  important to stretch the hamstrings. 

a. Sit at the edge of a chair with your leg extended in front of you. Your knee should be  straight and your heel touching the floor, with your toes pointing up toward the ceiling.  Keep a tall posture and hinge forward at your hips until you feel a gentle pull behind  your leg. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. Then, repeat on the  other leg. 

It is important to address sciatic symptoms early to avoid permanent nerve irritation and potential nerve  damage. Conservative treatment with stretching and acupuncture can resolve symptoms quickly and  effectively. 

Reference: Lewis, R. A., N. H. Williams, and A. J. Sutton et al. “Comparative Clinical Effectiveness of  Management Strategies for Sciatica: Systematic Review and Network Meta-‐‐analyses.” Spine J (2013): Oct 4. 

Disclaimer: The material provided in this article is designed to provide helpful information on the subjects  discussed. It is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For diagnosis or  treatment of any medical problem, consult your physician or healthcare practitioner. 

A.Turchiaro 2020 ©


What are migraines?

For people dealing with recurrent migraines, the pain and pressure associated with a migraine attack are usually described as debilitating, blinding and intense.  Migraines are moderate to severely intense headaches that typically last several hours.  They can be pulsating and are often felt on one side of the head.  They can be associated with nausea or vomiting.  In addition, they are often associated with sensitivity to light and sound.  Some people experience episodic migraines, which are less frequent, while others suffer with chronic migraines, which happen 15 or more times per month.  If you suffer from migraines, there are strategies you can use to help reduce the frequency and intensity of symptoms you experience. 

How can I try to prevent a migraine attack?

Sleep well:  Migraines are often triggered by poor sleep.  Try to establish a good sleep routine and stick to it.  Make it a point to relax at the end of the day.  Minimize distractions in your bedroom so that you are able to fall asleep easily.  Your bedroom should be for sleep and intimacy only.  Do not keep a television, computer or other electronic distraction in your bedroom.

Eat healthy:  Migraines are associated with poor nutrition.  It is important to eat regular meals and avoid skipping meals.  You should try to keep your blood sugar levels balanced.  In addition, there are specific foods that can trigger migraine attacks.  Avoid aged cheeses, caffeine, chocolate and alcohol as these foods are known to trigger attacks.

Engage in moderate exercise:  Moderate intensity exercise is known to block pain receptors in the brain and reduce stress hormone levels in the body, which will help reduce onset of migraine attacks.  It is important to begin an exercise routine slowly, as too vigorous a workout can trigger a migraine.

Simplify your life and find ways to reduce stress:  Migraines are associated with episodes of high levels of stress and chronic stress.  Try to find ways to reduce the stress in your life, by reducing your commitments, taking a break from work during your day and decreasing how much you worry.  Find ways to relax through diaphragmatic breathing, meditation and yoga. 

What are some suggestions to cope with a migraine attack?

If you find yourself dealing with a migraine attack, try one of these strategies to get through it:

Turn off the lights:  Light can increase the intensity of a migraine and can be a trigger for migraine onset.  Turn the lights off and close your eyes.

Try hot or cold compresses:  For some people, applying heat or ice packs to the back of the neck or on the forehead can help alleviate pain.

Try a gentle temple massage:  Take three fingers and apply light, circular massage to the sides of your head.  This can decrease pain associated with tension.

Find a quiet space:  Move to a room with no sounds or very little noise.  As sounds can trigger migraine attacks, removing noise can help decrease the length of the migraine attack.

Can acupuncture reduce migraine pain?

Yes!  Researchers have published data which shows that acupuncture reduces pain levels in acute migraine attacks.  In a study published in 2012, researchers looked to determine if true acupuncture was superior to sham acupuncture for pain reduction in acute migraine attacks.  They followed 150 people over a two year time period and randomly assigned them to acupuncture verses sham acupuncture groups.  When an acute migraine attack came on, one group received true acupuncture and the other group of participants received sham (fake) acupuncture treatment.  They rated outcomes by patient’s report of pain using the visual analog scale.  This scale is used to rate pain from 0-10.  Those receiving true acupuncture reported a decrease in pain on average of 2 ½ numbers, while those with sham treatment only reported an improvement by ¾ numerical value on average.  The patients that received true acupuncture treatment reported significant improvement in pain symptoms over those that had sham treatment.

Wang et al. Efficacy of acupuncture for acute migraine attack: a multicenter single blinded, randomized controlled trial. Pain Med. 2012 May 13):623-30.

Disclaimer: The material provided in this article is designed to provide helpful information on the subjects  discussed. It is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For diagnosis or  treatment of any medical problem, consult your physician or healthcare practitioner. 

A.Turchiaro 2020 ©