Acupuncture treats hip pain and sciatica
Hip pain, hip arthritis and sciatica are some of the most common kinds of pain I see in the acupuncture clinic. Since any kind of hip pain adversely affects walking, people don’t hesitate to seek acupuncture pain treatment. Hip pain has many causes – sometimes it’s the hip joint (as in arthritis), sometimes it’s neurological (like sciatica), sometimes muscular (as in piriformis syndrome), and sometimes it’s referred pain from somewhere else (like the sacroiliac joint). Regardless of the source, acupuncture treats hip pain successfully.
When I first start seeing a patient for any kind of pain, I encourage twice weekly treatments until acupuncture pain relief is achieved. After there’s relief in pain symptoms, weekly treatments can help consolidate the pain relief we achieved with the initial intensive course of acupuncture pain treatments. After about 6 or 8 weeks, maintenance acupuncture treatments are generally sufficient.
It’s important to keep in mind that acupuncture works cumulatively. Treatments build on one to the next. Likewise, relief of pain increases cumulatively. It’s important to invest in your health by sticking with treatments for at least 3 or 4 weeks.
What are the different types of hip pain acupuncture treats?
The sciatic nerve runs from the spinal cord to the hips and buttocks and down the back of each leg. So, sciatica may manifest as lower back, hip, or leg pain along the sciatic nerve pathway. Sciatica is a symptom of an underlying nerve abnormality, perhaps due to a herniated disk or other factor that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. It is common to have referred pain with sciatica, or pain that is felt in places away from where the nerve is being impinged. The symptoms of sciatica include pain along the sciatic nerve’s pathway, numbness and tingling (even shooting pains into the leg or back), and weakness in the leg. The causes of sciatica are usually related to the spine rather than the hip join. Sciatica causes include herniated disks, narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis), displaced vertebrae (spondylolisthesis), tightening of the piriformis muscle (this muscle connects the lower spine to the thighbones), spinal or nerve tumors, and direct injury. More on sciatica here.
The ends of the bones of a joint are protected by cartilage to prevent the bones from rubbing against each other. Pain due to hip osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage breaks down. This allows the bones to rub together. Another type of hip arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, is a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disease caused by immune cells acting on the body’s own tissues. Pain due to rheumatoid hip arthritis occurs from when the immune system attacks the hip joints and their component parts. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. The other causes of hip arthritis include advanced age, injury, and overuse. The symptoms of hip arthritis are pain, tingling, tenderness, stiffness, loss of flexibility, grating sound or sensation in the joint, and bone spurs.
Small fluid-filled bursae pad the space between bone, tendons, and muscles of joints. Hip bursitis occurs when these bursae become inflamed. The causes of hip bursitis include repetitive motion in sports or manual labor and prolonged kneeling. The symptoms of hip bursitis include aching pain in the hips, stiff hips, hip pain from movement or pressure, and swelling and redness of the hip.
How is hip pain diagnosed by my doctor?
The location of pain can hint as to the type and cause of hip injury. The diagnosis of hip pain involves:
- Complete medical history
- Physical exam, including specific tests for pain in the hip area
- Imaging, such as X-ray, MRI, or computerized tomography (CT)
How is hip pain treated by my doctor?
Treatments for hip pain include:
- Pain and/or anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy
- Corticosteroid injections
- Joint replacement
How is hip pain diagnosed by an acupuncturist?
I received extensive training in physical exam protocols and the evaluation of orthopedic and neurological disorders as part of my master’s degree. When I evaluate a patient with a pain condition, I perform orthopedic tests, including range of motion tests and other tests to differentiate different syndromes from one another. For example, hip pain has many causes, and the root of the pain must be determined in order to achieve the best results of pain reduction.
That being said, acupuncture has been treating pain conditions since a time well before the creation of orthopedic tests and diagnostic imagining. I use the information I gather from a physical exam as part of my treatment strategy, but the theory behind treating hip pain still comes back to an acupuncture theory called channel theory (also known as meridian theory). By determining the affected acupuncture meridians, I can effectively give acupuncture pain relief treatments to my patients. Determining the affected meridians also informs any herbal medicine treatments I may use.
How is hip pain treated by an acupuncturist?
Acupuncture treats hip pain by regulating the acupuncture meridians of the body. More on that here. Acupuncture has been shown, from a Western biological perspective, to improve circulation, move blood and lymph and stimulate the nervous system. Regardless of the paradigm, acupuncture has been shown to stop pain.
Acupuncture is applied at the site of pain and in places related to that site in other parts of the body (e.g., in a different place along the same affected acupuncture meridian or in a mirror to the site). Herbal medicine does the same thing, but works from the inside out. I use tui na massage, cupping and gua sha to support these main modalities of treating hip pain.