The intervertebral discs, especialy between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae, are subject to stress which leads to degenerative changes. Symptoms of back pain arise when surrounding vertebral ligaments are damaged or displaced, allowing disc material to protrude and cause nerve root irritation and pressure. In most cases rupture or herniation of an intervertebral disc is caused by injury. Lifting with the trunk in a flexed position or exertion with the back in an unusual alignment or posture are recognized as precipitating factors. The resulting defect may become apparent immediately or be delayed for months or years.

It is important to rule out spinal tumors, which should be removed promptly, before acupuncture is attempted. If a spinal tumor is present, acupuncture will not relieve the symptoms.

Before subjecting a patient to the hazards of laminectomy or wen a myelogram for disc pathology, acupuncture should be given a chance to relieve his symptoms. It may relieve muscle spasms which are aggravating the condition. It should be remembered that a person may function welll and be pain-free despite disc pathology. Acupuncture is safer than many diagnostic procedures, including myelograms.

Acupuncture is sometimes safer than traction and bed rest. Such inactivity, may result in thrombosis of leg veins. Surgical intervention is seldom necessary for degenerative disc disease. Subsequient spinal fusion is often performed about two years after disc surgery, especially if there is degenerative disc disease of the vertebral column, a congential malformation, or if the patient attempts to lift anything heavy or engages in strenous exercise. Many of these operations are unsuccessful and leave the pa┬Čtient with worse pain and disability. Some patients have 5 or more laminectomies, each time desperately hoping; the next surgical procedure will bring relief but actually having more residual pain and disability after each operation.

Before attempting surgery, a physician should remind himself that all surgery destroys tissue, may lead to infection and other undesirable side effects and always a period of pain, discomfort and disability for his patient. He should also remember that all chemical anesthetics are poisonous and potentially lethal.

Most symptoms of lumbar disc pain and discomfort can be relieved by acupuncture treatments by a qualified acupuncturist.


This nerve comes from the fourth and fifth lumbar, and first and second sacral spinal roots. It provides the motor innervation of the long muscles of the posterior thigh and all the leg muscles below the knee. It transmits sensations from the posterior thigh and side of the leg down to and including the sole of the foot.

Lumbar disc damage and arthritis are the most common cause of sciatica. Other causes include nerve damage from buttox injections. neurotoxic drugs, metastatic lesions and injuries from trauma.

Drugs with dangerous side effects may relieve the pain temporarily but have no therapeutic effect. Traction with bed rest may relieve the pain by taking pressure off the nerve, but such inactivity encourages the development of thrombosis which may lead to strokes and heart attacks. Spinal surgery may relieve or aggravate the symptoms but is hazardous and usually unnecessary unless a tumor is present.

Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for sciatica. The pain is usually relieved after treatments and is enough for lasting relief in most cases.

Suggested Formulas:

  • Shen Tong Zhu Yu Wan
  • Zuo Gu Shen Jing Tong Wan
  • Yunnan Paiyao Capsule
  • Du Huo Ji Shen Wan
  • Hua Tuo Plaster