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Is dry needling effective for sciatica sufferers? Check out these 4 benefits



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If you’re suffering from sciatica, you may be looking for unconventional methods of treatment. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve gets injured or inflamed, causing pain to travel from your lower back down to your legs. Because those pain signals are traveling along a nerve, you may feel pain all the way down to your calf, foot and even toes. 

Sciatic pain is a common type of back pain and is estimated to be the cause of between 5% and 10% of lower back pain in people. This condition may make it more difficult for you to do everyday activities such as lifting heavy objects, moving without pain and even walking short distances. While mild sciatica can get better on its own, if you’re experiencing sciatic pain for an extended period of time, or if it’s getting worse, you may need to seek treatment. 

Dry needling is an effective treatment technique for sciatica. It  uses thin, hollow needles that are inserted directly into the affected tissue. The goal of this treatment is to cause the muscle to spasm and release, which can reduce pain and increase mobility. Let’s take a look at why physical therapists may use dry needling to treat sciatica and how it can help.

Why physical therapists use dry needling for sciatica

Because sciatica is a nerve-based condition, external methods of physical therapy such as stretching or exercises may not be the most effective way to address your pain. While sciatica can cause referred pain in many areas, there is often a specific tight muscle or trigger point that may be causing the majority of your discomfort. Dry needling can be an effective treatment method because the needles are inserted directly into the muscle, which can make it easier to target specific areas. 

The goal of dry needling is to reduce tension in the tissue and muscles surrounding your injury. With sciatica, this can help relax any tight muscles around the nerve, easing pressure with the goal of reducing overall pain.

Dry needling is a minimally invasive treatment that may ease the muscle tension that’s causing your sciatica. It can also increase blood flow and promote healing if the area is inflamed. There can be many benefits to dry needling. Your physical therapist will assess your condition to see if dry needling will help with your sciatic pain.

Benefits of dry needling for sciatica

Dry needling techniques can offer many benefits for people suffering from sciatica. Here are a few specific ways dry needling may be able to address your pain and help you get moving again:

  • Pain relief — One of the main goals of dry needling is to help reduce pain. This is especially true with sciatica because the needles can penetrate muscle and tissue to activate sensory pathways and encourage the release of endorphins. A rush of endorphins can offer immediate relief from pain. When specific trigger points are targeted, your physical therapist may be able to decrease your sciatica long-term as well.
  • Muscle function — Your mobility and muscle function may increase with the use of dry needling. When dry needling is used to stimulate the nervous system, muscle activation and control may improve. Additionally, when dry needling reduces pain, it may naturally become easier for you to move and complete additional exercises and stretches that can also help with sciatic pain.
  • Reduced inflammation — The thin, hollow needles used in dry needling create tiny lesions in the muscle. These lesions can trigger the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response. This can decrease inflammation, increase blood flow and promote healing. Sciatica can cause burning and tingling sensations, which are often due to inflammation. By addressing inflammation, your physical therapist can also address your overall pain levels.
  • Improved motion — If you’re dealing with a lot of pain and inflammation from sciatica, your movement may be restricted. Dry needling can provide relief from those symptoms, which may make it easier to move. Additionally, dry needling can help break up adhesions and other scar tissue that may be restricting your movement. 

Dry needling can help with pain relief and long-term healing for your sciatica, especially when used alongside other physical therapy techniques. Talk with your physical therapist to see if dry needling is the right treatment method for you.

If you’re dealing with sciatica that doesn’t respond to at-home pain relief methods, dry needling and other physical therapy treatments we offer at REPAIR SI may get you the healing you need. Our physical therapists are experts at using dry needling alongside other physical therapy treatments to help you deal with your sciatica symptoms. You don’t have to suffer from sciatic pain in silence. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.