Sciatic nerve pain, a.k.a. Sciatica, is a condition I see frequently in my acupuncture practice. In the instances where there is no clear indication of Sciatica being related to abnormalities in the lumbar spine such as bulging (herniated) disc, spinal stenosis, Spondylolisthesis, physical trauma or spinal tumors, it is important to consider Piriformis Syndrome as a potential cause.
Piriformis Syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle becomes shortened or traumatized and begins to pinch or entrap the sciatic nerve. In roughly 17% of the population the sciatic nerve passes through the piriformis muscle rather than underneath it, which is another factor possibly increasing the occurrence of Piriformis Syndrome. Piriformis Syndrome may be related to excess sitting, for instance in office jobs, or alternatively, to sports that engage in mostly forward movement e.g. running, cycling etc., where the lateral muscles of the legs and hips are not adequately balanced and developed. Weak hip abductors coupled with tight adductors can cause the piriformis muscle to contract, thereby impinging on the sciatic nerve causing sciatic pain.
Effective methods for treating Piriformis Syndrome include specific stretching exercises, targeted massage, ultrasound and last but not least acupuncture. I have found acupuncture with electrostimulation to be very effective for helping to diminish sciatic pain caused by Piriformis Syndrome.