Sciatica and Chinese Medicine

The lower back in Chinese Medicine is the residence of the Kidneys. If the back pain radiates down the leg from the back it indicates a more Full condition, usually from Damp-Cold in the leg channels. Occasionally it may also be due to Damp-Heat. The pain may also only occur in the leg without affecting the back. This syndrome of back pain is called Sciatica. It is important to try and find out what channels are involved so that certain acupuncture points can be used. As mentioned in many of my other articles, pain can be caused by both a deficiency or an excess condition as well as be an acute problem, which occurs suddenly or a chronic problem which continually occurs over time. Chronic conditions are always due to Kidney deficiency which can be combined with retention of Damp-Cold or stagnation of Qi and Blood.


Throughout my eighteen years in acupuncture, I have seen many types of Sciatica and the use of both Acupuncture and Herbs have gotten some very quick results. Many times there is a radiating leg pain in the very back of the leg or on the side of the leg. It usually occurs down one leg only and can be resolved in just a few treatments. The use of the herbs helps to release the cold, nourish the Kidneys and remove the dampness. Along with these treatments, I have given herbs to many patients to take for several months afterwards to minimize further back problems. It is also interesting to look at the function of the back, which helps us to stand erect in the world and move forward. In times of stress, many people experience back problems.


When a backache is accompanied by sciatica it usually takes a little longer to treat. As mentioned above, Sciatica is usually caused by Wind-Cold in both acute and chronic cases. The pain is usually worse in the morning and better with light exercise and movement. The pain can be relieved by an application of heat and is worse when the weather is cold and damp. During an acupuncture treatment I use both a special heat lamp and a warming herb called moxa. When Cold predominates there may be stiffness and contraction of the back muscles and the pain is more aggravated by rest and stagnation. When Dampness predominates there may be swelling, numbness and a feeling of heaviness.


My 55 year old patient complained of an acute backache, which had started after working at one of her jobs as a gardener. The pain was intense and was centered around the lower left kidney area. It radiated downwards to the left buttocks and the back of the leg. She was so uncomfortable that she came directly from work to see if she could get some relief so that she could go back to her job the following day. We even did her verbal intake with her standing up rather than sitting. The muscles on her left side were in spasm and the entire area felt very stiff. She was treated with both distal points and local points for a period of 45 minutes with both needles and moxa. I also sent her home with a fabulous Chinese formula for Sciatica. Upon getting off the table 80% of all her pain was gone and in the next couple days we gave her one more treatment and she took the herbs for four days. After the last treatment she was totally pain free.


Lower backache and Sciatica can be treated perfectly, adequately and successfully according to Chinese Medicine. The results are profound with no Western pain medications or treatments.



It has been a year filled with great loss for me. In April my best friend of 30 years passed away from lung cancer at the age of 58 years old, in September, my brother-in-law passed away from pancreatic cancer at 56 years old and now my mother is being taken from the hospital to go home to round the clock hospice nurses and she is 84 years old. She has cancer and also a tumor on her brain. Throughout all these illnesses, I have not only used acupuncture and herbs myself but have also treated many people faced with similar situations. I not only write this article form a place of sickness which leads to dying but also from a place of shock when others have lost loved ones in an immediate situation of accidents and immediate deaths.


There are so many levels of grief and loss and I will go on to talk about Chinese Medicine and how it treats the individual on many different levels. The Lung channel opens up to the Corporeal Soul. Loss and sadness leads to a deficiency of Lung-Qi and may manifest in a variety of symptoms such as tiredness, depression and crying. It also affects the heart qi and controls the entire upper body.   There is a wonderful point on the wrist, which helps to release the effects of sadness, worry and grief. To experience loss affects many channels. The Lung rules the throat and the strength of the voice and the Heart governs the tongue and the speech. The Heart channel is very affected by shock of any kind and during treatments acupuncture can treat the “shen” which is the spirit of the Heart.


The best combination of acupuncture points would be to move the Qi (energy), calm the Mind, and lift the mood and also to calm the mental restlessness which many people experience during this time. All of these points can be used for shock, prolonged worry, grief and pensiveness which all cause stagnation of the Qi. I believe most individuals experience loss on the physical, mental and emotional levels. Physically, most people have very low energy, are not sleeping much and feel deeply depleted. Mentally many times people are very scattered and confused. Emotionally it becomes such a deep feeling and the loss of someone creates an ending and a deep feeling of sorrow.


There are many beneficial herbal combinations that address the stagnation of sitting and waiting in a day to day illness whereby it helps to break up stagnation den also gets the kidney energy moving form sitting a lot during these times. A lot of people experience stiffness and pain in their kidney area, which also has to do with the emotion of fear. With the acupuncture and the herbs the energy can be moved around and begin to circulate again. The Mind also is obstructed on an emotional level and someone can begin to feel blunted and somewhat numb. It is amazing to give treatments during this time since it is a time of great need and it helps a patient feel more grounded and more open spiritually. There is a point on the bottom of the foot that is a kidney point and there are ear points which together help the patient just be calm and present.


Losing track of time and days, not sleeping, having to deal with many family dynamics, feeling overwhelmed and being on the edge emotionally is all happening at the same time. There are many acupuncture points, which clear the mind, end the restlessness, open the heart and move the Qi. There are also herbal formulas, which can help as well in conjunction with the acupuncture. Recently I had a female patient who came in during the time her mother was ill and she felt very out of her body and almost “twisted” as she described. She has now been coming for two months since she has taken care of her mother and claims that both the herbs and the acupuncture has kept her grounded and very calm. I gave her a heart formula to calm her shen and a liver formula to move her Qi. Being the total caregiver has put great stress on her and she realizes that it is very important to also take care of herself at this time. I also recommended to her to go outside and take a walk in nature and just breathe deeply even if it’s for a short period of time.


Please remember to take care of yourselves during this emotional time and if I can be of any assistance throughout your journey I would be truly honored. To those of you who have lost people close to them, I send my heart out to you. It is a journey filled with many mixed feelings and thoughts and throughout it we can be very challenged on many levels. My sincere sympathies to you all.


The foot is primarily associated with walking, movement toward the outside world, from yin to yang, and constitutes one of our modes of communication. In supporting the principle of the body in the walking mode, the foot is not only the symbol of grounding, but also of our inner strength in the sense that it supports the upright position and also our vulnerability. The feet our first stage of development is standing and walking and the foot establishes contact with the earth. The footsteps we leave on the ground bear witness to the path we are on, either good or bad.


In my practice I have worked with so many different types of foot problems such as tendonitis, cold feet, neuropathy, bone spur and plantar fascitis. These are just several of the many aside from toe pain that is sometimes involved. All of these disorders are diagnosed in accordance with the Qi. Most often plantar heel pain indicates a yin access and can be eliminated by needling certain kidney points. It can also be an excess problem in some cases and that would involve draining certain points around the foot. Tendonitis can be an athletic injury and can range in its severity, however, when untreated a minor injury can quickly turn into a severe injury. There are three places that tendonitis can occur along the heel. This pain needs to be distinguished from bone spur and rheumatoid arthritis.


Bone spurs are treatable with acupuncture and herbs. Since this has to do with the bone, in Chinese medicine it is related to the Kidney energy, which is in charge of building bone. Bone spur is a common problem on the foot and is an overgrowth of bone most commonly seen at a joint, the place where the two bones meet and allow for movement. Abnormal motion at the level of the joint over the course of time will cause the spur to form. You can also have spurring of the joint as a result of excessive tension on the bone from where the tendon attaches. Normal aging will also cause bone spurs to form. The most famous bone spur occurs on the heel. I have had good luck combing acupuncture and also I use a Chinese formula, which has worked wonders on many patients. Personally I have seen too many botched surgeries and I am not one to condone cortisone shots.


Neuropathy is another peripheral vascular disease that can be a very serious problem. This is also called the diabetic foot and is sometimes overlooked until it accelerates to a total loss of sensation. As diabetes progresses many diabetics lose sensation in their feet but it can also present as relentless burning, tingling or numbness. I have treated many patients over the last ten years and they have all experienced a difference with the combination of acupuncture and herbs. This is also related to the kidney but I have seen the liver and spleen meridians involves as well. In the foot in Chinese medicine there are the Liver, Gall Bladder, Kidney and Spleen meridians that all run through different parts of the foot. So many times through a diagnosis I can decipher the problems as an organ problem it the presentation goes right down a specific channel. Also I have noticed that many patients can present the same problem but it will demand a different diagnosis depending on the patient.


The last common complaint is Cold feet. In addition to cold weather, a poor functioning thyroid, blood deficiency, Raynauds disease, rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure, many people need to change their diet and stay away form cold foods, caffeine and smoking in order to allow their Qi to move through their body into their feet. Cold damp weather with further restricts the blood flow that goes to the toes. I also have many patients who work outdoors and need to protect themselves better from the cold. Circulation and blood flow are the main things to increase with cold feet. Chinese medicine does not usually refer to western terms but rather the patient comes in and presents their symptoms and the acupuncture treats them according to what they see, their pulses and their tongue are the diagnostic tools.


Through its transport points, the foot is a place of exchange between human Qi and universal Qi. It is one of the branches of the body. I believe rehabilitation can take place without surgery and there are many different approaches through the use of acupuncture and herbs that are extremely effective.