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Animal Studies Show that Acupuncture Heals the Sciatic Nerve

Several studies in Japan have been focused on using acupuncture to heal and regenerate the sciatic nerve. These studies are important for those who suffer from sciatica. Some people have suffered from this condition for years and have tried everything from self-medicating to surgery.

First we will focus on the studies on rats in Japan.  Two groups of rats were chosen, normal rats and rats whose legs had been denervated. The poor rats had their sciatic and femoral nerves cut for the study.

The rats were given anesthesia. The acupuncture technique called sparrow pecking was used. This technique is a plunging and lifting technique with the needle with slight up and down movement. The researchers measured blood flow through muscles during the acupuncture.

Acupuncture significantly increased muscular blood flow with acupuncture and only in muscles which were penetrated with the acupuncture needle. The increase depended on the number of times of thrusting and pulling and was sustained for at least until 60 minutes afterwards. Surprisingly, the increase in muscular blood flow was observed after right after the nerves were cut and a long time after the rats had their nerves cut. Also, the mean arterial blood pressure did not change before, during, or after acupuncture.

This seems to suggest that acupuncture could increase muscle blood flow locally depending on the acupuncture technique and that this increase may be caused by blood vessel dilation in the area treated as well as the axon reflex.  You can read more about the study here:

Another Animal Study

Another study was performed on rats again. No rats were given surgery in this study. The pudendal nerve was given electrical stimulation and the blood flow in the sciatic nerve area was measured with laser Doppler flowmetry. Also monitored were blood pressure and heart rate. And, the drug atropine was studied as its responses to the stimulation.

Electrical stimulation of the pudendal nerve significantly increased blood flow to the sciatic nerve area without increasing heart rate or blood pressure. The increase in the sciatic nerve blood flow disappeared after administration of atropine, which causes vasodilation. This indicates that the increase of blood flow occurs through the cholinergic nervous system.  You can read more about the study here:

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Acupuncture is Shown to Heal Sciatica in Humans

Now we have the same study in humans instead of rats. Pudendal nerve electroacupuncture was performed for low back and lower limb symptoms in patients with lumbar spinal canal stenosis in which acupuncture of the low back and lower limb muscles had been ineffective.

Pudendal nerve electroacupuncture was performed once per week for 8 weeks. Pain Scores and walking distance were used to evaluate progress. Lower back pain, leg pain, and leg symptoms all improved after the 8 treatments. Also the patients increased their walking distance with no pain from 100 meters to 250 meters.

This shows that pudendal nerve electroacupuncture works in humans the same way that it works in rats. The point used in the electroacupuncture was in the middle of the buttock muscle closer to the midline.  You can read more about that study here:

 Acupuncture Heals Peripheral Nerve Damage

Patients with peripheral nerve damage were treated an acupuncture needle connected to an electrode was inserted closer to the trunk from the site of the injury along the route of the nerve, while the other electrode was inserted into the muscle supplied by the same nerve toward the foot. The patients were evaluated weekly.

Complete functional recovery occurred in 57% of the patients. 28% of the patients showed some recovery. No improvement was observed in 15% of the patients. While this was a small study. The results were promising.  This study can be found here:

 Acupuncture is More Effective than Spinal Nerve Block

In this case report electroacupuncture was applied to the spinal nerve root by inserting needles under x ray imaging in three cases with sciatica, as a drugless substitute for lumbar spinal nerve block. In all three cases, symptoms were greatly reduced immediately after electroacupuncture to the spinal nerve root. In two out of the three cases the sustained effect of the acupuncture was much longer than that of spinal nerve blocks previously performed. These results suggest that electroacupuncture to the spinal nerve root may be superior to lumbar spinal nerve block when it is applied appropriately.

This small case study is important because the cost of electroacupuncture is drastically less than a spinal nerve root block.  More about that study can be found here:


These articles are exciting because they show that acupuncture truly does regenerate damaged nerves. That, the healing occurs because of increased blood flow to the damaged nerve which allows it to heal. The types of nerves have been identified as well that allow the blood to flow to the nerve which adds to the evidence that the nerves do regenerate after electroacupuncture.

In our office we have treated over a thousand cases of sciatica. We have seen the results of our treatment methods and it is nice to read of the science behind the ancient practice of acupuncture.

If you’re suffering from sciatica don’t hesitate to call us at (314) 569-0057. We truly care about people who are having back pain, leg pain, thigh pain, hip pain, numbness and tingling, and the other symptoms of sciatica. We can get you back to doing the things you love to do that the sciatic nerve pain has been preventing. Call us today at (314) 569-0057 or contact us by email at

Acupuncture Heals the Sciatic Nerve

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