Steroid Epidurals Can Help Relieve Sciatica

A recent randomised trial published in Annals of Internal Medicine by Cohen and his colleagues shows that steroid epidurals can help relieve sciatica. They found that “75% of patients treated with epidural steroids reported 50% or greater leg pain relief and a positive global perceived effect at 1 month”.  Of course, an epidural is an invasive treatment with associated risks and would probably not be the first choice of treatment. Conservative therapies such as physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc. should be the first port of call. In addition, your GP may prescribe anti-inflammatories and analgesia. Only in cases of severe sciatica when conservative treatment has not been effective should an epidural be envisaged.

Over time the healing process should help settle the sciatica, irrespective of whether or not a steroid epidural is performed, but an epidural can catalyse the process by decreasing pain, decreasing anxiety and stress, increasing mobility and allowing the participation in physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

An Integrated Approach To Low Back Pain Improves Results

An article in Medical News Today reviews a study in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine on the treatment of low back pain. A combined program of complementary and conventional therapies was found to be more helpful than the usual care provided by the primary care physician. The benefits of the program were a decrease in pain and an improvement in function. The complementary therapies provided included physiotherapy, acupuncture, massage, mind-body techniques, chiropractic and nutritional advice. Healing in Motion in St Albans aims to treat musculoskeletal disorders using a holistic, integrated approach.

Acupuncture Awareness Week

This week the British Acupuncture Council is launching the very first Acupuncture Awareness Week and their website is full of useful information. Of all the treatments I use, acupuncture is by far the one that most clients are curious about. Acupuncture has been used in China for over 2000 years. Fine needles are inserted into the skin to stimulate the body. Obviously, the needles are sterile and disposed of after use. Acupuncture can help with all sorts of muscle or joint pains like back pain for instance. The most common question is; how does it work? Let’s use back pain as an example (the following information was provided by the British Acupuncture Council).

“Acupuncture can help back pain by:

  • Providing pain relief – by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord (Pomeranz 1987; Zhao 2008).
  • Reducing inflammation – by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Kim 2008, Kavoussi 2007;Zijlstra 2003).
  • Improving muscle stiffness and joint mobility – by increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling and bruising.
  • Reducing the use of medication for back complaints (Thomas 2006).
  • Providing a more cost-effective treatment over a longer period of time (Radcliffe 2006;Witt 2006).
  • Improving the outcome when added to conventional treatments such as rehabilitation exercises (Ammendolia 2008; Yuan 2008).”
  • Releasing tight bands in muscles

Following research into the effects of acupuncture on low back pain, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) now recommend that GPs offer a course of 10 sessions of acupuncture as a first line treatment for persistent, non-specific low back pain.

Acupuncture Helps Reduce Stress

An article in today’s Mail Online reviews research carried out on the effects of acupuncture on stressed rats. The results show that acupuncture can reduce the levels of a protein linked to stress. Apparently this is the first study to show molecular proof of the benefit of acupuncture on stress.