Acupuncture For Radicular Pain: Does It Help?


Radicular pain, often referred to as nerve root pain, is a type of pain that radiates along the path of a spinal nerve due to compression or irritation of the nerve root. This condition can be caused by various factors, including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, or other spinal cord abnormalities. If you’re experiencing radicular pain, acupuncture may be an effective treatment option worth considering.

Acupuncture promotes the release of endorphins, natural pain-relieving chemicals, and improves blood flow to the affected area, reducing inflammation and enhancing nerve function. Additionally, acupuncture may modulate the transmission of pain signals to the brain, providing relief from discomfort associated with radicular pain.

What causes radicular pain?

Radicular pain can occur due to several underlying conditions:

  1. Herniated or bulging discs: The discs that cushion the vertebrae can bulge or rupture, putting pressure on the nearby nerve roots.
  2. Spinal stenosis: The narrowing of the spinal canal that compresses the nerve roots. This can be caused by bone spurs, thickened ligaments, or degenerative changes.
  3. Degenerative disc disease: As discs wear down with age, they can lose height and irritate the nerve roots.
  4. Bone spurs: Bony projections that develop along the edges of bones can impinge on nerve roots.
  5. Injuries: Trauma or sudden impacts can cause disc herniations, fractures, or dislocations that pinch the nerves.
  6. Tumors: Abnormal growths within the spinal canal can apply pressure on the nerve roots.

The compressed or irritated nerve roots then send pain signals along their pathways, resulting in radicular pain that radiates into the extremities.

Acupuncture alleviates nerve pain and numbness

Radicular pain is distinct from typical muscle pain due to its nerve-related nature. Common signs include tingling, pins-and-needles sensation, shooting pain, weakness, and numbness that can radiate down the arms or legs, depending on the affected nerve root. Traditional painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications may not always provide adequate relief because the pain stems from nerve dysfunction rather than inflammation alone.

Acupuncture can help alleviate radicular pain by increasing circulation to the affected area, and flooding the damaged nerves with oxygenated blood. This increased blood flow brings essential nutrients and healing factors to the injured tissues, supporting the regeneration of damaged nerves and restoring healthy nerve function. As a result, acupuncture effectively reduces the associated pain, numbness, and other symptoms caused by nerve root compression or irritation.

Acupuncture has demonstrated promising results in treating various nerve-related conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, and Bell’s palsy. In some cases, electro-acupuncture, which combines traditional acupuncture with electrostimulation, may offer even more potent relief by further enhancing local blood flow and nerve conduction.

Acupuncture restores musculoskeletal function

Radicular pain often leads to compensatory movements and altered postures as the body attempts to avoid further discomfort. These compensatory patterns can strain surrounding muscle groups, leading to additional musculoskeletal dysfunction and aggravating the pain cycle. For example, a herniated disc in the lower back may cause the individual to favor one side or develop an unusual walking pattern, putting extreme stress on the hips, knees, and ankles.

Acupuncture can help release deep-seated muscle tension and knots that may have developed due to the compensatory movements. By inserting fine needles into specific acupuncture points, the practitioner can stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms, promoting the release of muscle tension and restoring proper muscle function. 

By relaxing the muscles, acupuncture not only alleviates pain but also supports proper muscle contraction and movement patterns, promoting overall musculoskeletal function and reducing the risk of further injury or imbalances.

Acupuncture reduces inflammation

In some cases, radicular pain may be accompanied by inflammation, either as a direct cause or a contributing factor. Acute trauma, such as a sports injury or an accident, can lead to disc herniation and subsequent inflammation, compounding the pain and discomfort. Additionally, chronic conditions like degenerative disc disease can also trigger inflammatory processes that irritate the nerve roots.

Acupuncture reduces inflammation. It soothes swelling and heat in the affected areas, taking pressure off nearby nerves. When specific points are stimulated, the body releases fewer inflammatory substances. This helps relieve nerve pain and discomfort. By alleviating this inflammation-induced pressure on the nerve roots, acupuncture’s anti-inflammatory properties can provide significant relief from radicular pain.

Acupuncture triggers endorphin release

Endorphins are natural pain-relieving chemicals produced by the body in response to pleasant stimuli or certain therapies, like acupuncture. These substances have a morphine-like effect, binding to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, effectively raising the body’s pain threshold and promoting a sense of well-being.

Acupuncture has been shown to trigger the release of endorphins, as well as regulate the levels of other neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). While serotonin and dopamine enhance mood and promote feelings of well-being, GABA plays a crucial role in pain management by blocking overactive nerve signals and promoting relaxation. This multifaceted effect on the body’s natural pain-relieving and mood-regulating systems can help individuals with radicular pain better manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

Book your appointment now

If you’re struggling with radicular pain, consider scheduling an appointment with our experienced acupuncturists. We’ll listen to your concerns, assess your condition, and develop a personalized treatment plan to help you find relief and restore optimal function. Visit Lycoming Orthopedic & Sports Acupuncture today to find your journey to pain management.
Contact us today to find out the many benefits of acupuncture, and how it can help improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and pain management. When you book an appointment at one of our clinics, you can be confident knowing you’ve taken the first step to regain control of your health and wellness.

Ready to get started?