Dry needling for Sciatica. Is it worth trying?

Sciatica can present in differing severity and intensity but is classified as nerve pain from any sort of injury, irritation, or pressure on the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is on average 2cm in diameter at its thickest portion (wow, huh?).  It runs along the posterior hip/buttock region, down the back of the leg, and ends just below the knee. The sciatic nerve then splits into two nerves which run down the rest of the leg into the foot. Among other physical therapy treatments, dry needling can be incorporated as an additional tool to help with sciatica symptoms if this is something you are experiencing.

  What is Dry Needling?

Dry needling, a western medicine-based technique has been used increasingly since the 1980s. The goals of dry needling include a reduction in both local and referred pain, and improvement in both mobility and function. Dry needling targets trigger points or taut bands of skeletal muscle. This is done directly through the insertion of a thin needle into a muscle’s trigger point. This elicits a twitch response. The twitch response causes the release of the trigger point. Releasing the trigger point reduces pain and irritation in the targeted muscle and the system as a whole.

What are common signs of sciatica?

Sciatica can come in varying degrees of intensity and severity but can be extremely debilitating and painful. Some of the more common signs of sciatica can include but are not limited to low back and/or gluteal pain. In some cases, aching, tingling, or numbness in the buttock, posterior leg, or foot. Others commonly report weakness in the affected leg or foot and in more severe cases difficulty with bowel or bladder function.  

   How can dry needling help and what are the benefits?

As discussed above, the goal of dry needling is to reduce tissue tension and depolarize the muscle. It is a minimally invasive treatment technique that can help to increase blood flow to the affected area to assist with both healing and pain reduction. Depending on where the compression or irritation is on the sciatic nerve, the goal of dry needling is to decrease muscle tightness in the surrounding musculature to ideally reduce pressure on and around the nerve. Pain reduction, reduced muscle tension, improved mobility, and reduced radicular symptoms are just a few of the possible benefits of including dry needling in your sciatica treatment. Your physical therapist will help decide if dry needling would be beneficial for you based on their examination.

  If you or someone you know is struggling with sciatica pain, dry needling in conjunction with physical therapy may be able to help get you back to enjoying your life. Schedule your appointment today. 


Rachel graduated with honors from Concordia University Wisconsin in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology and in 2017 with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. At Concordia, Rachel had the opportunity to take advanced coursework in manual therapy and sport specific training.