Acupuncture Relieves Sciatic Pain – Changes Brain Functional Connectivity Related To Pain Relief

A 2012 study using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed that Acupuncture causes important changes in brain functional connectivity related to pain relief. 

The study also indicated that Acupuncture produces significant decreases in the frequency of sciatica pain and pain intensity.

MRIs showed that Acupuncture triggered changes in the functional state of the brain, providing patients with greater resting states.

A total of 10 Acupuncture treatments were received by the participants in the study: twice a day, three times a week for a little under 2 weeks.

Participants in the study all had pain consistent with chronic sciatica diagnostic criteria for over 3 months: radiating pain over the sciatic nerve innervation area (e.g. buttocks, posterior upper leg, posterior lateral lower leg, lateral top of the foot).

Researchers in the study determined that Acupuncture regulates the default mode network (DMN), which correlated to significant reductions in sciatica pain. 

The DMN is at its peak activity level when the brain is at rest and consists of a complex of  interconnected activated and deactivated brain regions. This research reported that sciatica pain disturbs the normal DMN pattern, and that Acupuncture was able to restore it.

“..(Acupuncture) raises negative activation in the brain’s default mode network (DMN) of chronic sciatica patients, especially in the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex.” (1)

The frontal cortex and cingulate cortex are involved in pain-related subjective cognition and perception, emotional responses, memory and attentional responses (2).

Raising negative activation in the DMN is associated with decreased pain, it is a form of functional connectivity present during the resting state of the brain (3).


  1. Li J, Dong JC, Le JJ, et al. Effects of acupuncture on default mode network images of chronic sciatica patients in the resting network state [J]. Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, 2012, 32(12):1624-1627.
  2. Vogt BA, Derbyshire S, Jones AK. Pain processing in four regions of human cingulate cortex localized with co-registered PET and MR imaging [J]. Eur J Neurosci, 1996, 8 (7): 1461 – 1473.
  3. Raichle ME, MacLeod AM, Snyder AZ, et al. A default mode of brain function[J]. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2001, 98(2): 676 – 682.

Turmeric vs. Acupuncture for Treating Inflammation

Chinese Dietary Therapy has strongly promoted using food as medicine for thousands of years. At Allied Acupuncture we actively encourage our patients with inflammatory conditions to include turmeric in their diet, as well as bone broth, and to reduce simple/refined carbohydrate consumption.

Like turmeric, Acupuncture has proven anti-inflammatory effects, with many additional benefits. Acupuncture is a proven, strong pain reliever, and with regular treatment is backed by research for improving multiple pain, injury, inflammatory, hormonal and chronic conditions. That’s why if you are considering turmeric for any inflammatory and/or pain condition you should be considering Acupuncture treatment as well.

There is a lot to like about turmeric! It is relatively inexpensive, natural, and safe. It’s easy to grow yourself too and then it’s practically free! In fact you’ll have more than you know what to do with most likely. If you get the bright orange coloured variety you may want to try giving it a good wash and eating some raw. It will give you a better buzz than any coffee (and a bright orange tongue!). Start with a small piece, it can be intense. The whiter variety is far too bitter to eat this way, go for bright orange.

By far the nicest way to consume turmeric is in a Turmeric Latte or simply Google food recipes that include turmeric. You can also get it in a capsule/supplement form. If you can’t find it fresh, simply wander in to the spice aisle of your local supermarket and buy the powdered form. This is easily added to stews, broths, soups, curries or tea.

Turmeric is a great natural analgesic for mild pain and positively influencing inflammatory conditions.

The most active constituent in turmeric is Curcumin and is probably best known for research showing that it may moderate antioxidant factors and inflammatory parameters. But did you know that it has also been shown to have beneficial impact on blood sugar levels, the liver, lowering fats in the blood and lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDLs)? It’s also beneficial for diabetics. It essentially achieves this by helping a few key metabolic enzymes function well, according to research. Without boring you with more scientific jargon, turmeric is beneficial, so start including it in your diet.

Dr Scott Baker is a registered acupuncturist practicing in Burleigh Waters, Gold Coast. To find out if he may be able to assist with pain, fertility, digestion, hormones, sinus, allergies or other conditions call and book a consultation today or book online at

Allied Acupuncture Gold Coast, 2 Executive Drive, Burleigh Waters. 07 5522 1691.


There are many positive effects associated with Acupuncture but let’s focus on the most relevant for now. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce inflammation, trigger the release of endogenous opioids (the body’s own super strong pain killers), regulate pain pathways in the nervous system, trigger the release of endorphins AND neuromodulators, cause vasodilation of blood vessels and boost the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells and the list goes on.

Did you know that according to perhaps the most respected peer reviewed research body in the world – the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials – there is more high-level research for Acupuncture than for physiotherapy and chiropractic combined?

If you’re curious about Acupuncture then book online or call us on 07 5522 1691 and we can discuss your individual case.


To learn more about Allied Acupuncture, visit us online at


Dr Scott Baker is a licensed acupuncturist in Burleigh Waters, Gold Coast, focused on pain relief, women’s health and chronic disease management. He enjoys sharing his passion for natural approaches to health through his online articles and at his clinic, Allied Acupuncture, on Executive Drive. Call for an appointment at 07 5522 1691.

Tags: ibs, constipation, digestive issues, women’s health

Doctors Advised to Refer Low Back Pain Patients for Acupuncture

For patients with acute or sub-acute low back pain Medical Doctors have been advised not to prescribe potentially harmful drugs or expensive, unnecessary tests wherever possible and to refer patients for non-drug therapies including Acupuncture 1.

Acupuncture is one of a small handful of treatments that have been recommended as part of the evidence-based clinical practice guideline published in February 2017 by the American College of Physicians.

The American College of Physicians is a highly esteemed and influential medical body in the USA, whose medical model Australia follows very closely.

Low back pain happens to be one of the most common reasons behind visits to Medical Doctors. Approximately 25% of the population report having experienced low back pain recently and it can be a debilitating condition that severely decreases quality of life.

According to the president of the ACP “Physicians should avoid prescribing unnecessary tests and costly and potentially harmful drugs, especially narcotics, for these patients.”

The ACP recommends Medical Doctors first refer patients for non-drug therapy, including Acupuncture, spinal manipulation, mindfulness-based stress reduction and even motor control exercise. Movement based activities such as tai chi and yoga could be beneficial also.

The guidelines also showed that systemic steroids were ineffective at treating low back pain, as was the commonly prescribed medication acetaminophen.

Opioid-based pain killers (narcotics) are advised as a last resort. This recommendation is likely related to the Centre for Disease Control’s declaration that opioid-based pain killers have become an “epidemic” and that the number of deaths associated with these drugs and risk of addiction is too high.

The ACPs guidelines reflect a growing body of evidence in support of Acupuncture for pain management due to its effectiveness and safety.

Dr Scott Baker is a registered acupuncturist practicing in Burleigh Waters, Gold Coast. To find out if he may be able to assist with pain, fertility, digestion, hormones, sinus, allergies or other conditions call and book a consultation today or book online at

Allied Acupuncture Gold Coast, 2 Executive Drive, Burleigh Waters. 07 5522 1691.Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, McLean RM, Forciea MA, for the Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017;166:514-530. doi: 10.7326/M16-2367