J Clin Med. 2021 May 19;10(10):2189. doi: 10.3390/jcm10102189.
Sciatica is a condition often accompanied by neuropathic pain (NP). Acupuncture and dry needling are common treatments for pain, and the current literature supports acupuncture as an effective treatment for sciatica. However, it is unknown if the mechanisms of NP are considered in the delivery of needling interventions for sciatica. Our objective was to assess the efficacy and the effectiveness of needling therapies, to identify common needling practices and to investigate if NP mechanisms are considered in the treatment of sciatica. A scoping review of the literature on needling interventions for sciatica and a review of the literature on mechanisms related to NP and needling interventions were performed. Electronic literature searches were conducted on PubMed, MEDLINE, CINAHL and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews from inception to August, 2020 to identify relevant papers. Reference lists of included papers were also manually screened and a related-articles search through PubMed was performed on all included articles. Mapping of the results included description of included studies, summary of results, and identification of gaps in the existing literature. Ten articles were included. All studies used acupuncture for the treatment of sciatica, no studies on dry needling were identified. Current evidence supports the efficacy and effectiveness of acupuncture for sciatica, however, no studies considered underlying NP mechanisms in the acupuncture approach for sciatica and the rationale for using acupuncture was inconsistent among trials. This review reveals that neuropathic pain mechanisms are not routinely considered in needling approaches for patients with sciatica. Studies showed acupuncture to be an effective treatment for sciatic pain, however, further research is warranted to explore if needling interventions for sciatica and NP would be more effective if NP mechanisms are considered.