Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks

Updated December 1, 2003





Quick Q&A: Leg Pain
By Brian Benjamin Carter, MSci, LAc

Brian is the founder of the Pulse of Oriental Medicine, medical professor at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and author of Powerful Body, Peaceful Mind: How to Heal Yourself with Foods, Herbs, and Acupressure.

Hello and thank you in advance. About 4-5 months ago I noticed a sharp pain in my left leg starting in my buttocks and working down the back of my leg sometimes all the way to my foot, but most of the time just down the back of my leg down to the lower part of my leg directly behind my left knee. In the past 1 1/2 months the pain is now on both sides.

I have been to my doctor 3 times now, have received x-rays which turned out negative, am now seeing a chiropractor (3 visits so far), and the pain continues. My doctor prescribed Bextra and I take it first thing in the morning and the pain subsides throughout the day and begins around 9 pm.

Now the funny thing is that when I go to bed at night the pain is relieved when I lay in bed, but when I wake in the morning and stand up, the pain is so bad that I can't even bend over. After taking a Bextra, about an hour later I can walk, bend, etc., like nothing was wrong. I don't want to live like this forever, so I'm asking for any help that you may recommend. Thank you again for your time.


Bextra is an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. What you describe sounds like sciatica- or piriformis syndrome- there's a muscle under the gluteus maximus (your major buttock muscle) that can spasm and put pressure on the sciatic nerve- acupuncture into the motor point of the piriformis resets the muscle's normal resting tone and takes pressure off the nerve. That's better than taking drugs.

Of course, you need to see an acupuncturist one on one for a proper diagnosis and targeted treatment.

They say Bextra doesn't cause COX-1 problems like ibuprofen does (stomach lining problems, gastric bleeds), but, for me, all new drugs are suspect. Further research and patient use often reveals dangers unknown at the time of the drug's debut. Plus, some of the newer anti-inflammatories have been touted to not obstruct COX-1 pathways, but nonetheless have caused stomach problems.

Regardless, see a pain specialist - nothing against GP's, but specialists are less likely to miss diagnoses. Some MDs just grab their prescription pad right away without diagnosing the problem - Don't settle for that. Ask them what's causing the problem- what muscles, what nerve, etc., and if they know of other solutions besides drugs. Gauge their grasp of your problem. If they don't have time for your questions, get another doctor.

All the best!

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