Acupuncture & Neuropathy

Black spa stone with set of acupuncture needles on tray

It has been scientifically proven that acupuncture can effectively relieve pain and improve nerve function in peripheral neuropathy cases.  Acupuncture regulates various neurotransmitters, increases blood flow and reduces inflammation to provide pain relief.

 

Neuropathy is a dysfunction with the nerves, usually effecting to the peripheral nerves as opposed to the central nervous system.  It can be a complication of a number of different medical conditions.  Neuropathy involves three types of nerves; autonomic nerves, motor nerves and sensory nerves.  Sometimes single nerves are affected (mononeuropathy) and sometimes it affects nerve sets (polyneuropathy).  The type of nerves involved determine the manifestation of the disease.  Damage to the sensory nerves can cause tingling, pain, numbness or weakness in the feet and hands, while damage to the motor nerves may manifest as weakness in the hands and feet.

 

Symptoms of sensory neuropathy may include: tingling and numbness, pins and needles and hypersensitivity, loss of coordination and proprioception, burning, stabbing, shooting pains which may worsen at night, skin, hair or nail changes, foot and leg ulcers, infections and gangrene.  Foot pain is most common.  Motor neuropathy symptoms may include: muscle weakness causing unsteadiness and difficulty performing small movements, muscle wasting, muscle twitching, cramps and paralysis.

 

It is estimated peripheral neuropathy affects over 20 million Americans.  It can occur at any age but is more common among older adults.  There are many causes of neuropathy including but not limited to: physical trauma, repetitive injury, infection, metabolic problems and exposure to toxins and some drugs.  There are over 40 drugs that are known to cause neuropathy.  However, approximately 30% of neuropathies are idiopathic or of unknown cause.  Most cases of neuropathy are in patients with diabetes.  The high blood sugar levels damage the walls of tiny blood vessels that supply Oxygen and nutrients to nerve endings in the hands and feet.

 

Whether single or multiple nerves are affected by neuropathy, the underlying cause can often be targeted for treatment, but if the background condition can not be corrected, treatment takes the form of symptomatic pain relief.  The traditional Western approach is to treat the underlying cause, control the symptoms and stop the progression of disease.

 

Addressing the underlying cause is also a preventative strategy, particularly against diabetic neuropathy where addressing high blood sugar levels can prevent further nerve damage.  For cases of toxicity, removing the toxin or stopping use of a certain drug will suspend further nerve damage.  Other conservative treatments include acupuncture, rest, heat and limited courses of drugs to reduce inflammation.  Acupuncture treatments can reduce inflammation and increase blood flow lessening the pain of peripheral neuropathy as a palliative treatment.  However, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, like in Western Medicine, peripheral neuropathy can be explained through numerous patterns.  One must treat the root cause of the neuropathy in order to halt its progression and possibly revert its symptoms.  A TCM treatment may include needles all over the body, not just the affected areas and in some cases herbal prescriptions.

Posted in: Acupuncture

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