For some people it is experienced as the uncomfortable sensation of “pins and needles” or burning pain (especially at night) of their hands or feet. Others may suffer even more extreme symptoms such as muscle wasting, paralysis, or organ or gland dysfunction. With more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathies in existence, each with its own characteristic set of symptoms, pattern of development, and prognosis, the symptoms can vary as much as the cause. Nevertheless, Peripheral Neuropathy is a condition that can be treated with Acupuncture.
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy describes damage to the peripheral nervous system, which transmits information from the brain and spinal cord to every other part of the body. In most cases, peripheral neuropathy is secondary to conditions including diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, alcoholism, nutritional deficiencies, AIDS, or poisoning from heavy metals, chemotherapy, or various drugs.
Other causes include compression or entrapment (carpal tunnel syndrome), direct physical injury to a nerve (trauma), penetrated injuries, fractures or dislocated bones, pressure involving superficial nerves (ulna or radial) which can result from prolonged use of crutches or staying in same position, tumor, intraneural hemorrhage, exposure to cold, radiation or atherosclerosis.
It is a syndrome which includes symptoms of numbness, tingling, pricking sensations, sensitivity to touch, burning pain, and muscle weakness and atrophy of the arms and legs. The feet and legs are likely to be affected before the hands and arms.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include:
- numbness or insensitivity to pain or temperature
- a tingling, burning, or prickling sensation
- sharp, burning pain or cramps
- extreme sensitivity to touch, even a light touch
- loss of balance and coordination
- muscle weakness
- muscle wasting
These symptoms are often worse at night.
Many people have signs of neuropathy upon examination but have no symptoms at all.
How can acupuncture treat peripheral neuropathy?
Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that Peripheral neuropathy is due to dampness moving to the limbs, where it obstructs the flow of Qi (energy) and Blood within them. The treatment is twofold, to treat the underlying factor that is causing this dampness to accumulate and to directly facilitate the circulation of Qi and Blood in the affected area. By improving the circulation, the nerve tissues of the affected area can be nourished to repair the nerve functions and reduce pain.
Peripheral neuropathy is a symptom for many different patterns of disharmony within the body. Oriental Medicine aims to treat each individual uniquely depending on what caused the neuropathy and how it manifests.
What Points Are Used?
In treating peripheral neuropathy, acupuncture points on the affected area are used (treating the branch) as well as points on various parts of the body to treat the person according to their particular pattern (treating the root).
Each patient is custom-treated according to his or her specific and unique diagnosis. There are many acupuncture points on the hands and feet. Often the points will be chosen by which are the most tender to obtain the best results.
What will an Acupuncture Treatment feel like?
There seems to be little sensitivity to the insertion of acupuncture needles. They are so thin that several acupuncture needles can go into the middle of a hypodermic needle. Occasionally, there is a brief moment of discomfort as the needle penetrates the skin, but once the needles are in place, most people relax and even fall asleep for the duration of the treatment.
The length, number and frequency of treatments will vary. Typical treatments last from five to 30 minutes, with the patient being treated one or two times a week. Some symptoms are relieved after the first treatment, while more severe or chronic ailments often require multiple treatments.
Are you ready to see how acupuncture could change your life for the better? To learn more about acupuncture or to schedule an appointment for treatment, please call our office at (304) 263-4927 today. Dr. Terry Chambers is a Board certified chiropractor and acupuncturist, licensed in WV, and trained to perform functional medicine.