Can acupuncture help neuropathy?

“Can acupuncture help neuropathy?” is a question that I often get.  Frequently the question is in reference to peripheral neuropathy.  I’ll start with what is neuropathy?

Can acupuncture help neuropathy

What is Neuropathy?

Neuropathy is a term that refers to general diseases or malfunctions of the nerves. It shows up as weakness, numbness, and pain from nerve damage. It is most common in the hands and feet.  There are more than 3 million cases per year in the US alone.

Neuropathy Classifications

Neuropathy is often classified according to the types or location of nerves that are affected. For example, when it occurs on the hands and feet is referred to as peripheral neuropathy.   It can also be classified according to the disease causing it i.e. neuropathy from the effects of diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy.

What causes neuropathy?

There are many common causes of peripheral neuropathy in the US. This includes diabetes, thyroid disorders, certain auto-immune conditions, vitamin B12 deficiency, alcohol abuse and exposure to toxins such as heavy metals or chemotherapy drugs. HIV, other infections and certain types of cancer can also cause this type of pain.

What does Western medicine treat it with?

According to western medicine, treatment can help, but this condition can’t be cured.

It is diagnosed by having lab tests and imaging often required.   Western medicine sees it as a chronic disease, lasting for years or be lifelong. Treatments include antidepressants like amitriptyline, pain medications like oxycodone, anti-seizure medications, and pain-relieving creams.

 

How can acupuncture help neuropathy?

From a Chinese medicine perspective, neuropathy is about stagnation. With stagnation, there is an inability of the qi and blood to circulate to the extremities. The liver is in charge of circulation of the qi or the energy throughout the body.  It is also responsible for knowing where the end of the body is.  Thus if we are deficient in that energy, then the body takes care of our core and the organs in our core first.  It makes sense as it’s those organs that are critical for life.

Neuropathy is most common in the hands and feet. Those are the most peripheral parts of our body.  They are also parts that we can most afford to lose.  If there isn’t enough qi or life force energy to get all through the body, the peripheral parts are the last to get it.

Sometimes the neuropathy is specific to a disease or condition. For example, chemotherapy patients often have neuropathy because there are so many toxins in the body prohibiting the free flow of qi.  Or, peripheral neuropathy from diabetes is quite common.  But it is from a similar root.   People with diabetes have organs that aren’t functioning optimally. Thus energy conservation kicks in to preserve the more important body functions.  That energy conservation becomes a deficient condition in Chinese Medicine, and can lead to the neuropathy.

An acupuncture treatment will nourish the body to boost energy. And open up channels so that when the energy does flow it is with ease.


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