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  • Writer's pictureAku Energija

Acupuncture For Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy (PN), a condition characterized by damage to the peripheral nerves, affects millions worldwide, causing symptoms ranging from numbness and tingling to sharp, burning pain. While conventional treatments such as medications and physical therapy are commonly prescribed, there is a growing recognition of the potential benefits of alternative therapies such as TCM and acupuncture.

Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the nerves that relay messages between the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body are damaged. This damage disrupts the normal functioning of these nerves, leading to various symptoms, including:

  • Numbness and Tingling: Patients often report sensations of numbness, tingling, or pins and needles in the affected areas.

  • Burning Pain: Many experience sharp, burning pain, particularly in the hands and feet.

  • Muscle Weakness: Weakness and decreased muscle control are common, impacting mobility and coordination.

  • Sensitivity: Some individuals may become oversensitive to touch, experiencing pain from stimuli that are normally painless.

Peripheral neuropathy refers to so many conditions. There are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy, each with its own set of symptoms and prognosis. About 2.4% of people globally have a form of peripheral neuropathy. [1, 2]

The most common type of peripheral neuropathy is diabetic neuropathy, caused by a high sugar level and resulting in nerve fiber damage in your legs and feet. [3]

Conventional Treatment for Peripheral Neuropathy

Usually, peripheral neuropathy can’t be cured, but you can do a lot of things to prevent it from getting worse. If an underlying condition like diabetes is at fault, your healthcare provider will treat that first and then treat the pain and other symptoms of neuropathy.

In some cases, over-the-counter pain relievers can help. Other times, prescription medicines are needed. In extreme cases, surgery can be used to destroy nerves or repair injuries that are causing neuropathic pain and symptoms. [3]

However, there currently are no effective medications for the numbness and range of troublesome sensations that plague PN sufferers due to what has long been considered irreversible nerve damage, especially to sensory nerves. [4]

Acupuncture for Peripheral Neuropathy 

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body and helps to restore the flow of energy, or Qi, along pathways known as meridians. From a Western perspective, acupuncture is believed to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue, triggering the body's natural painkillers and promoting healing.

Over the last two decades, there has been a growing body of evidence regarding acupuncture’s ability to treat not just the pain but also the numbness and the many other symptoms associated with PN. Studies evidence suggest several potential benefits:

  1. Pain Relief: Acupuncture may influence the release of neurotransmitters such as endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body. By stimulating specific acupuncture points, the body may release these substances, leading to pain relief.

  2. Improved Nerve Function: Some studies indicate that acupuncture may improve nerve function and conduction, potentially reducing symptoms of numbness and tingling.

  3. Enhanced Blood Circulation: Acupuncture has been shown to enhance blood circulation. Improved blood flow can help deliver more oxygen and nutrients to damaged nerves, promoting their healing and reducing symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

  4. Reduced Inflammation: Some studies suggest that acupuncture may have anti-inflammatory effects, which could be beneficial for conditions like peripheral neuropathy, where inflammation may contribute to nerve damage and pain.

  5. Improved immunity: Acupuncture may also modulate immune function, potentially reducing inflammation and autoimmune responses that contribute to nerve damage in peripheral neuropathy. 

While these mechanisms provide theoretical explanations for acupuncture's effects on peripheral neuropathy, the evidence supporting its effectiveness is mixed. Some studies have shown promising results, indicating that acupuncture can reduce pain and improve nerve function in peripheral neuropathy patients. However, other studies have failed to demonstrate significant benefits compared to sham acupuncture or standard treatments.

Choosing the Right Treatment 

While acupuncture may offer benefits for some individuals, it should not be viewed as a standalone treatment but rather as part of a comprehensive approach that may include medication, physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, and other interventions tailored to the individual patient's needs. Additionally, acupuncture should be performed by qualified practitioners in a safe and sterile environment to minimize risks of adverse effects.

If you are thinking of finding alternative ways to help you with peripheral neuropathy consider consulting a qualified TCM/acupuncture practitioner. Your acupuncturist designs personalized treatment strategies tailored to your individual health objectives and conditions. By considering factors such as your medical background, lifestyle choices, and prevailing symptoms, this tailored approach guarantees that you receive optimal care suited to your needs. 



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