Can Acupuncture Help with Neuropathy?

Acupuncture is one of those treatments that divides opinion. Most people reason that if it has worked for thousands of years in Chinese medicine, it must be good. That may well be so and we've all seen the TV clips of operations undertaken with acupuncture needles but without anaesthetics but like any other treatment, alternative or otherwise, evidence-based proof is needed that it works when applied to nerve disease. Neuropathy is such a difficult affliction that even experienced Chinese doctor/acupuncturists admit that acupuncture is very much a hit and miss method as regards effectiveness in controlling neuropathic symptoms. Nevertheless, many people have found relief from acupuncture sessions. Today's enlightening post from Natural (see link below) explains how Chinese medicine sees neuropathy and its potential treatment with acupuncture.
Although not normally done on this blog; the footnotes and references are added at the end to show that the article is based on research and not just alternative theory.

Acupuncture Treats Peripheral Neuropathy
Wednesday, May 06, 2009 by: Melissa Sokulski

Neuropathy, or Peripheral Neuropathy, is defined as having numbness, tingling or pain in nerves apart from the spine or brain, often in the hands and feet (1). It is a fairly common symptom, occurring in people with spinal injuries, diabetes, and genetic conditions such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth Syndrome (2,3). Acupuncture can be an effective way to treat these symptoms, bringing energy, life and feeling back into the extremities.

Neuropathy is a serious symptom, which often affects people`s quality of life. When people don`t feel parts of their bodies, they are more prone to injury and infection, as well as finding difficulty in daily tasks such as walking, fine motor work, or gripping. People who have this symptom as part of a genetic disorder also deal with the fears and hopes that go along with having a rare medical disorder(4).

Acupuncture is a powerful tool not only to balance qi - or energy - in the body, but to bring peace, hope and alignment into the mind, emotions and spirit as well.

When there is numbness in the periphery, there is not enough qi reaching these areas, according to traditional Chinese medicine. This can be for a variety of reasons, but mainly either:

1) there is too little energy in that organ system/meridian (energy pathway)

2) something is blocking the energy from reaching the area.

Sometimes there will be a combination of the two, and often multiple organ systems/meridians are involved. There are also different causes for the condition. Each of these things is considered and addressed by the acupuncturist, and a treatment plan which best suits the patient is mapped out.

In general, treatment would involve selecting points that promote circulation of energy in the meridians. If heat or cold is the cause, treatment would include either dissipating heat or warming coldness.(5)

Sometimes, weakness and flaccidity in the extremities is classified as wei syndrome. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, this results from malnourishment of the tendons due to depletion of body fluids, caused by "excess heat" remaining in the body after illness.(6) Wei syndrome often requires longer periods of treatment.

Acupuncture often brings immediate relief - especially when there is pain - though it will likely take a series of treatments for the feeling and strength to come back completely and for the body to stay in balance, providing lasting effects. How often or how long treatment should proceed will be individual, depending on the cause and the overall constitution and health of the patient. As mentioned above, Wei syndrome can require a long course of treatment.

Acupuncture works by treating the person as a whole, balancing body, mind and spirit and allowing the body to do what it needs to do to heal itself. Acupuncture helps remove blocks, helps the body focus on increasing energy in areas of deficiency, and helps the patient be more present and focused, but ultimately it is our own bodies and energy that are able to heal.

3) Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disorders (from CMT Facts III, Special Report, p.24):
- CMT is the most common inherited neuropathy, affecting about 125,000 Americans
- CMT is also known as peroneal muscular atrophy and hereditary motor sensory neuropathy
- does not affect life expectancy
- can vary greatly in severity, even within a family
- is the focus of significant genetic research
4) Flapan, Mark, p.10 of CMTA Special Report.
5) Xinnong, p.444
6) Xinnong, p.443


CMTA Special Report: CMT Facts III. Published by Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association. 2700 Chestnut Parkway. Chester, PA. 19013.

Flapan, Mark. Living With A Rare Disorder: Hope and Fear. CMTA Special Report: CMT Facts III. Published by the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association.

Maciocia, Giovanni. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists. Second Edition. Churchill Livingstone. 2005.

Xinnong, Cheng. Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. Foreign Languages Press. Beijing. 1990.

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