Peripheral Neuropathy is a condition that affects the nerves of the body, especially those of the legs and feet. The symptoms can be particularly painful and may include numbness, weakness, burning sensations and loss of reflexes. There are many causes of Peripheral Neuropathy including, but not limited to, diabetes, HIV, alcoholism, vitamin deficiencies, and side effects to drugs such as statins and chemotherapy.
Western medicine treats the underlying condition resulting in the Peripheral Neuropathy (like Diabetes, for example), then tries a variety of methods to alleviate the painful symptoms, most which achieve only marginal results or carry with them undesirable side effects. Treatments that doctors may attempt include prescription pain killers, anti-seizure medications, Lidocain patches, and antidepressants.
People affected by Peripheral Neuropathy live with constant pain and, quite often, limited motility. Even light touch, like a bed sheet, can be excruciating. Some patients have the unusual sensation of wearing an invisible “glove” or “sock” over the affected limb. To understand this fully, simply recall a time that your leg or arm has fallen asleep due to an awkward position. First it is completely numb, then, as the blood flows back to the limb, there is that “pins and needles” sensation which is momentarily debilitating. Now try to imagine that moment is every moment of your day and night.
In Chinese Medicine Peripheral Neuropathy is due to the obstruction and/or deficiency of Qi and Blood. Qi in this case would be the “energy” that carries the blood and nutrients to the far reaches of the body. The goal of your acupuncturist is to determine where the imbalance lies, open up the meridians in the affected regions and tonify the Qi and Blood, thereby alleviating the pain.
In one published research 21 patients received acupuncture for Peripheral Neuropathy while 26 received appropriate medical care, but no acupuncture. 76% of patients in the acupuncture group improved symptomatically and objectively while only 15% of the control group did. Reputable medical institutions are now taking note of how acupuncture can help with Peripheral Neuropathy. For example, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is currently conducting a study on Acupuncture for Chemo-induced Peripheral Neuropathy. Stay tuned!
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