Damage to or compression of the nerves outside the spinal cord and brain is called neuropathy, also called peripheral neuropathy. It is a chronic condition characterized by weakness and decreased sensation, numbness or tingling in the extremities. Neuropathy can lead to wounds that don’t heal, infection and even amputation.
Although diabetes is the most common cause, the condition also can be caused by chemotherapy, traumatic injury, lead poisoning, tumor, ruptured disc or alcoholism. Certain cancer treatments can damage peripheral nerves. The calves and feet are the most common sites of this nerve damage. Other causes may be atherosclerosis, autoimmunity, advanced kidney disease and hypothyroidism as well as certain environmental toxins.
Unfortunately, not all causes are known.
Problems with Conventional Treatments
Neuropathy can be improved or reversed with outpatient nerve decompression surgery. However, the key to this treatment is in the careful selection of patients who qualify for this operation. For those who qualify, symptom relief is successful in about 90% of these cases.
More commonly, treatment consists of tricyclic antidepressants such as imipramine HC1 (Tofranil) and amitriptyline HC1 (Elavil, Endep). These drugs act on the central nervous system to reduce pain. Results may take days to weeks. But these drugs are not without such uncomfortable side effects as drowsiness, dry mouth, urinary retention and dizziness.
The Acupuncture Approach
As reported in the British Medical Journal-BMJ, 11 cancer patients with peripheral neuropathy were divided into two groups, one of which received ten acupuncture treatments over a three month period. Nerve conduction tests showed improved intensity and speed of nerve signals over that of the control group. Subjective evaluations of their neuropathic pain revealed that their condition had improved in five of the six patients in the acupuncture group. The control group showed only slight improvement in three members and a worsening of pain in two others.
Dr. Andrew Weil has spoken positively of acupuncture treatment of peripheral neuropathy, citing a study reported in the 2007 European Journal of Neurology.
With a treatment protocol that is safe, free from side effects, and highly effective, it makes sense that sufferers from peripheral neuropathy, from whatever cause, select acupuncture as their treatment of choice
Institute for Advanced Reconstruction
British Medical Journal-BMJ
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Ahn AC, Bennani T, Freeman R, et al. Two styles of acupuncture for treating painful diabetic neuropathy—a pilot randomised control trial. Acupunct Med. Jun 2007;25(1-2):11-17.
Phillips KD, Skelton WD, Hand GA. Effect of acupuncture administered in a group setting on pain and subjective peripheral neuropathy in persons with human immunodeficiency virus disease. J Altern Complement Med. Jun 2004;10(3):449-455.
Donald GK, Tobin I, Stringer J. Evaluation of acupuncture in the management of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. Acupunct Med. Sep 2011;29(3):230-233.
Schroder S, Liepert J, Remppis A, et al. Acupuncture treatment improves nerve conduction in peripheral neuropathy. Eur J Neurol. Mar 2007;14(3):276-281.