The symptoms often reported by our peripheral neuropathy clients include burning sensations, feeling of pins and needles, and numbness - particularly in the feet. Those with numbness often describe the feeling to be like wearing a thick pair of socks or walking on sponges. The symptoms alone however are usually not what prompts sufferers to come to our clinic for treatment; they’re typically more concerned about the impact neuropathy has on their quality of life, including:
ACUPUNCTURE FOR PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY
How does Chinese medicine approach peripheral neuropathy if most conventional medicine practitioners believe that nothing can be done? The answer lies in acupuncture’s ability to influence blood flow. Blood contains all the nutrients vital to our existence, including oxygen, water, platelets, hormones, etc. If nutrients are not delivered to every cell in our body, the cells lacking nutrition will eventually shrivel up and die – which is what happens in areas affected by peripheral neuropathy; poor circulation, compounded by inflammation starves nerves of nourishment and they begin to degenerate, leading to pain and eventually numbness. Fortunately small fibre nerves can often regenerate with proper nourishment and blood flow. Acupuncture stimulates blood flow and guides blood to areas of our body to nourish cells that have been deprived of nutrition, feeding the nerves so they can begin to repair. Acupuncture also increases blood flow to areas where toxins have accumulated to decrease inflammation.
One of the tools we use in our clinic to measure treatment progress, particularly for peripheral neuropathy, is thermography. Thermography uses an infrared camera to detect heat patterns and blood flow in body tissues by sensing temperature differences. In thermography photos temperatures are represented by a gradient of colours - where red is the warmest (indicating good blood flow), followed by orange, yellow, green, then blue as the coolest (indicating poor blood flow).
The following photos (shared with consent) show the treatment progress of one of our diabetic clients who suffered with peripheral neuropathy and numbness in her feet for several years. Photo 1 is a “before” thermography photo taken prior to starting treatment, showing decreased blood flow from her knees and lower legs (indicated in orange and yellow) down to her toes (indicated in green). Photo 2 is a progress photo taken after one month of treatment, showing improved blood flow throughout her legs, down to her toes (indicated in red). By increasing the blood circulation in her legs and feet, her nerves are fed the nutrients they need and are able to begin to repair. As her nerves began to regenerate, the numbness in her feet started to lift, the sensation in her feet improved, and most importantly, she was able to start walking more confidently. Behind the scenes, prior to commencing treatment, she was already working hard to improve her diet and lifestyle to reduce the inflammation in her body, was very diligent with her acupuncture treatments, and continued with a series of maintenance treatments to stabilise her results.
We’ve seen similar results with clients with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy who, after suffering from numbness, are able to drive again now that they’re able to feel the pedals and are able to enjoy walking their dog again without pain.
WILL ACUPUNCTURE WORK FOR YOU?
The short answer is, “it depends”. The number of treatments required varies depending on the condition, how long you’ve had it, your lifestyle, and your individual response to acupuncture - some people respond quickly, others take a bit longer. In general however, the longer you have had the condition, the more treatments are likely necessary. Similarly, numbness tends to require more treatments to resolve than pain. Having said that, we’ve had several clients who had chemotherapy more than five years ago experience significant improvements in their symptoms and quality of life following treatment.
Sometimes, however, acupuncture might not be the solution for you. If acupuncture will help in your case, we expect to see some benefit within the first series treatments. We discuss the treatment process and expectations with our clients during their first appointment.