What is neuropathy?
Neuropathy occurs when part of your nervous system has been damaged or some other miscommunication has occurred between the peripheral and central nervous system. Dysfunctions can occur at the level of the peripheral nerve, spinal cord, and or the brain. It can cause a sensation of numbness, tingling, or pain. It can also be associated with swelling or changes in temperature.
Sometimes there is an underlying medical condition that can make a person predisposed to developing neuropathy, most commonly diabetes. Other causes can include alcohol use, vitamin deficiencies, and or neurological disorders like Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis.
Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS):
CRPS is a condition that tends to affect the limbs (arms and legs of the body). It can occur after a trauma, fracture, sprain, and or surgery. It can occur after a major or minor accident. It is diagnosed based on specific criteria but classically presents as a pain above and beyond the level that would be expected for the initial cause of the trauma. The pain tends to be persistent. It is associated with sensory changes, temperature changes, swelling, and or changes in ability to use the limb with lessening in strength or other motor function.
Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN):
PHN is a condition associated with pain in the infected region after Shingles. Shingles is caused by reactivation of the Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV). Older individuals or those with suppressed immune systems are more pre-disposed to VZV re-activation. It can also often occur in individuals experiencing high amounts of stress. Many recover from shingles and usually receive anti-viral treatments during the acute phase. However, there may be some individuals that have a persistent pain that lasts for 3 months or more after the initial infection. This may be associated with development of fibrosis of nerves associated with the region pain.
Does acupuncture help with neuropathy?
Acupuncture can be a powerful tool for treatment of persistent neuropathic pains. Acupuncture is specialized in targeting both peripheral and central nervous system communication. Acupuncture needles may not be placed directly in the areas of the pain but instead placed in acupuncture points in the meridians that traverse the area of concern.
Often areas of pain may have an associated elevation in inflammatory markers or miscommunication between the peripheral and central nervous system. Acupuncture can be used to lower inflammatory markers to bring down swelling and local pain. It can also help improvie joint or muscle dysfunction to improve range of motion.
Some types of specialized acupuncture approaches use microsystems in the ear and or scalp. The ear and scalp acupuncture points have more direct influence with the central nervous system and can change communication signals between pain centers of the brain and the rest of the body.
Do patients get immediate relief from neuropathy after acupuncture?
Some acupuncture treatments may lead to immediate relief of neuropathy. Acupuncture treatments for neuropathy will be based on the what the underlying cause of the neuropathy was along with knowledge of any other previous trauma(s) that may have lead up to the development of the neuropathic pain.
How many sessions of acupuncture would you need for treatment?
It is recommended that a patient try several sessions (4-8 sessions) of acupuncture before deciding if it will ultimately be useful for the type of neurological pain they are presenting with.