Peripheral neuropathy (PN) refers to damage to the peripheral or “sensory” nervous system, the nerves responsible for registering sensation from the surface of our skin to the brain. Symptoms of PN are most often in the legs and feet and include sensations of pins and needles, sharp or burning pain, numbness, and extreme sensitivity to touch (even the weight of a bedsheet can be painful). The symptoms often progress insidiously over time and can become unbearable; simply walking can feel like stepping on ground-up glass.
More than 20 million people in the U.S. are estimated to have some form of PN, but this number is likely significantly higher due to vast under reporting and inadequate testing. The most common type of PN is diabetic neuropathy, caused by high blood sugars resulting in nerve fiber damage. Other forms include infections (Lyme, Epstein-Barr, HIV), toxin exposure including chemotherapy, nutrient deficiencies, traumatic injuries, spinal degeneration, and autoimmune disease.
There are medications that help to take the edge off PN symptoms, but these medications cannot stop the progression. Are there other more natural methods out there that can help? To begin with, you can prevent the development, or halt the progression, of many types of PN with smart nutrition. Chronically elevated blood sugar from sugar- and carbohydrate-rich diets not only damages the walls of the tiny capillaries that supply nerves with oxygen and nutrients, but also leads to chronic inflammation. This is true whether you are diabetic or not!
In addition, a diet rich in grassfed red meat and other foods rich in B vitamins helps greatly to prevent PN, as B vitamins are critical for healthy nerve function. (B vitamin supplements are unfortunately not a suitable replacement, as they are not identical in molecular structure to those naturally present in food. In fact, excess (isolated) B6 supplementation is a known trigger of PN.)
As it turns out, acupuncture combined with good nutrition can be effective for helping with PN symptoms and restoration of nerve function. According to Traditional Chinese medicine, PN happens when there is a blockage of circulation or flow, and our cells and tissues don’t receive the nourishment they need. Acupuncture is good at restoring blood flow and stimulating the body’s nerve pathways, assisting over time with nerve regeneration and preservation. Not only does it carry far fewer side effects than medications, but it can actually heal the nerves!
A growing number of clinical studies back up this claim. A 2020 clinical study involving 75 patients found that acupuncture resulted in significant improvement in chemotherapy induced PN symptoms. A meta-analysis of six random controlled trials involving 680 subjects with diabetic neuropathy not only showed a 95 percent favorable outcome for controlling symptoms with acupuncture over non-acupuncture, but also appeared to improve nerve conduction parameters.
At Vital Health we dig deep to uncover the root causes of your PN, using acupuncture combined with targeted nutrition and dietary supplements to naturally alleviate pain and restore nerve function.
©2023 Darcy Greenwald, M.S.O.M., L.Ac. and Vital Health