Do your feet tingle or burn? Does your foot pain keep you up at night? If you have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, you understand how aggravating these symptoms can be. Before initiating treatment, learn what the research has to say about acupuncture as a treatment option for relieving pain related to peripheral neuropathy.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is a common issue that specifically affects diabetics, people undergoing chemotherapy, and those with HIV. The most common areas affected by neuropathy are the feet with the second being the hands. Peripheral neuropathy symptoms can be varied and can include decreased sensation, increased sensation, weakness of foot or hand muscles, and symptoms related to changes in the skin and nails. Unfortunately, as the prevalence of diabetes increases, diabetic peripheral neuropathy becomes more common. Statistics indicate that 25% of diabetic patients will experience neuropathic foot pain. And, because the incidence of diabetes is increasing, so is the incidence of neuropathy symptoms.
Of course, the most efficient means of helping to control diabetes related foot pain is working to manage diabetes itself. Once symptoms have started, medications such as Lyrica and Neurontin are frequently prescribed to help control the neurological pain. For many, the use of these medications are either ineffective or have side effects that limit their use. For this reason the use of alternative medicines such as acupuncture has become more prevalent.
When considering any treatment option it is reasonable to assess what the research has to say about how effective the treatment is. For those suffering from peripheral neuropathy, there is good news about acupuncture.
A 2007 study entitled “Clinical observation on effect of acupuncture in treating diabetic peripheral neuropathy” involved a total of 60 participants. The study found that those receiving acupuncture had a statically greater improvement in neurological symptoms as well as improved nerve function for both sensory and motor nerve conduction when compared to the control group.
Another study conducted in Africa in 2006 found that for the 126 patients that received acupuncture for diabetic peripheral neuropathy, 86% deemed the treatment as being effective for reducing symptoms in their hands and feet. In a 2006 Canadian study entitled “Acupuncture treatment for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy–a case series” acupuncture was utilized in five cases to reduce neuropathic pain in cancer patients. The acupuncture treatment was deemed effective in these cases where medication had failed.
And finally, in a Chinese study involving 90 participants, those receiving total body or wrist and ankle acupuncture has significantly improved blood sugar and lipids, decreased blood viscosity, and improved functions of peripheral nerve cells, thus resulting in therapeutic effects for diabetic peripheral neuritis when compared to the control group. The study also found no significant difference between the total body group and the ankle and wrist treatment group.
This sampling of the research in the use of acupuncture for the treatment of peripheral neuropathy is very encouraging. Because of the minimal side effects with acupuncture compared to pharmaceutical treatment options, acupuncture should be considered as a reasonable treatment option for symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.