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  • David Konikowski

Clearing the Neural Highways: The Path to Relief for Peripheral Neuropathy

Updated: Apr 25




Imagine your body as a complex network of roads, with signals traveling along nerves like cars on highways. Now, envision disruptions along these pathways, causing traffic jams, detours, and even roadblocks. This is essentially what happens in peripheral neuropathy, a condition that affects the mobility of millions of people worldwide.


Acupuncture, a cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine, has emerged as a reliable therapy in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy, offering a specialized, targeted approach to address the complexities of nerve-related discomfort. Unlike conventional therapies that often focus solely on symptom suppression, acupuncture works to improve the flow of blood to the peripheral nerves, regenerating damaged nerves and restoring function to the nerve fibers for lasting change in nerve health and overall quality of life.


Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy


Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage or dysfunction of the peripheral nerves, the extensive network of nerve fibers connecting the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. These nerves control sensations, such as temperature and touch, as well as muscle movement, and vital functions like blood pressure and digestion. When they're compromised, a range of symptoms can arise, from numbness and tingling to sharp pain and muscle weakness, to distorted feelings like sensing marbles under the toes, or walking through wet paint.


Possible Causes for Peripheral Neuropathy


Diabetes:

Diabetes is one of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy. High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves over time, leading to neuropathy symptoms.


Autoimmune Diseases:

Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome can trigger an immune response that attacks the peripheral nerves, resulting in neuropathy.


Infections:

Certain viral or bacterial infections, such as Corona virus, Lyme disease, hepatitis C, and shingles (herpes zoster), can cause peripheral neuropathy either directly through nerve damage or indirectly due to the body's immune response.


Trauma or Injury:

Physical trauma, such as fractures, dislocations, or nerve compression injuries, can damage peripheral nerves and lead to neuropathic symptoms. Spine damage in the neck or the low back, including a history of spinal surgery, can lead to symptoms of nerve damage in the hands and feet.


Exposure to toxins:

Exposure to toxins such as heavy metals (lead, mercury), certain chemicals (industrial solvents, pesticides), and medications (chemotherapy drugs, certain antibiotics) can cause peripheral nerve damage.


Nutritional Deficiencies:

Deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin B12, folate, and thiamine, can lead to peripheral neuropathy.


Heredity:

Some forms of peripheral neuropathy are inherited genetic disorders that affect nerve function and structure, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.


Alcoholism:

Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to nutritional deficiencies, liver disease, and neurotoxic damage to nerves, all of which can contribute to peripheral neuropathy.


Kidney Disorders:

Conditions such as chronic kidney disease can lead to metabolic imbalances and accumulation of toxins in the body, which may damage peripheral nerves.


Cancer:

Certain types of tumors, both cancerous and not, can directly press on nerve bundles, leading to peripheral neuropathy. Cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation, can also damage the peripheral nerves and lead to both acute and chronic nerve damage.


Other Medical Conditions:

Conditions such as hypothyroidism, amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, and connective tissue disorders can be associated with peripheral neuropathy.


Potential Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy


Peripheral neuropathy can present with a variety of symptoms, which will vary depending on the type of nerves affected and the underlying cause of the neuropathy. Some common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:


Numbness and tingling:

Individuals may experience sensations of numbness, tingling, or "pins and needles" in the affected areas, often starting in the hands or feet and gradually spreading up the legs and arms to other parts of the body.


Burning or shooting pain:

Many people with peripheral neuropathy report experiencing sharp, shooting pains or a burning sensation, which can be continuous or come and go. These pains may be localized or radiate along the affected nerve pathways.


Muscle weakness:

Weakness in the muscles, particularly in the extremities, can occur due to nerve damage affecting motor function. This weakness may lead to difficulty performing tasks that require fine motor skills or lifting objects.


Loss of coordination and balance:

Damage to sensory nerves can result in a loss of proprioception, which is the body's ability to sense its position in space. This can lead to difficulties with balance, coordination, and walking, increasing the risk of falls. Neuropathy sufferers will report problems navigating stairs, sidewalks, and uneven ground common in nature walks. This can then develop into difficulty driving, dressing, and even using the bathroom.


Sensitivity to touch:

Some individuals with peripheral neuropathy may experience heightened sensitivity to touch, known as hyperesthesia, which can cause pain or discomfort even with light touch. This is commonly reported as discomfort at night with difficulty sleeping. Others may have reduced sensitivity, known as hypoesthesia, making it harder to feel sensations such as pain, temperature, or pressure.


Changes in sensation:

Peripheral neuropathy can cause various changes in sensation, including feeling like you're wearing gloves or socks when you're not (glove and stocking sensation), sensation of walking on broken glass, feeling as if you're walking on cotton or stones, or experiencing electric shock-like sensations without warning in the hands, feet, arms, or legs.


Temperature intolerance:

Some people with peripheral neuropathy may have difficulty regulating their body temperature, leading to intolerance to cold or heat, and sudden or prolonged sensations of heat or "ice-cold" in the extremities.


Autonomic symptoms:

In some cases, peripheral neuropathy can affect the autonomic nervous system, leading to symptoms such as dizziness upon standing (orthostatic hypotension), sweating abnormalities, gastrointestinal symptoms (such as constipation or diarrhea), urinary problems, and sexual dysfunction.

Muscle cramps and spasms:

Nerve damage can cause muscles to become overly sensitive, leading to muscle cramps, twitching, or spasms, especially at night.


Worsening symptoms at night:

Many individuals with peripheral neuropathy report that their symptoms, particularly pain and discomfort, worsen at night, which can disrupt sleep and affect overall quality of life.


It's important to note that not everyone with peripheral neuropathy will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity and progression of symptoms can vary widely among individuals. Additionally, prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent worsening and improve quality of life for those affected by this progressive, incurable condition.


Benefits of Acupuncture for Peripheral Neuropathy


Acupuncture has been proven to help alleviate the pain, numbness, and tingling sensations associated with peripheral neuropathy, as well as maintain this effect over time as a preventative medical intervetion. Here are some of the benefits of acupuncture for peripheral neuropathy.


Pain Relief:

Acupuncture may help alleviate neuropathic pain by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain-relieving chemicals. It can also modulate pain signals within the central nervous system, and stimulate the secretion of powerful anti-inflammatories that may in term relieve pain due to autoimmune disease.


Improvement in Nerve Function:

Some studies suggest that acupuncture may enhance nerve conduction velocity and promote nerve regeneration, potentially improving nerve function in individuals with peripheral neuropathy. This is thought to be due to the release of neurotransmitters that regulate blood flow to the peripheral nerves.


Reduced Inflammation:

Acupuncture has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects, which could be beneficial for reducing peripheral neuropathy caused by injury, surgery, or autoimmune disease.


Enhanced Circulation:

By promoting blood flow and microcirculation, acupuncture may improve oxygen and nutrient supply to damaged nerves, aiding in their repair and regeneration.


Stress Reduction:

Acupuncture sessions are often accompanied by a sense of relaxation and well-being, often attributed to its ability to switch the autonomic nervous system from a sympathetic, fight or flight mode to a parasympathetic, rest and relax mode. Reducing stress hormone levels can indirectly benefit individuals with peripheral neuropathy by improving sleep quality, heart rate variability, and response to stress over time.


Minimal Side Effects:

Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by a qualified practitioner using sterile needles. Compared to many medications used to manage neuropathic pain, acupuncture may have fewer side effects.


Individualized Treatment:

Acupuncture treatments can be tailored to address specific symptoms and the unique presentations of each individual, offering a personalized approach to managing peripheral neuropathy.


Complementary Approach:

Acupuncture can be used alongside conventional medical treatments for peripheral neuropathy, complementing other therapies such as medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications.


Complementary Treatments for Peripheral Neuropathy


Physical Therapy:

Physical therapy focuses on strengthening muscles, improving flexibility, and enhancing balance and coordination, which may help individuals with peripheral neuropathy manage symptoms such as muscle weakness and impaired mobility.


Occupational Therapy:

Occupational therapy focuses on adapting daily activities and routines to accommodate changes in physical function and sensory perception caused by peripheral neuropathy. This can include recommendations for assistive devices, ergonomic modifications, and adaptive techniques.


Massage Therapy:

Massage therapy can help reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and promote relaxation, which may provide relief from symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and numbness associated with peripheral neuropathy.


Yoga and Tai Chi:

Mind-body practices like yoga and Tai Chi can improve balance, flexibility, and strength while promoting relaxation and stress reduction. These gentle exercises can be beneficial for individuals with peripheral neuropathy, helping to improve mobility and overall well-being.


Nutritional Therapy:

A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids can support nerve health and reduce inflammation. Working with a registered dietitian or nutritionist can help optimize dietary choices to support metabolic health and manage symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.


Mindfulness Meditation:

Mindfulness meditation and other relaxation techniques can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, which are common concerns for individuals with peripheral neuropathy. These practices promote greater self-awareness, acceptance, and emotional resilience.


Herbal Supplements:

Some herbal supplements, such as alpha-lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine, and evening primrose oil, have been studied for their potential benefits in managing peripheral neuropathy symptoms. However, it's essential to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any herbal supplements to ensure safety and efficacy.


ATP Resonance Biotherapy (frequency specific microcurrent):

ATP Resonance Biotherapy uses small amounts of elecrical currents to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and increase the microcirculation to benefit damaged peripheral nerves. This therapy is painless and can be used alongside other proven therapies to improve and manage neuropatic pain associated with peripheral neuropathy.


Warm Water Therapy:

Hydrotherapy, such as soaking in warm water baths or using heated foot baths, can help relax muscles, improve circulation, and temporarily alleviate neuropathic pain and discomfort.



In the pursuit of relief from the challenging symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, a condition that has no known cure, the journey may seem fraught with progressive decline with little to no relief from traditional therapies and pharmacological agents.


Visualizing the body as a network of roads helps us understand the impact of peripheral neuropathy on our nervous system. Just like traffic disruptions can cause chaos and breakdowns on the streets where we journey, disruptions along nerve pathways can lead to damage, dysfunction, and tremendous discomfort. Acupuncture offers a unique solution by targeting these disruptions by improving blood circulation along the body's neural highways. By addressing the root causes of peripheral neuropathy and promoting nerve regeneration, acupuncture provides a holistic approach to improving nerve health and enhancing overall well-being.


To explore the benefits of acupuncture for peripheral neuropathy and to meet with our expert provider, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation. During this visit, David Konikowski, at Four Corners Acupuncture & Wellness Center will review your specific concerns, conduct a sensory nerve exam, and provide you with a customized treatment plan to restore your nerve function and provide you with significant relief. Take the initiative towards relief from peripheral neuropathy – schedule a free consultation with us today.


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