Peripheral neuropathy is a condition in which damage occurs in the nervous system, affecting the nerves in the hands and/or feet. Peripheral means 'situated on the edge.' Neuropathy breaks down into two separate words, both of which originate from the Greek language. Neuro means 'relating to nerves or the nervous system,' and pathy means 'disease condition' or 'suffering.' Nerves serve as pathways of communication between the brain and the rest of the body. When something interrupts this process, signs of peripheral neuropathy may occur. Some common signs of peripheral neuropathy include tingling, numbness,loss of sensation, and pain.
There are many factors that can bring about peripheral neuropathy. Roughly 60-70 percent of all diabetic patients will develop this condition. Other causes of peripheral neuropathy include alcoholism, poison exposure, pharmaceutical drugs, trauma and injury, malnutrition, and viral and bacterial infections.
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help manage the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy with regular treatments. To start with, your practitioner might select very powerful acupuncture points called hua tou jia ji points. Located on the back, 17 sets of these points reside on both sides of the spinal vertebrae. Hua tou points are extremely dynamic and moving which is a necessary quality in helping to realign the communication between the nerves and the brain. Needling these points aids in clearing static from the wires, so to speak.
Hua Tou, a renowned physician, lived during the first century in China. Born to a poor family in a time of heavy political unrest and violence, Hua Tao dedicated his life to finding ways to treat the common people. Known as "the physician of the people," he discovered these versatile points on the back which treat virtually any medical condition. Thus these highly therapeutic points still bear his name as a tribute to this great man.
When a patient has symptoms of peripheral neuropathy that occur in the feet and lower extremities, the practitioner may select hua tou points along the lower spine, near the lumbar and sacral vertebrae. If the problem manifests in the hands and upper extremities, then the practitioner will likely use points on the neck, near the cervical vertebrae.
Continuing Therapy at Home
In addition to seeking acupuncture therapy, there are a few things you can practice at home.
Massage to Boost Circulation - You can stimulate your feet, lower legs, hands and arms with gentle massage using light pressure. Massage can help boost circulation, which is generally poor and leaves these areas vulnerable to trauma.
Soak for Pain Relief - A warm foot bath with epsom salt may also help relieve pain. If there is loss of sensation in the hands or feet, you should avoid extreme temperatures as you may not feel the damaging effects.
With the help of an practitioner coordinated with these simple self-care suggestions, it is possible to manage the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
If you or someone you know suffers from peripheral neuropathy, contact an acupuncture practitioner near you to find out more about how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you.
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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.