If you suffer from peripheral neuropathy, you may be experiencing a variety of conditions ranging from pain to a loss of sensation in your hands or feet to gastrointestinal issues. And you’re probably wondering, is acupuncture an effective treatment for neuropathy?
The short answer is yes. And the following information will help you understand exactly what research has shown in regard to how it can help with the pain and nerve damage associated with neuropathy, as well as how many treatments, and the cost of those treatments.
But first, let’s look at what peripheral neuropathy is…
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
According to a research study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, “Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is defined as damage to the peripheral nervous system caused by a primary lesion or dysfunction.” Peripheral neuropathy is usually secondary symptom of other conditions including diabetes, Bell’s palsy, carpal tunnel syndrome, chemotherapy, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or idiopathic conditions.
Peripheral neuropathy is associated with nerve damage and may have different symptoms depending on the type of nerve damage present (including motor, sensory, and autonomic). Symptoms may include:
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of feeling or sensation
- Excessive sweating
- Issues controlling blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
Now that we know what peripheral neuropathy is, let’s talk about what research has concluded about the use of acupuncture for its treatment…
According to a 2017 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, “Multiple recent trials have suggested that acupuncture is beneficial for treating neuropathic pain.” This has important implications, as the pain associated with neuropathy is also responsible for emotional well-being and quality of life.
The meta-analysis also concluded that “Acupuncture appears to improve nerve conduction study parameters in both sensory and motor nerves.” This is a major finding for the treatment of neuropathy, because while treating pain can greatly improve your quality of life, it does not necessarily treat the underlying condition. The finding that acupuncture actually improves nerve conduction is a major step toward the treatment of neuropathy.
The studies included in this meta-analysis worked with neuropathy caused by the following conditions:
- Bell’s palsy
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
In addition,the FDA stated in a report from Feb 2017, “Non-drug therapies and lifestyle modifications such as exercise, physical therapy, acupuncture, and limiting physical activity may also be utilized for symptom management [for neuropathy].”
How Acupuncture Works
How acupuncture works is not fully understood. In an acupuncture treatment, the acupuncturist inserts and manipulates fine needles at specific points or combinations of points on your body that relate to the energy flow in your body based on the traditional East Asian meridians and energy channels.
This energy is also known as chi or qi. There is a relationship between these points and channels with your organs and health and with the symptoms of disease and dysfunction you may experience, including pain.
How Many Sessions?
The most frequent question people ask is: how many sessions of acupuncture will I need for neuropathy? Research studies suggest a minimum of six treatments to show significant improvement for the treatment of neuropathy. For pain, on-going treatment may be needed, as symptoms may lessen for a time after the acupuncture treatment but may return later.
Acupuncture costs vary by area and practitioner. With an average cost of $75 per treatment, you may expect to pay up to $300 a month for weekly acupuncture treatments. Utilizing community acupuncture may lessen the cost and improve your ability to experience acupuncture on a regular basis.
Frequently asked questions
Does acupuncture work for neuropathy?
Yes, studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in treating pain and nerve conduction associated with neuropathy.
Does Medicare cover acupuncture for neuropathy?
No, Medicare doesn’t cover acupuncture for neuropathy. The only condition Medicare will cover acupuncture for is chronic low back pain.
How often should I get acupuncture for neuropathy?
It is advisable to discuss the frequency of your acupuncture treatments for neuropathy with a professional acupuncturist in your area. If you are experiencing pain from neuropathy, you may wish to seek regular, ongoing treatment at an interval that is effective for addressing the pain.
Acupuncture Points for Neuropathy
Here are some of the points that are helpful for XXX:
- Left LR 4
- LU 5
- bilateral LI 11
- KI 27
- ST 36
- GB 34
- SP 6
- SP 9
- LI 4
- TE 5
- BaFeng (except for the space between the first and second digits of the toes; LR 3 was used for that space).
- EA was applied to bilateral KI 3–1 and bilateral ST 41–LR 3
There are many complementary and alternative therapies that may help with neuropathy and particularly the pain associated with neuropathy. Please consult with your medical professional before beginning these or any other treatments.
- Vitamins (including B-vitamins, Acetyl-L-carnitine, Alpha lipoic acid, Capsaicin, and Magnesium)
- Guided imagery and visualization
- Massage Therapy
- Yoga Therapy
Before getting started with acupuncture for neuropathy, be sure to talk with your physician or medical professional about getting a proper medical diagnosis and what treatment recommendations are appropriate for your condition.
Work with a professional acupuncturist in your area to determine how acupuncture may best help you and the frequency of treatment that’s right for you.
Dimitrova A. (2017). Introducing a Standardized Acupuncture Protocol for Peripheral Neuropathy: A Case Series. Medical acupuncture, 29(6), 352–365. https://doi.org/10.1089/acu.2017.1242
Dimitrova, A., Murchison, C., & Oken, B. (2017). Acupuncture for the Treatment of Peripheral Neuropathy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 23(3), 164–179. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2016.0155
National Institutes of Health. Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Peripheral-Neuropathy-Fact-Sheet
U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Acupuncture. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/acupuncture