Peripheral Neuropathy and Acupuncture

by Mary Vincent, L.Ac.

Acupuncture can help decrease the severity and frequency of symptoms related to peripheral neuropathy, a common condition we treat often at Beach Community Acupuncture. Most people with peripheral neuropathy experience a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, often in the hands and feet. These include:
* numbness
* weakness
* tingling
* stinging
* burning, and
* pain that can range from chronically annoying to almost unbearable.

Here at BCA we typically suggest 10 treatments daily to start for severe or recent onset of neuropathy. For less severe or chronic, long term neuropathy we may recommend 2-3 times a week for the first month to start.

Studies show that acupuncture can not only significantly reduce symptoms and may also improve nerve conduction-keep readying to learn more.


The National Institute of Health estimates that various forms of peripheral neuropathy affect up to 20 million people in the United States. It is caused by damage to the peripheral nervous system, or PNS, which refers to all parts of the nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord. The PNS sends messages from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. When damage occurs to these nerves, the messages become disrupted or improperly relayed.

Peripheral neuropathy can be an effect of a wide variety of underlying diseases, physical traumas, or exposure to certain toxins (medications or poisons). The most common causes of neuropathy include:

Diabetes-the #1 cause of peripheral neuropathy in the United State. At least 60% of the people diagnosed with diabetes will develop neuropathy.
Accidents, sports injuries, and surgeries
Repetitive motions (work or sports related)
Medications—particularly common with chemotherapy
Autoimmune disorders—particularly rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
Infections—often related to shingles, HIV, and Lyme disease
Hereditary—genetics inheritance can sometimes lead to neuropathies.
Vitamin B12 or folate deficiencies
Idiopathic—no known cause

Anyone experiencing peripheral neuropathy should be seen by their MD to determine the underlying cause. Your doctor will review your medical history and perform a neurological exam. Other tests your doctor may order include blood work, MRI, CT scan, or nerve conduction tests. There are a variety of medications that could be prescribed and lifestyle suggestions that may help control your symptoms.

When conventional medicine doesn’t provide adequate relief, acupuncture is often an effective alternative or complementary therapy for peripheral neuropathy. Studies have shown that while the mechanism of action isn’t clearly understood, acupuncture can not only significantly reduce symptoms and may also improve nerve conduction. Additionally, a number of hospitals are now including acupuncture as an adjunct treatment in their facilities to help with the side effects of chemotherapy (neuropathy being one of the most common).

Click here to make an acupuncture appointment at BCA.

Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
-Abuaisha, B., Costanzi, J., Boulton, A. Acupuncture for the treatment of chronic painful peripheral diabetic neuropathy: A long-term study. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 1998 Feb, 115-121.
-Schroder, S., Liepert J., Remppis A., Greten JH. Acupuncture treatment improves nerve conduction in peripheral neuropathy.European Journal of Neurology, 2007 Mar, 276-81.

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