Q: Is acupuncture used to treat neuropathy of the feet? The cause
is unknown and doctors have tested me for the common causes which are all
negative. Is there any success with acupuncture for neuropathy of the feet?
neuropathy is a syndrome which includes symptoms of numbness, tingling,
insensitivity, pain, and muscle weakness and atrophy. Usually it secondary to
conditions including diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism, HIV, or
poisoning from heavy metals, carbon monoxide, or various drugs. When there is a
Western medical diagnosis of a disease, treatment usually centers on treating
the primary disease. This may slow the progression peripheral neuropathy and
improve the symptoms.
Treating a condition such as peripheral neuropathy with
acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) does not require a Western
diagnosis. In fact, if there is a Western diagnosis, no matter what the disease
is, a patient will be treated based on their particular pattern according to
Traditional Chinese Medicine. Western diagnosis is useful in understanding the
seriousness of the condition, knowing if it is progressive, and helps
determining the prognosis.
Currently Western medicine does not have an effective
treatment for peripheral neuropathy. However, many conditions which do not
benefit from Western medical treatment can be helped with acupuncture and
Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In TCM, Peripheral neuropathy is due to obstruction of the
Qi (energy) and blood. This can be due unregulated eating and drinking,
excessive fatigue, aging, or chronic disease. An acupuncturist looks at the
total body picture. In treating peripheral neuropathy, acupuncture points on
various parts of the body would be used to treat the person according to their
particular pattern (treating the root) and points on the feet would also be used
(treating the branch). In general, acupuncture works by improving the health of
a person and bringing the body into balance so that it can heal itself.
Acupuncture helps peripheral neuropathy by improving the circulation and moving
Qi and blood to the extremities. The nerve tissues can be nourished and nerve
function can be improved.
Plum blossom needling may also be used at the areas of the
neuropathy. A plum blossom needle is shaped like a very small hammer with a
group of needles on the head. To treat neuropathy, the skin would be lightly
tapped starting at the feet and working up the legs. Patients can be given a
plastic, disposable plum blossom needle and be taught how to use it for
treatment at home.
In conclusion, acupuncture can indeed help in treating
peripheral neuropathy. However, in China, oral herbal medicinals are used as the
primary treatment and acupuncture is used as an adjunctive therapy when treating
peripheral neuropathy. Therefore, if herbal formulas are used with acupuncture
treatment better results can be obtained.
Jeane Houle, L.Ac.
Q: Can acupuncture help Multiple Sclerosis, especially with
balance and walking?
Sclerosis is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that affects
400,000 Americans. There is destruction of the myelin sheaths around the spinal
cord, brain, and optic nerves producing a variety of symptoms which are due to
the location, extent, and pattern of the demylination. In Western Medicine the
etiology of MS is unknown and there is no cure.
Acupuncture is a modality used in Traditional Chinese
Medicine. The Traditional Chinese Medicine concept of internal organs is very
different from the Western Medicine concept. In Western Medicine an internal
organ is viewed only by its function and its anatomical location. In Traditional
Chinese Medicine, an internal organ is viewed as a complex system which include
not only the anatomical entity, but also corresponding emotions, tissues, sense
organs, and more. The following explanation of the Spleen, Liver, and Kidneysí
involvement in MS is based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine concept of these
In Traditional Chinese Medicine long term unregulated
eating, unregulated emotions, trauma, stress, and overwork play a part in
Multiple Sclerosis. Cold, dairy, and greasy-fried foods weaken the Spleen and
lead to the formation of dampness which further weakens the Spleen. Excessive
emotions such as anger are said to harm the Liver and it will overcontrol the
Spleen. When the Spleen is weakened, it cannot provide nourishment to the body
and this weakens the bodyís Qi (energy). The Kidneys also play a part in the
bodyís energy according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and when the Spleen
energy is not available, the stored Kidney energy will also become depleted and
the body will weaken further.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine internal organ
theory, the Kidney rules the brain and spinal cord and the Liver controls the
nerves. If the Kidney and Liver are harmed, then there could be trouble with the
brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
In TCM, the most common cause of MS is dual Spleen Qi deficiency and Liver and
Kidney deficiency. However, it is a complicated disease and the diagnosis will
be complex. Other patterns will be involved. It is important to have a thorough
diagnosis by a qualified practitioner.
Regarding the question of balance and walking, in the
beginning stages there is usually signs of dampness, indicating a problem with
the Spleen. Symptoms of dampness include heaviness and numbness of the legs. In
the middle stages there is Kidney and Liver deficiency which include dizziness
when standing and weakness of the legs. If there is vertigo, vomiting, and stiff
legs, Liver energy rising is the diagnosis. In the late stages there will be
Liver Wind, which will produce tremors and spasms of the legs.
Acupuncture treatment is designed around a patientís
particular pattern discrimination. Acupuncture needles should be place on
various parts of the body depending on the particular TCM diagnosis. The legs
should be treated by using local points to remove blockages in the channels.
Acupuncture points to calm the mind can also be helpful.
The earlier it is in the course of the disease, the easier
Multiple Sclerosis is to treat. Treatment started early can eliminate many
symptoms entirely. As the disease progresses, there is increasing incoordination
and weakness of the legs. If walking is still possible, acupuncture should be
able to produce results. For those who are in wheelchairs, however, results tend
to be poor or may be non-existent.
Acupuncture can help with balance and walking, but it since
this problem doesnít occur until a person has had the disease for some time,
patience is needed as it will probably take many treatments to achieve good
results. Patient involvement is important. The acupuncturist should advise as to
what changes in diet and lifestyle need to be made. More rest may be needed and
as well as reduction in stress. A positive mental attitude, light exercise and
Chinese herbal formulas can also help.
In conclusion, although acupuncture canít cure Multiple
Sclerosis, it can bring some relief as it can help moderate the symptoms, keep a
person in remission longer, and slow the progression of the disease.
Jeane Houle, L.Ac.
About our Doctors
Jeane Houle, L.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist with
a Masters degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine in private practice in Santa
Monica, California. Her office address is 2901 Ocean Park Boulevard, Suite 207,
Santa Monica, CA 90405, and she can be reached at (310) 396-8766