Acupuncture for Neuropathy

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT on November 15, 2017Written by Kiara Anthony

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a component of traditional Chinese medicine. During acupuncture, tiny needles are inserted into the skin at various pressure points across the body.

According to Chinese tradition, acupuncture helps balance the flow of energy, or qi (pronounced “chee”), within your body. This new energy balance stimulates the body’s healing abilities.

From the point of view of Western medicine, acupuncture stimulates the nerves and muscles. This helps boost the body’s response to pain, and improves blood circulation.

Acupuncture is commonly used to treat headaches, back pain and joint pain. It’s also used to treat neurological and digestive disorder symptoms like:

Acupuncture for neuropathy

Acupuncture is a technique used to treat pain and relieve discomfort.

The needles used in acupuncture are inserted into your body’s pressure points to stimulate the nervous system. This releases endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers, in the muscles, spine, and brain. This technique changes your body’s response to pain.

Many people with neuropathy turn to acupuncture to relieve their chronic pain. Acupuncture also stimulates blood flow to restore nerve damage.

Though research is still being done to test the effectiveness of acupuncture on peripheral neuropathy, there have been some successful studies.

In 2007, a pilot study confirmed that acupuncture as an alternative treatment improved symptoms for more neuropathic patients than those receiving traditional medical care.

Risks of acupuncture treatment

Acupuncture carries little to no risk if performed by a licensed professional.

Side effects may include:

  • Pain and bruising. You may experience minor pain or discomfort at needle sites after an acupuncture treatment. You may also have light bleeding.
  • Injury. If performed improperly, needles could be pushed into the skin too deeply and injure an organ or lung.
  • Infection. Acupuncture needles are required to be sterile. If a practitioner uses unsterilized needles or reuses old needles, you could be exposed to life-threatening diseases.

Not all people are qualified candidates for acupuncture. Some conditions may cause complications, including:

  • Bleeding disorders. If you are medically diagnosed with a bleeding disorder or are actively taking blood thinners, your needle sites may have difficulty healing.
  • Pregnancy. If you are pregnant, consult with your doctor prior to pursuing this alternative treatment. Some acupuncture techniques may trigger early labor and premature delivery.
  • Heart issues. Some acupuncture techniques involve applying heat or electrical pulses to needles sites to stimulate nerve responses. If you have a pacemaker, electrical currents may impact the operation of your device.

Alternative peripheral neuropathy treatments

In addition to acupuncture, you can use home remedies to treat symptoms of neuropathy.

Regular exercise helps to increase blood circulation throughout the body, specifically the arms and legs. Increased blood circulation can help to restore nerve damage and reduce neuropathic pain. Exercise can also help to lower blood sugar levels, aid in weight loss, and strengthen the body.

Another home treatment for pain involves limiting your alcohol intake. Alcohol can increase nerve damage, and is sometimes the cause of neuropathy.

Taking a warm bath is also thought to soothe neuropathic pain. Warm water stimulates the body and increase blood circulation. As a result, pain symptoms decrease.

Outlook

If you’re looking for alternative treatments for neuropathic pain, in addition to traditional treatment methods, you may find success with acupuncture. Be sure to work with a licensed acupuncturist who has the appropriate credentials.

Before you get started with acupuncture, talk with your doctor about what’s causing your neuropathy. Without a proper medical diagnosis and professional recommendation for treatment, acupuncture may worsen pain symptoms or cause injury.

Talk to your doctor if you begin experiencing pain or other irregular symptoms from your acupuncture treatment.

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