Can acupuncture help nerve pain?
Nerve pain and associated neurological disorders are the second most common reason someone comes to my office for acupuncture. Nerve pain is in a large category of neurological disorders that acupuncture can help. I will break down a few of these specific neurological conditions that I have treated over the years.
What are different types of nerve pain?
Nerve pain can be from a disease of the nerves causing deterioration. One example is peripheral neuropathy. Or nerve pain may occur from inflammation or impingement somewhere along the nervous system. An example of this is carpal tunnel syndrome. Yet, both types of nerve pain may respond to acupuncture.
Scars can be a source of chronic pain.
Interestingly, scars may form in someone who has chronic pain related to an injury or surgery. That scar can become neurologically “active” resulting in continued pain. I have seen a scar cause pain for over a decade. It was debilitating and bothering them on a daily basis. Even causing pain to the level of having to miss work frequently because of his pain. Within less than five or six sessions of acupuncture, all the pain had been eliminated and he had increased function. So one important factor with chronic pain is that it may be perpetuated by the soft tissue of the body.
So how does acupuncture for nerve pain work?
There are tiny sensory nerves within the skin over your entire body. Whenever the needle goes in, the needle is stimulating these little sensors, yet the treatment is comfortable. You are essentially sending an important signal back to the brain. This is overriding the usual pain signal that your brain has become used to receiving.
When I use an acupuncture needle, the depth of the needle depends on which body part I am needling. So when needling something like a muscle in the arm or the leg, the needle can go in a lot further than if I am needling an area like the face. The interesting thing is that the depth of the needle has nothing to do with the sensation. Upon placing the needle, the neurological mechanical receptors in the skin override the previous pain signals. This is the effect of acupuncture for nerve pain whether needling around a scar or along the nerve distribution itself.
Acupuncture for nerve pain in the head and face.
Bell’s palsy and trigeminal neuralgia are two conditions that occur to the nerves of the face. Trigeminal neuralgia is a sensory condition associated with altered sensation and pain. Bell’s palsy is a disease of motor function where the muscles on one side of the face are paralyzed. Yet both of these conditions can respond well to acupuncture. And the sooner the treatment begins, the better. If a nerve condition become chronic, it becomes harder to manage. The benefits are much stronger in the beginning.
Acupuncture treatment of undiagnosed nerve pain.
Some neurological disorders that can be treated with acupuncture are more difficult to categorize. One example occurs when the sympathetic nervous system ramps up to high. This can happen after an injury or after a surgery. One gets random flares of nerve pain, which can be debilitating. In these cases, I recommend a course of care where I may actually needle directly into the area of pain. Other times, if the area is too sensitive, I will place a needle on the mirror opposite side of the body. For example, if the severe nerve pain is in the knee, we may needle the opposite knee in order to send the pain suppressing signals to the brain. Interestingly, there are also methods in acupuncture where I place a needle remote from the area of symptoms, stimulating the correct meridian to achieve our goal.
Furthermore, acupuncture treatment may also involve microsystems. One can view these commonly on acupuncture charts. Many people have her have heard of reflexology which is one example of a microsystem. Acupuncture points at the hand, foot, or ear can stimulate remote areas of the body. For example, there are different points of the hand that affect the immune system. Also, different joints in the hand correlate to different joints of the body. I may needle these to help relieve arthritis pain at other joints of the body.
Specific points in the ear can modify emotional disorders and stress. Obviously stress impacts our emotions. There are also specific protocols for addiction (foods, sugar, chemicals) helped by treating specific points of the ear.
In this video, Dr. Holly Tucker discusses neurological conditions and demonstrates self-treatment for relaxation. She also discusses the importance of combining acupuncture and ergonomics for effective carpal tunnel treatment.