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Can acupuncture help with peripheral neuropathy?

Q:  Can you tell me how acupuncture can help with my neurological condition charcot marie tooth, otherwise kown as peripheral neuropathy

A:  The short answer, if we are truthful, is that we are not sure. Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) is a herditary genetic disorder, and while acupuncture treatment may mitigate some of the symptoms which CMT sufferers experience, there is obviously a limit to what a treatment like acupuncture can achieve, unless one took the extraordinary and unsustainable position that as an energy treatment anything was possible.

From a Chinese medicine perspective the kinds of problems which a CMT sufferer experiences would be defined as weaknesses in the flow of energy, called 'qi', and their effects on the muscles and nerves in terms of conductivity and movement. In stroke treatment, for example, in China acupuncture is used as soon as possible after the CVA to reinstate flow where the qi is said to have been blocked, causing paralysis and loss of sensation. A similar principle would apply in looking at some of the manifestations of CMT, without the same rapid onset. The practitioner would be interested in establishing whether the problems were entirely local or whether they were indicative of woder problems in the system. However, with a genetic problem it may well be that the best to be achieved is getting worse slower, so one has to be realistic. That said, it is always important to bear in mind that when someone has a major disorder there is often a tendency to attribute every symptom to it, and we have come across cases where a symptom which may be generated by a condition has arisen contingently alongside it and been much more amenable to treatment than expected.

If you want to find examples of research into the use of acupuncture and peripheral neuropathy, the google search 'ncbi acupuncture peripheral neuropathy' will generate a number of hits for research studies which show encouraging results. However, peripheral neuropathy can have many different causes, and how universalisable these studies are is not that clear.

The best advice, if you are at all unsure about the best way to proceed, is to see if a BAcC member local to you is happy to give up al little time without charge to offer a face to face assessment of what acupuncture treatment may be able to do. Each patient is unique and different, and there may be evidence which on a brief examination may point you more clearly towards, or away from (!)), treatment.

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