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Can acupuncture help with numbness after a nerve at the base of my thumb was severed in an accident?

Q:  i severed a nerve at the base of my thumb in an accident 2 years ago which was re-attached through surgery.  i still have quite a degree of numbness and
occasionly hypher sensitivity. can acupuncture help in any way?

A: This is quite a difficult question to answer. When we asked a similar question about nerve regeneration some time ago we said:

If there has been well-authenticated damage to a nerve then the chances of restoring its conductivity are very limited. If a nerve has been damaged beyond the body's ability to repair, then this severely limits what might be possible. There is a very small amount of evidence that acupuncture may be able to help nerve regeneration but this comes from the experimental end of the acupuncture world and often involves trials on animals, or 'ratpuncture' as some of our colleagues cheerfully dismiss it.

Obviously, though, we work in a different paradigm, and there are occasions where a symptom written off by conventional medicine as permanent and untreatable responds to acupuncture treatment. As you may be aware already from our website, the theories of Chinese medicine rest on a concept of energy, called 'qi' whose flow and balance determine good function and health in the body. If the flow is disrupted, as may be the case with accident, injury and occasionally surgery, then restoring the flow can
sometimes have significant effects.

The best advice that we can give is that you contact a BAcC member local to you to arrange for a brief face to face assessment. This will give them the information they need to assess whether in your specific case there are indications which point to the possible use of acupuncture.

In your case there might be slightly more reason for hope insofar as the injury which severed the nerve is almost certainly going to have had an impact on the superficial tissue which the sharp edge penetrated, and had you asked us the same question about scarring and the symptoms which you have we might have been a little more upbeat. In a recent answer about post-operative scar tissue we said:

There are times when the simple act of cutting tissue can cause a break in the flow of energy, and we have come across many cases where even a well-healed scar has blocked the flow in a channel. When you consider that there may well be thicker keloid scar tissue and adhesions as well as surface interruptions it is possible that
acupuncture treatment may offer some hope. and this particular expert has had one or two occasions when treatment along or across scar tissue has had disproportionately great effects.

It is best to realistic, though. nerve damage can sometimes leave the sorts of symptoms which you have, and they can often take a long while to diminish as the body learns to block the signals. There would nonetheless be good reason to talk to a BAcC member local to you, and possibly having a small number of treatments, but we would suggest that if you do, the number should be tightly controlled. In our experience these sorts of problems either respond quickly or not at all, and it is best not to develop
a treatment habit which runs to a dozen sessions with no result. This does not tend to play well with the patient.

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