What is Neuropathy
- Bad posture – we all spend so much time at a desk, on the computer, or sitting there slumped over looking at our phones or tablet. It’s no wonder our posture is getting worse. All of these activities encourage the head to sit forward. When our head is sitting forward of the centre-line it creates a lot of strain on the neck muscles to hold it in place. Our neck muscles are tensed all of the time to hold the weight. As a result become rock hard and tight. This happens for hours and hours every single day.
- Vertebrae problems – kids are growing up bent forward looking at screens. Their cervical vertebrae are growing in this position (in other words their spines are growing into a head forward position). They are developing a structural spine problem they are never going to be able to correct. Therefore will probably have neck pain and possibly head aches and migraines their whole lives. Vertebrae can also be damaged due to falls or impact, which creates nerve pain (e.g. bulging discs).
- Stress – according to Chinese medicine high levels of stress make the liver ‘tight’. And when the liver is tight is makes the neck tight too. Too much daily stress means that almost everyone has liver function problems. This is also the reason why so many people have neck problems.
Some people with neuropathy have no symptoms at all, but the disease is discovered by chance during a medical visit. Many people have symptoms including numbness, tingling, extreme sensitivity to touch, muscle weakness, pins and needles and general discomfort and pain (often described as stabbing or burning pain). The problems are usually in the hands and or feet and can radiate up the limbs. Many people with neuropathy have substantial pain, which is often worse at night and plays havoc with their sleep. Longer term the numbness can increase the risk of falls, make it difficult to walk, make it difficult to detect injures to the hands and feet, lead to deformities (due to weakness), muscle atrophy and even foot ulcers.
Causes of Neuropathy in Western Medicine
Whilst there are a range of causes of neuropathy, those following are amongst the main ones:
- Diabetic neuropathy – high blood glucose and lipid levels and the toxic by-products produced are believed to be the cause. Smoking, high blood pressure and obesity tend to make things worse.
- Chemotherapy neuropathy – exposure to toxins.
- Idiopathic neuropathy – no known cause.
Western Medicine Treatment
Most Western medical treatment centres around drug therapy by using antidepressants, anti-epileptics or if these fail opioids (can lead to dependence) in an attempt to control the pain. Treatment may also include increased awareness of the limbs involved to avoid injuries, better hygiene, correct foot ware, etc… Whilst these measures can be helpful, none of them address the key cause from a Chinese medicine perspective, although it may be a good idea for you to get scans to rule out herniated discs, tumours or other abnormalities.
Chinese Medicine Treatment
The reason for neuropathy according to Chinese medicine is poor blood flow and nutrient supply to the affected areas. This is in large part a neurological problem where the central brain is no longer doing its job. Acupuncture aims to improve blood flow to the affected area.
Acupuncture treatment may help with pain relief and management.