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  • Writer's pictureLaura Mann

Does Acupuncture Work For Neuropathy?

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

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Acupuncture for Neuropathy

Does acupuncture work for neuropathy? We treat many patients with neuropathy at Wildflower Acupuncture. Many come to us, having tried everything else, with zero results, desperate for help. Overtime, neuropathy can really start to interfere with day to day activity and quality of life. Neuropathy often brings debilitating symptoms like tingling, numbness, and pain. Patients come in emotional, worried about their future, and frustrated with their western doctors who may not have had much guidance to offer. However, recent scientific research has shed light on the benefits of acupuncture for neuropathy. Here are some of the ways in which acupuncture may help.

Modulation of Neurotransmitters

Acupuncture's efficacy may lie in its ability to modulate various neurotransmitters involved in pain perception and nerve function. Studies have shown that acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. These endorphins bind to opiate receptors in the brain and spinal cord, diminishing the perception of pain and offering relief to neuropathic patients. Additionally, acupuncture has been shown to enhance the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a crucial inhibitory neurotransmitter, which helps calm overactive nerves and reduces neuropathic pain.

Nerve Growth Factor Stimulation

Research has also indicated that acupuncture may enhance the expression of nerve growth factors (NGFs), particularly the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). NGFs play a pivotal role in promoting the growth, survival, and repair of nerve cells. Acupuncture's ability to upregulate NGFs fosters nerve regeneration and ultimately leads to improved nerve function and reduced neuropathy symptoms.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Neuropathy often involves inflammation around damaged nerves, which further exacerbates the pain and discomfort experienced by patients. Acupuncture has potent anti-inflammatory properties. By targeting specific acupoints, acupuncture stimulates the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-10 (IL-10), which can help modulate this inflammatory response.

Enhanced Blood Circulation

Acupuncture has been linked to increased local blood circulation. By inserting needles into specific acupoints, it prompts the dilation of blood vessels, improving blood flow to affected areas. This heightened blood circulation delivers oxygen and nutrients to damaged nerves, aiding in their repair and minimizing neuropathy-related discomfort.

Regulation of Ion Channels

Neuropathy can lead to disturbances in ion channel function, which are essential for transmitting electrical signals in nerves. Acupuncture has been shown to regulate ion channel activity, including sodium, potassium, and calcium channels. This regulation helps stabilize nerve cell membranes, reducing nerve excitability and dampening neuropathic pain signals.

Neuroplasticity and Central Nervous System Changes

Also, acupuncture may induce neuroplasticity and promote changes within the central nervous system (CNS). Studies using neuroimaging techniques have demonstrated that acupuncture can lead to alterations in brain activity patterns, including the modulation of pain-processing regions like the thalamus and the somatosensory cortex. These changes may contribute to the brain's ability to reorganize and adapt to chronic pain, leading to reduced neuropathic symptoms. Through its modulation of neurotransmitters, stimulation of nerve growth factors, and anti-inflammatory effects, acupuncture offers a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach to alleviate neuropathic symptoms. As research continues to explore the mechanisms underlying acupuncture's effects, it is becoming increasingly evident that this ancient practice deserves recognition and integration into modern healthcare paradigms for neuropathy management. By embracing the age-old wisdom of acupuncture and coupling it with contemporary scientific knowledge, we have can help to reduce numbness, tingling, and pain.


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