In this issue I would like to share with our readers my experiences in treating a variety of disorders involving the extremities; each posing a therapeutic challenge.
A 74 year old woman complained of a nine year history of numbness and tingling in all four extremities; worse in her feet. Her symptoms became progressively worse in recent years. She had extensive workup with no cause found. She complained of having extremely cold hands and feet, along with a low energy level. After 7 acupuncture treatments, given on a weekly basis, she reported significant improvement, with a decrease in numbness and tingling of her extremities. She feels more energetic, warmer, and stronger in her lower extremities. She is now approximately 80 to 90 percent better. She is pleased to be able to stand for a couple of hours at a time tending to her household chores. All this occurred within four to six weeks. Nerves do not regenerate this quickly; however, it is possible to rapidly replenish one's energy.
I refer to traditional Chinese medicine as energy medicine. Treatment works on enhancing, mobilizing, balancing and harmonizing energy. An old Chinese saying goes, "If Qi (vital energy) and blood circulate freely and without blockage within the human body, there is no pain or illness."
A 40 year old woman came in for treatment for sciatica; pain running down her right leg to the right side of her right foot. This occurred after a neck fusion operation for cervical disc disease. Her MRI report of the lumbar and sacral spine was unremarkable. The distribution of her pain deviates slightly from the normal nerve pathway, which would be curving downward from the ankle to the big toe.
Why do some people have sciatica with a perfectly normal MRI of the lumbosacral spine? Again, according to ancient Chinese theory, pain may occur due to a blockage of energy circulation in energy pathways. Here, pain distribution falls exactly on the gallbladder energy channel, which deviates slightly from the course of the nerve root. In my very humble opinion, the correlation between the MRI and pain distribution is really not very accurate in many instances. With 15 acupuncture treatments and traditional Chinese herbal remedy, she has been pain free for six months.
It may take many acupuncture sessions or extended use of herbal remedies in order to see favorable outcome. Too many people choose to quit too soon; after perhaps just two or three visits. Some patients do not see any improvement within the first 10 sessions and then experience a quantum leap in symptom relief. Nerve problems and/or chronic pain can be quite challenging, for there is no quick fix. Understandably, this can be a problem when acupuncture is not widely covered by medical insurance.
Acupuncture has also been used to successfully treat patients with diabetic neuropathy, neuropathy secondary to chemotherapy, and many other rheumatological conditions.