The nervous system is involved in all body functions. There are three types of nerves: autonomic nerves, motor nerves and sensory nerves. Autonomic nerves are involved in internal organs activities such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, digestion and reproduction etc; motors nerves control the skeletal muscles and involved in the body motion; sensory nerves transmit signals to the brain and let feel pain and other sensations. These nerves can be damaged by many conditions, such as virus infections, tumors, and autoimmune disorders. The symptoms of nerve damage vary greatly depending on the location and type of the nerves affected. Nerve pain is a common symptom of sensory nerve damage. Other symptoms involved in sensory nerves are sensitivity, numbness, tingling, burning and problems with positional awareness. The location of pain depends on which sensory nerves are involved.
Acupuncture can help to improve nerve pain. For example, there were many researches showing that acupuncture helped trigeminal nerve pain, sciatic nerve pain, pudendal nerve pain and other peripheral nerve pain etc. Below are examples for acupuncture treatments for nerve pain.
Pudendal neuralgia with acupuncture treatment
Pudendal neuralgia was first described in 1987. It is a severely painful and disabling neuropathic condition, affecting both men and women. This leads to a burning, tingling, or itching sensation in the clitoris/penis, vulva/scrotum, perineum, and rectum, especially when sitting. Symptoms are frequently on one side, however, in patients presenting with both sides, there is often a more affected side. The pain could be present in the lower abdomen, posterior thigh, and lower back. Another common symptom is the sensation of a foreign body in the vagina, perineum or rectum. Defecation and urination can also be painful. Urinary or fecal incontinence may develop from decreased sphincter tone if motor function is affected.
Acupuncture can help to reduce the pain.
Acupuncture for trigeminal neuralgia
The acupuncture that you get could be very different, if you see different acupuncturists. For example, a study analysed acupuncture points used for trigeminal neuralgia. In this study 180 papers were included and in these papers 148 acupuncture points were used and were distributed in 14 meridians. The most frequent used points are Hegu (LI 4), Xiaguan (ST 7), Fengchi (GB 20) and trigger points. Other points included crossing points, yuan-primary points and five-shu points. They were widely used, accounting for 65. 9%. As for the branch of trigeminal nerve, the top-3 selected acupoints were Yangbai (GB 14), Yuyao (EX-HN 4), Cuanzhu (BL 2) in the first branch, Sibai (ST 2), Quanlian (SI 18), Yingxiang (LI 20) in the second branch, Jiache (ST 6), Xiaguan (ST 7), Dicang (ST 4) in the third branch. It can be seen that right points need to be chosen to get best effects.
Acupuncture is effective for sciatica
Sciatica is a syndrome involving sciatic nerve root impingement or inflammation. The main symptoms include unilateral leg pain radiating to the foot or toes that is greater than low back pain and often associated with burning pain, numbness, and weakness of the leg; pain is increased on straight leg raising and the symptoms limited to one nerve root. Sciatica may be sudden in onset and may subsequently persist for days, weeks, even years. Acupuncture can help release sciatic nerve pain. This is suggested by recent research. A review studied 11 trials involved a total of 962 participants. The analysis suggested that acupuncture is effective for sciatica and the effect is better than pain killers. Their conclusion is that the use of acupuncture may more effectively relieve leg pain/lumbago and improve overall assessment of sciatica when compared with NSAID (ibuprofen, meloxicam, and diclofenac) treatment.
Acupuncture treatment for acute shingles
Herpes zoster known as shingles, is caused by varicella-zoster virus which affects nerve and the skin around it. This virus is also causes chickenpox which is primary infection. It remains dormant in the dorsal root ganglion after primary infection (causing chickenpox). It affects the sensory ganglia and their area of innervation. This is one of the most painful conditions with pain and rashes in the distribution of the affected nerve. Antiviral drugs are used to limit the damage of the nerve by the virus. Corticosteroids may be used to reduce inflammation. Various painkillers are used to reduce pain. Ursini et al from Pescara General Hospital in Italy studied acupuncture for the treatment of severe acute pain in shingles using randomized trial. They compared the efficacy of acupuncture in controlling intense or very intense pain in patients with shingles with standard pharmacological treatments. The treatments were given for 4 weeks for either acupuncture or painkillers. They found that both interventions (acupuncture and painkillers were largely effective. There were no significant differences observed in response rates, pain reduction, post-herpetic neuralgia after 3 months and pain after one year follow-up. No severe unwanted effects occurred on both interventions. Acupuncture is a potential intervention for treating acute severe pain in singles.
Acupuncture for chronic pain from shingles
Most people have chickenpox in childhood. When the illness has gone, the virus remains dormant in the nervous system being watched by the immune system. Once one’s immune system is compromised, the virus can be reactivated and cause shingles. Shingles is one of the most painful conditions. There is no cure for shingles and it can be unpleasant. In most case, the painful rash lasts 7-10 day and takes 2-4 weeks to fully heal. However about 25% of patients have pain lasting for more than one year. Unresolved pain can lead decreased quality of life, such as mood change, sleep disruption and depression etc. Hui F et al from University of Toronto studied three weeks complementary and alternative medicine including acupuncture to treat shingles related pain. The participants had a mean age of 69.8 years and had shingles related pain for a median of 4.8 months. Acupuncture points for acupuncture group were LI4, Liv 3 and ST36. After three weeks treatment, they found that pain score was significantly reduced in treatment groups. The pain reduction was maintained at 9 weeks after the treatment finished and one–two year follow-up.
Li et al studied 80 cases of shingles which were divided into two groups, acupuncture group and medication group. They found that the therapeutic effect of electroacupuncture was significantly superior to that of medication. After 10 treatments visual analogous scale (VAS) scores for of both groups reduced significantly. Both the VAS score and the crust formation time of EA group were significantly lower than those of medication group.
Tao S et al Zhongguo Zhen Jiu (2016) 36:207-11
Hui F et al Altern Med Rev (2012) 17:57-68
Ursini T et al BMC Complement Altern Med (2011) 11:46
Li X et al Zhen Ci Yan Jiu (2009) 34:125-7
Qin Z et al Evid Based Complement Alternat Med (2015):425108. doi: 10.1155/2015/425108. Epub 2015 Oct 21.
Welcome to my blog, discover acupuncture with Dr Maggie Ju
Qualified as a medical doctor in Western medicine in China with a Medical degree from Beijing, China and a PhD degree from the UK. Many year research and clinical experiences. This blog is for information only.
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