Do you often experience pain, numbness or tingling in your feet? Have you noticed that your balance has been affected over the past few years? Are you diabetic or prediabetic? You may be experiencing peripheral neuropathy.

What is peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is caused by nerve damage to the peripheral or small nerves of the body, usually in the hands and feet. This damage is commonly caused by poor blood flow, which causes the nerves to degenerate due to a lack of nutrient rich blood flow. PN is progressive in nature.

There are many types of PN, but the most common are diabetic, chemotherapy induced and idiopathic (meaning, there is no known cause). Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is the most common type, and it is estimated that 60 to 70 percent of people who have been diagnosed with diabetes will go on to develop DPN.

How does peripheral neuropathy affect balance?

The most common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are pain, numbness, tingling and burning in the hands and/or feet, and balance issues. Patients may have difficulty differentiating between hot and cold, and feel like they are wearing socks or gloves when they are not.

Balance issues are often overlooked and are potentially the most debilitating symptom of PN. A study of the risk factors of falls in elderly patients with PN published in the Journal of Gerontology found that PN was significantly associated with falls. The reason for the high risk of falls is because of the loss of sensation and positional sense caused by damage to the nerves responsible for the  sensations of touch, vibration and balance.

Acupuncture is an effective treatment for peripheral neuropathy.

Acupuncture has been proven to be an effective treatment method for pain, numbness and balance issues associated with PN. The goal of acupuncture treatment for PN is to increase blood flow to damaged nerves, stimulate nerve regeneration and decrease pain. Patients often find acupuncture effective after commonly prescribed medications such as gabapentin, Lyrica and Cymbalta have failed to help their PN pain.

To find out if acupuncture can help treat your PN, contact a licensed acupuncturist who can  determine the best treatment strategy for you.

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