Chronic Conditions Treated with Acupuncture

Specialty Acupuncture: Supplemental or Focused Treatments for Chronic Illness

Many factors are involved in how quickly someone responds to specialized acupuncture treatment, such as age, length of time the condition has occurred, general health, to name a few. A treatment plan specific to the individual will be a part of the initial evaluation.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a disease process in the back of the eye which can sometimes lead to loss of central vision. “Dry” macular degeneration is what the majority of people have with this disease; however, “Dry” macular degeneration can sometimes advance to “Wet” macular degeneration, where the weaker blood vessels break and cause bleeding in the back of the eye. This becomes a medical emergency and requires the immediate intervention of a retinologist. Most patients diagnosed with macular degeneration are in a “watch, wait, take your vitamins” regimen with their eye doctors. While this is important, there are ways acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can help. Some acupuncturists have had advanced training in the care of people with this issue. Specific acupuncture points, NOT in the eye, are used to help blood flow and nerve receptors (rods and cones) which are affected by this disease. Additionally, Chinese herbs and lifestyle recommendations are made based on an individual’s initial evaluation. It is important to start acupuncture supportive care as soon as possible after you have been diagnosed with macular degeneration, even if you are not currently experiencing vision changes or loss. Once the disease progresses and vision loss is realized, it may take a longer time of treatment to have improvements in the health of the eye.

We only work with patients who are currently under the care of an eye professional.

Complications of Diabetes

People with Diabetes are at a higher risk of developing health issues such as: diabetic retinopathy, decreased blood circulation to the legs which can result in amputation, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, heart attacks and strokes, and gum disease. Acupuncture can offer help with some of these issues. Diabetic retinopathy can occur when healthy blood sugar levels and cholesterol are not maintained. Elevated blood sugar levels can restrict proper blood circulation to the tissues in the retina. When the retina is deprived of oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood, vessels can weaken which will result in swelling in the retina and result in leaking of fluids similar to “wet” macular degeneration. Acupuncture can sometimes help improve microvascular circulation to the eyes and slow the disease progression. Correction of lifestyle issues which have contributed to vision issues must be utilized. Poor blood circulation to the legs and feet is another complication of diabetes which, if not corrected, can result in amputation of toes, feet, or legs. Acupuncture stimulates the sympathetic response in the body and the release of nitric oxide which leads to improved blood flow to the tissues.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux) is a chronic pain disorder which affects the face. It affects the fifth cranial nerve and causes severe, sudden and often life altering pain to the face and head. Causes of trigeminal neuralgia include structural disorders involving nerve and blood vessels, tumors, multiple sclerosis, and facial traumas (accidents, dental procedures, surgical injuries, etc.). Western medical treatments include the use of medications such as Tegretol, Topamax, Lyrica, Neurontin, Baclofen, and others, which can provide relief for some people for a period of time. However, some patients develop a tolerance to the medications and require larger doses to maintain relief of symptoms. Additionally, side effects for some include dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea. Other treatments include Botox injections, and in advanced cases, surgical interventions which include microvascular decompression or gamma knife ablation. Acupuncture can help reduce the pain and frequency of episodes of trigeminal neuralgia. Many who have used acupuncture have been able to reduce and sometimes eliminate medications they have had to use to help control the episodes. Advantages of using acupuncture may include requiring less or no medications which often cause side effects, providing longer periods of being pain free, and avoiding surgeries which carry some risk. Patients wishing to explore acupuncture should have had a thorough examination by their physician to rule out tumors, multiple sclerosis, and other serious medical issues. Read more in our blog post about facial pain/trigeminal neuralgia.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage to the nerves most often in the hands and feet. Though it is most often a complication of diabetes, it can also be caused by chemotherapy and injuries to the hand, legs, and feet. Most people with neuropathy have symptoms of tingling, pain, numbness and weakness in the affected limbs, and are at a higher risk of falls. Medications often prescribed to help the pain include Lyrica, gabapentin (Neurontin), and antidepressant medications. However, these medications can cause some unwanted side effects such as dizziness and drowsiness. Recent studies on the use of acupuncture for peripheral neuropathy have shown that most patients get good relief from the pain and numbness. It is believed that acupuncture increases blood circulation in the limbs which nourish the nerves and tissues in those areas, ultimately resulting in decreased pain and increased normal feeling to the area. This is most likely due to the healing of the damaged nerves. With guidance from their physician, patients are often able to reduce or eliminate some of the medications which have caused side effects and ultimately reduce the chance of falls and accidents. It is important to receive acupuncture from an acupuncturist who has training and experience in treating peripheral neuropathy. These acupuncturists are trained in acupuncture techniques which minimize or eliminate any discomfort from needle insertion. Generally speaking, a course of 10 treatments is needed to get the best results possible. Please refer to the “blog” area for additional information.

Complications of Chemotherapy and Radiation

Many health care centers across the country now include acupuncture as part of their treatment plan for patients suffering from the side effects of cancer and the chemotherapy and radiation often used to treat cancer. Some of these centers include: MD Anderson, University of Miami, University of Pennsylvania, NYU Langone Health, Oshner Health, and University of Maryland to name a few. More hospitals are incorporating acupuncture as part of the services offered to patients because there are numerous scientific studies that support the use of acupuncture for the following issues: fatigue due to the illness as well as treatment; muscle and joint pain for breast cancer patients taking aromatase inhibitors, chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy, dry mouth (“xerostomia”) with patients undergoing radiation therapy for head and neck cancer or nasopharyngeal cancer; and anxiety, depression, and sleep problems.
Skip to content