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Acupuncture for neuropathy

I had my first appointment with a well respected acupuncturist this morning.  I got the referral from my wonderful physiotherapist that I have gone to for 25 years (she is currently doing monthly lymphatic drainage manipulations on me).  When I asked her if she thought acupuncture might help with my ongoing foot neuropathy, she said yes, she thought it would.  Anyway, I went this morning.  I will be going for weekly 20 minute treatments.   said it The acupuncturist said it was very important that I not eat/drink any cold beverages or food going forward.  He said cold foods cause blood to rush to the abdomen and away from the feet.  The feet need blood to repair the nerve damage.  He said that it would take a while to see benefits, but when they kick in it typically happens suddenly.  My physio had also pre-warned me that this would be the case.  Massaging my lower legs was also recommended.  I will report back as things progress.  I am not expecting miracles, but some improvement would be great.  


  • @jmbarrhaven thanks for sharing and I, along with others, will be anxiously awaiting updates.  Hoping the acupuncture does put a dent in your neuropathy, in which case line me up!
  • I just finished my 4th acupuncture treatment (once per week for 20 minutes) for neuropathy of my feet.  I would say there is a subtle improvement in my discomfort.  I asked the acupuncturist today, about how long it typically takes for a significant improvement.  He said it depended on how much damage had been done, but generally with once weekly treatments, about 3 months, less if you have bi-weekly treatments. 

    I have been good in not consuming any cold fluids or food.  I also started wearing my off the shelf compression socks which I had not been doing since my surgery last year.  This helps circulation in my lower legs.  Today, the acupuncturist reinforced that I need to massage my lower legs.  He was more specific on the level of vigour and that the effort should be concentrated along both sides of the leg where the major veins occur.

    The acupuncturist also offered a more complete explanation of why neuropathy of the feet and hands occurs, and why blood flow to the extremities is key to repair of damaged nerves.  Apparently, the bodies response to the assault of the toxic chemotherapy drugs is to first and foremost protect critical organs.  Therefore, the bodies resources focus almost entirely on the core at the expense of the extremities.   Improving blood flow to the feet and hands will help the repair of damaged nerves.  I don’t know about you, but this is the first explanation of any type that I’ve heard on the cause of chemo induced neuropathy. 

  • @jmbarrhaven thanks for the update and delighted to hear you're feeling there may be some progress already.  That explanation makes sense and like you, the first time anyone has tried to explain the cause of the neuropathy so I'll take it.  

  • Today was my 6th treatment, with a recent 2-week gap while my acupuncturist went on vacation.  For the last two treatments, before and after the break, he seems to have ramped things up a bit.  One of the needles sent an electric charge into my toes and another one seemed to pulse for about half of the 20-minute session.  I asked him about the change today.  He said as he sees improvements, he sends some of the needles deeper or targets them to stimulate certain reactions.  He said he purposely placed one of the needles to generate an electric charge which will help stimulate the nerves to regrow.  He also mentioned today that I should use a hair drier on my lower legs and feet, particularly the bottoms of the feet.  He said the heat will help stimulate better blood circulation, which in turn stimulates nerve regrowth.  I will be trying this immediately.  In general, I am definitely seeing an improvement in the level of discomfort in my feet.  Before I started acupuncture, there were several yoga moves, where I had to sit on my feet or bend the feet, that I could not do without a lot of pain.  Now, I can do most of these moves with minimal discomfort.  And I haven’t even hit the 3 months mark he had indicated for a noticeable improvement.  So far, I am please with my decision to try acupuncture.

  • As an after thought, the hair drier aspect is obviously not applicable to those going through chemo or newly recovering from chemo.  It took me at least 6 months before I could put my feet in the bathtub.  
  • @jmbarrhaven Many thanks for the ongoing updates and even more so for the detail around the process. Acupuncture is not familiar to some so it's so helpful not only hearing about the progress your making but also getting a understanding of what the process might entail.  I'm finding the neuropathy in my feet, especially the pads of my feet, getting worse with my current regimen of Caelyx  / Avastin and have acupuncture on my list to discuss with my oncologist and GP, mostly for recommendations. I live in a somewhat rural area but hoping there are practitioners in the Kingston or Belleville areas that might be accessible to me. So far searches in Napanee, my closest community have come up dry.  Also delighted to find that my private insurance will cover a portion of the cost...woo hoo!
  • Since the beginning of May, I have been having all kinds of reactions in my calves and feet from acupuncture treatments.  At first, I didn’t realize what was happening.  Initially, I had an ache down the outside of my right leg.  This ache came and went for a few days.  Soon after my 6th treatment I had a similar ache along the outside of my left leg.  Again, it came and went for about a day and a half.  On May 7th I had trouble putting my left shoe on.  I had a bulging vein on top of my foot that was painful when pressure was put on it.  A few days later it was gone and I noticed the soles of both feet were a lot less numb and the top of the toes were less white.  The bottom of the toes, however, are still quite numb. 

    At my 7th treatment on May 12th (2 months since I started) I asked the acupuncturist about all the reactions.  He said some of the reactions are related to the sharp changes in temperature at this time of year that play havoc with circulation.  He had also told me early on, that when the circulation to the feet was restored, it would stir things up and changes would happen quickly.  The central theme is always blood circulation.  Avoiding cold foods and drinks which reduce blood flow to the feet, massaging and blowing hot air on a low power setting on my feet and lower legs to stimulate blood flow.  He also cautioned against subjecting my lower legs and feet to high winds.  Again this disrupts circulation.

    Today was my 8th treatment.  Since the 5th treatment the initial placement of some of the needles is a bit painful.  But when weighed against the discomfort of foot neuropathy, I decided that it was worth it.  I have definitely experienced a significant improvement in my feet over the course of 8 treatments.  I could stop now and be satisfied, but I decided today to not only book 5 more appointments, but today as part of my 8th treatment I asked the acupuncturist to extend the treatments to cover arthritic pain in one of my hips!

  • Today, June 30th was my 13th and final acupuncture treatment and thus my final posting.  There has been a substantial improvement to my feet.  The pain is largely gone, the numbness in the balls of my feet is also mostly gone, and there has been some reduction in the numbness in the bottom of my toes.   On June 9th, at my 10th appointment I asked my acupuncturist why the chemo damaged nerves in the feet hurt.  He said that we experience pain from damaged nerves and numbness from nerves that are largely dead.  The nerves are damaged by reduced blood supply.  Like a wilted plant that recovers once watered, damaged nerves can be repaired by re-establishing a good blood supply.  The shorter the period between damage and recovery, the faster and better the results.  However, he also said that he has seen nerves damaged 10 years before, able to achieve some recovery from improved blood supply. 

    The reoccurring message has been the importance of doing everything I can to improve the circulation of blood to my extremities.  I will continue to avoid cold foods and drinks as much as possible, I will continue to massage my legs and feet.  I will also hope that if, or when, I have to undergo chemotherapy again, that what I have learned will help reduce the damage.  In any case, I now have a good resource to fall back on if needed.
  • @jmbarrhaven THANK YOU.  Your chronicling your acupuncture treatments has been very enlightening and, at least to me, very helpful.  I expect others will benefit from it as well.

    Good luck with your continuing journey and I hope you won't ever have to undergo chemo again.  Big hugs, 
  • Thanks @Fearless.  That is exactly what I hoped it would do for others.
  • ...we experience pain from damaged nerves and numbness from nerves that are largely dead...

    Here's my experience with neuropathy:
    I had never had "tingling" but had numbness, which started in the fingertips and then toes and progressed to knuckles and soles of my feet by cycle 3. Taxol was reduced 20% for cycles 4-5 and eliminated for cycle 6.  Since I had a BRCA1 gene mutation, I took Lynparza for 11 months (before recurrence), during which time my fingers had almost returned to normal and all gone from my feet.  During second line chemo with 20% taxol reduction, the numbness returned - almost as bad as before, but my first "tingling" felt more like tiny needles stabbing into my fingers on Day 5 of cycle 3!   

  • I have severe neuropathy after finishing chemo -pac NAB & carbo - in my feet & finger tips. My balance is also affected. My FPO has just started me on gabapentin, I’ve done reflexology all thru treatment & just went for acupuncture this past week. Not new to it, just didn’t seem to fit it in. The needles he placed in my head really helped my balance almost immediately. The doctor made me walk around while they were in & then also placed them in legs & ankles. My biggest tip would be to find a TCMP, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. I’m very lucky to have a highly trained & respected doctor available to me. 
  • That is great @leanfries and some great tips.  I will add to your suggestion on finding a TCMP.  Most health care plans will NOT cover acupuncture unless the practitioner has obtained certification with the Acupuncturists of Ontario.  Before, anyone could do it (acupuncture) and have it covered and it was a new rule brought into effect by insurance companies and their regulator.  So please make sure that the person you are seeing is registered and will be covered under your EHC (Extended Health Care) Plan before you see them both to ensure that you will be reimbursed and that you are receiving the best care.