Nerve damage is a highly variable condition that can present with pain, numbness, tingling, loss of range of motion, and a multitude of other problems depending on what nerves are affected. A common treatment often involves working with a neurologist to find appropriate physical therapy, surgery, drugs (either oral or nerve blocks), and electrical stimulation methods. As with stroke, prognosis for recovery is better the sooner treatment beings.
East Asian Medicine classifies nerve damage based on the primary symptoms, and these classifications are often given names of things similar to things we observe in nature. Some common presentations in East Asian medical language are:
- Wind – for damage presenting as muscle twitching, spasm, uncontrolled movement or stiffness
- Damp – for damage resulting in tingling, dull or severe achy pain, swelling, or quick fatigue
- Cold – for damage that is worse seasonally, with sharp & throbbing pain, and muscle & sinew contraction
- Phlegm – for damage resulting in numbness & growths
Treatments for nerve damage vary just about as much as the presentation, and go beyond the simple insertion of acupuncture needles. For example, electroacupuncture (where electrodes are placed on the handles of needles) is one therapy used for loss of range of motion, sensation problems, and very stubborn pain. It is a very heavy treatment that helps steer or promote nerve growth, and can be used for neuralgia or chronic neuropathy in any peripheral nerve. Moxabustion – a heat-based therapy involving the burning of herbs – is often used for spasm, fatigue, or tingling to help break inflammatory cycles and fluid congestion that impede nerve activity. Another possible treatment is the use of a plum blossom needle, pictured at left, which is a small hammer with blunt metal ends that is tapped against the skin. This treatment promotes sensory nerve regrowth in small areas and can reduce the pain from inflammation or febrile-based conditions, like post-herpetic neuralgia.
Dealing with nerve damage and nervous system disorders can be a challenge, and these cases often take a long time to resolve if they have been left alone for many years. Typically, those who seek treatment immediately from both East Asian and Western approaches see the fastest and most complete recovery, since an acupuncturist can use the knowledge of East Asian medicine to support the entire constitution of a person, while both specialties can work on the problem at hand.