Richard G. Petty, MD

Peripheral Neuropathy and Integrated Medicine

We have already discussed some of the causes and conventional treatments for peripheral neuropathy.

Unfortunately many people are not much helped, and it is good to know what else may assist them. And also what may not: sadly people suffering from chronic illnesses often become the victims of people selling treatments that may have scant chance of success.

There is not much research to support most of these approaches, which we use in tandem with conventional medicine. However, I’ve used all of these approaches and found that each has helped some people. The problem, as with most of conventional medicine, is in knowing who will respond to what. Often the key is to use several approaches in combination. That is where you need a specialist in Integrated Medicine who can put together the right “package” of treatment for the individual. What we don’t want to do is use a kind of “blunderbuss approach,” where we hit people with everything at once.

  1. Diet and exercise may help, particularly in diabetic neuropathy, where improved metabolic control will reduce – but not abolish – the risk of neuropathy, and may improve pre-existing neuropathic pain.
  2. Some naturopaths in Europe recommend using parsley, celery and carrot juices. Not something that I’ve seen work, but some people tell me that they’ve found them helpful.
  3. There has been a lot of research on the use of alpha lipoic acid and vitamins B and E, particularly in diabetic neuropathy: some positive and some negative. Each has sometimes helped in clinical practice, though you have to be a little careful with vitamin E: it can impair the clotting system, and cause diarrhea and transient elevations in blood pressure.
  4. Acupuncture – traditional Chinese, “Western Medical,” and electro-acupuncture – have been used a lot in peripheral neuropathy. There have been some positive studies in painful diabeticHIV-associated and chemotherapy-induced neuropathy. None of the studies has been perfect, but they tend to support the clinical impression that man people are helped – some greatly – but few are cured with acupuncture. There have also been negative studies. There are also some positive studies from China, but only a few have been translated in their entirety. There are often two big problems with research done in China: many Chinese investigators feel that it’s unethical to include a control group, and their studies tend to use endpoints like “cured” or “partially cured,” rather than objective rating scales. I have used it in peripheral neuropathy, but it’s extremely important to use scrupulous technique, since people with neuropathy are at increased risk of getting skin breakdown and ulcers, especially if they also have any vascular compromise. Many of us have also found that it can be helpful in compression neuropathies, like carpal tunnel syndrome. There’s recently been some fascinating research using brain imaging in acupuncture treated carpal tunnel syndrome.
  5. Herbal remedies are used by about a fifth of people with neuropathy, but I’ve never had much luck with them. Some herbalists tell me that they have good results with an array of different herbs, though there is little objective evidence that they work.
  6. There have been clinical reports and at least one research study on the use of magnet therapy in neuropathy. Earlier this year there was an article in the British Medical Journal that was critical about magnet therapy in general. The article provoked one of the most vigorous debates that I’ve seen in  along time. I’ve not seen it help, but there are some people who swear by it. And other who swear at it!
  7. There have been many attempts to use electrical fields to help neuropathy, from the conventional transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) boxes, to yet more variations on electro-acupuncture. Some people are helped, and these are good extra tools.
  8. Many homeopathic remedies have been used in neuropathy. Homeopathy is a highly individualized form of therapy: no two patients will get the same remedies. But some of the most commonly used remedies are Agaricus, Alumina, Arsenicum album, Natrum muriaticum, Phosphorus and Plumbum. If you live somewhere that there are good homeopaths, homeopathy is an option to consider, despite the dearth of good research into its use in neuropathy.
  9. It is important not to neglect the psychological aspects of neuropathy: people can become profoundly depressed by the intractable pain, and sometimes psychotherapy and antidepressants can be a helpful.

  10. Finally, ask yourself what the neuropathy is trying to teach you. There is no problem that comes out of a clear blue sky, and it is always valuable to look beyond the physical problem itself to its meaning and purpose. 

If you are not having success from conventional medicine alone, or if you don’t care for conventional medicine, then discuss these options with a professional, use your intuition to guide you, and let us know if you have success.

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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