Updated: Mar 2

If you suffer from peripheral neuropathy, you likely know the horrors of walking barefoot on a cold, hard surface, like a tile floor. The resulting pain or numbness can feel almost unbearable.

Peripheral neuropathy is a common concern that we see here in our Houston acupuncture clinic, and it occurs when damaged nerves in the peripheral nervous system cause burning, tingling, or even a lack of sensation - usually in the hands and feet. Both Western and Eastern medicine offer solutions for peripheral neuropathy, and it’s important for people to be aware of their varying options.

What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy & How is it Most Commonly Treated?

Peripheral neuropathy is most frequently caused by diabetes, however, this common neurological condition can also result from thyroid disorders, certain autoimmune diseases, vitamin B12 deficiencies, infections, traumatic injuries, or exposure to toxins, heavy metals or certain kinds of drugs, like those used in chemotherapy.

The most common solutions offered by Western clinicians are anticonvulsants or mood-enchanting pharmaceutical drugs, like gabapentin, pregabalin, amitriptyline or duloxetine, which have been shown to be effective in reducing neuropathic pain. Steroids, aimed at reducing inflammation, or immunosuppressants, which reduce the activity of the nervous system, may also be offered. Some doctors even prescribe powerful painkillers, like Tramadol, which has been shown to significantly reduce pain, but, like all opiods, carries the risk of being highly addictive. These drugs, which are aimed at symptomatic management, can provide more immediate relief, but do come with a caveat: the potential for some not-so-fun side effects, including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, swelling, weight gain and more.

Many more physicians are beginning to understand the power of nutrition, and may be able to recommend diet modifications and supplementation to reduce inflammation and support nerve health, or refer you to a nutritionist who can help with this.

The majority of research conducted today is centered around Western medicine solutions for neuropathy rather than Eastern approaches, like acupuncture, which can lead many to feeling skeptical about alternative solutions. And while more acupuncture studies are becoming available today, it’s important to understand that acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine can sometimes be difficult to measure by Western medicine “standards,” as the core of Eastern medicine’s therapeutic effectiveness comes from the principle that every person, with their very unique constitutional make-up and environmental circumstances, has a unique set of symptoms which require a customized treatment best suited to them. The success of Eastern medicine, and the very reason for its centuries-long continuity is that doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all or “standardized” approach.

For example, if one patient is experiencing burning neuropathic pain accompanied by other symptoms, like dryness or feeling easily overheated, while another suffers from numbness, as well as extreme fatigue and swelling, a Western physician may prescribe the same medication for both, but an Eastern medicine practitioner would likely take two different approaches to treat each patient individually, as their underlying constitutional patterns are very different.

The Eastern Approach for Treating Peripheral Neuropathy

According to traditional Chinese medicine, peripheral neuropathy occurs when there's a blockage of “qi” (energy) and blood in the body. Our qi helps to circulate blood, and blood carries oxygen and nutrients to our bodies’ tissues. If the qi and blood cannot circulate freely throughout the entire body, certain peripheral cells and tissues won’t receive the nourishment they require. In the case of peripheral neuropathy, acupuncture helps to stimulate the body’s nerve pathways, which can mitigate pain and aid nerve regeneration, thus increasing sensation in cases of numbness. But also, by improving blood flow throughout the entire body, nerve tissues in the extremities are also more adequately nourished, which can ultimately serve to repair nerve function over time.

And Chinese medicine not only aims to treat a person’s presenting symptoms, but also their body’s underlying physiological imbalances which led to the symptoms — AKA, the “root cause.” As a holistic system of medicine - meaning, practitioners take into account all of the systems within the body, rather than breaking it down to treat individual parts - many patients experience better health overall, when seeking alternative treatment for their peripheral neuropathy. Therefore, the Eastern approach may also be helpful in mitigating issues including:

  • numbness or paresthesia in the limbs

  • muscle weakness

  • muscle cramps or twitching

  • digestive issues

  • changes in blood pressure

  • sleep disruptions

  • emotional disturbances

  • incontinence

Acupuncture may produce mild side effects, which include bruising, soreness or slight bleeding at the needle site. You can read more about side effects in our FAQs here. And while side effects are generally much less extreme in Eastern medicine, the biggest downside for many is that acupuncture doesn’t always produce instantaneous results, as many in the West are accustomed to. This is because true healing takes time. A course of weekly or bi-weekly treatments for ten or more sessions is often advised, with periodic maintenance treatments recommended thereafter, however, every patient’s treatment plan will be slightly different, depending on the severity and length of their neuropathy.

Traditional Eastern medicine systems are actually the original functional medicine models, and therefore, acupuncturists are equipped to not only treat an issue and its root cause, but also offer customized diet, supplementation and lifestyle modifications, which can help to both correct and prevent issues. We at Nguyen Wellness + Recovery believe awareness and education are our greatest tools for prevention, and we take a teamwork approach here in our Houston acupuncture clinic, because, while we are here to help you and guide you, you are ultimately the one in charge of your health.

If you’d like to try acupuncture for your peripheral neuropathy, contact our Houston clinic or book online!

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Updated: Mar 2

You’re resting on the massage table. Your acupuncturist has about half of your needles inserted. Then bam – out of nowhere, a sense of calm suddenly hits you. Your eyelids grow heavy, followed by a general sense of relaxation filling your entire body as you slowly begin to doze off.

Many of our patients are surprised when they have this experience during their first acupuncture treatment. But rest assured, it’s a normal - and really awesome - thing that happens during many acupuncture sessions. Besides a deep sense of calm, there are a number of other weird (but cool!) experiences you may have from acupuncture.

1. Feeling “acu-buzzed”

Let’s chat more about the experience above, because this is, by far, our patients’ favorite “side effect” of acupuncture. It’s very common to begin to feel heavy and sleepy during your acupuncture session. The fuzzy-headedness and sense of calm is often a welcome relief for people who lead busy, stressful lives, and don’t often get to slow down. Many of our patients actually fall asleep, or drift in and out of sleep (what we like to call an “acu-nap”), wavering between sleep & relaxation and a greater sense of clarity. This is because, by needling certain areas, we are helping to induce a parasympathetic response within your nervous system (the “rest & digest” state), which allows the body to reach deeper levels of healing within. While it’s common to awaken from your treatment feeling totally rejuvenated and energized, some people feel extremely tired. So let’s talk about that next…

2. Extreme fatigue after acupuncture

Some people feel just-plain-wiped-out after acupuncture, and it’s usually the people who have been burning the candle at both ends. Don’t worry – this doesn’t happen every time. It’s usually more common right at the beginning, when you first begin to get acupuncture. Sometimes we are powering ourselves with pure adrenaline and stress hormones, and once we take a moment to finally stop, the depth of our exhaustion is finally revealed to us. Because acupuncture lowers our stress hormones, we begin to feel our true energy levels during or after acupuncture. Instead of feeling agitated by the need to rest after acupuncture, try and welcome the much-needed break (plan accordingly & try not to over-schedule yourself around your first treatment). You’ll feel like yourself again within the next day or so. And keep in mind that acupuncture and herbal medicine can help you to re-build your system and your energy levels over time, as well as help you to manage stress. We can also discuss with you other self-care options, to help you to stay more balanced in your day-to-day life.

3. Strange tingles or feeling “phantom needles”

This is a reaction that always amazes acupuncture patients. After we've inserted the needles, you may feel slight tingles in certain areas of your body. And sometimes, certain parts of the body light up with sensation, even if they’re not being worked on directly. This is due to the connections between the different meridians in Chinese medicine (which, arguably, follow the pathways of various nerves and fascia in the body) . For example, I was once needling an inflammation-reducing point in a patient’s foot when she suddenly felt a tingle in her elbow – the site of another common "heat-clearing" point. The association between the two meridians allowed for the noticeable movement of energy.

Other times - usually after the needles have been sitting for a little while - some patients mention that they feel a needle in an area where there isn’t actually a needle. I like to call these “phantom needles,” but really, they’re just areas along the meridians where energy is moving through blocks of stagnation, to free up the flow of qi (and, basically, increase circulation).

4. Twitching muscles

This might just be our patients’ least favorite sensation during acupuncture, but it still has its benefits. There are certain trigger points in the body that elicit an involuntary twitch of your muscles when stimulated. It can feel a little funny, and even slightly uncomfortable for a moment, but the stimulation and subsequent contractions help to release muscle tension and also increase circulation, welcoming fresh blood flow into particular areas, which helps to speed up recovery time and ease pain.

Many chiropractors and physical therapists use this technique and call it “dry needling.” It’s important that you find a licensed acupuncturist trained to use acupuncture needles, as aggressive needling or improper technique can lead to injury, or simply fail to be as effective. Acupuncturists will generally use a lighter touch and accompany any trigger points with complementary points, to increase their effectiveness. Read more about acupuncture vs. dry needing in our FAQs here.

5. Feeling emotional during or after acupuncture

We welcome all the tears in our Houston acupuncture practice, because we know just how therapeutic and detoxifying crying can be! And sometimes – you just can’t help it. Emotions are energy, and when we haven’t properly processed or released certain emotions, they can become stuck in our bodies. It’s common to ignore or distract ourselves from feeling what’s inside, however, energy work, like acupuncture or reiki, have a way of bringing things to the surface for healing. During acupuncture, as your muscles begin to relax and release, and energy begins to move and stir things up inside of you, some feel the need to spontaneously laugh...or cry. Others will begin to spill about the things that are making them angry or bitter. You should never feel embarrassed or shy about any of these responses. We welcome them (and trust us, it happens a lot!).

Some people feel okay during their sessions, but will begin to feel more sensitive or teary-eyes in the days following their session. We encourage you to offer yourself the gift of rest, stillness and alone time, to adequately process these feelings. As your emotional load becomes lighter, so often physical symptoms will also begin to improve.

6. Urgent restroom runs after treatment

Some patients find that they have to rush to the restroom after their session, because – as we said above – things gets stirred up during acupuncture! Others notice an increase in urination or bowel movements in the days following as the body works to detoxify itself. These are positive signs; just be sure to keep drinking plenty of water to support the cleansing process.

7. Increased bodily awareness & heightened sensitivity

Acupuncture can help you to become more mindful of your body. As we acupuncturists ask you detailed questions about what’s going on inside of you, or as we talk our way through the sensations you feel within your body during your session, your awareness begins to flow inward. Many of us stay so busy and distracted by our lives that we essentially cut ourselves off from what we’re feeling – this is the disconnection between the mind and body that is all-too-common in today’s culture. We're so in our own heads that we lose connection with what we're feeling in our bodies...until symptoms become so extreme that they are essentially screaming at us! Through acupuncture, you can begin to mend this disconnection. As you start to notice what’s happening inside your body more, and begin to make connections between external stimuli and your internal responses, you may find your sensitivities enhanced. You may find yourself overwhelmed by environments you once sought out, or you may not be able to eat the same high-processed foods you could once devour without fail.

While this can be alarming at first, know that this is a completely normal human experience – to feel. And as we begin to welcome and even cultivate this experience within ourselves, we ultimately become better at noticing and correcting imbalances in our bodies as they come up. Symptoms arise in our bodies as gentle nudges telling us something is wrong & needs to be addressed. When we learn to notice and then balance or treat our own symptoms, we are empowered, and we not only experience greater day-t0-day health and vitality, but we can avoid much more serious disease down the line.

Have you ever had these experiences during an acupuncture treatment? Feel free to share - we'd love to hear from you! If you've never tried acupuncture and are eager to see what all the buzz is all about, contact our Houston clinic or book online!

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Updated: Mar 7

The do's & don'ts to help you get the most out of your first session

So you’ve found a great acupuncturist. Now what?

Acupuncture can be a little intimidating for a newcomer. We get it. For those with needle phobias: Please don’t let that be a reason to miss out on all the benefits that acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can offer. It’s important to keep in mind that acupuncture needles are much finer than hypodermic needles used for shots, and acupuncturists are never injecting, nor extracting anything from you, so the sensation is much different than that of a shot. Many we treat here in our Houston acupuncture clinic are pleasantly surprised by how little they feel the needles upon insertion.

So now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about how to make the most out of your treatments. Preparation is key, and these eight tips will have you walking more confidently into your first session.

Some general rules of thumb:

1. Eat a light meal or snack 1-2 hours before your treatment.

You don’t want to show up too full, however, it’s important to have something in your stomach. Ideally, skip the heavy, fried or greasy foods and go for something lighter. While the main concern with not eating beforehand is feeling the distraction of hunger during your session, some may experience lightheadedness or physical depletion. Here at our acupuncture clinic in Houston, we’re always stocked with healthy snacks, so let us know if you need a quick bite before your treatment!

2. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.

Not only do we want you to feel as relaxed as possible, but looser clothing helps us to access the points we may need to use during your session. It can also be beneficial for us as acupuncturists if you wear minimal to no jewelry.

3. Get your workout in early.

Some exercise post-treatment is perfectly fine, like taking a light walk or doing restorative yoga. However, try and get the cardio or strength training in before you come in for acupuncture. While many feel energized after awakening from their “acu-naps,” some people experience greater fatigue after a first session. We always recommend that patients honor their bodies and rest if they need to rest; don’t try to push through it, as deeper healing is occurring when you rest.

4. Schedule accordingly.

Not only should you plan you keep your day fairly light after your first acupuncture treatment, just in case, but also try and avoid “sandwiching” your appointment between other events. You don’t want to feel rushed making it to your appointment in time, nor do you want to have anything scheduled directly after your session, as this can sometimes make it more difficult to relax.

5. Fill out all your forms prior to your first appointment.

If you’re visiting us here in Houston, our acupuncture clinic is predominantly paperless. Please fill out all of your forms online in our patient portal prior to your appointment, so that we have all of the information we need – including a list of your current medications, supplements and herbs – so we can ensure there are no herb-drug interactions, if you opt to use herbal medicine in conjunction with acupuncture. Also, please be honest when filling out your forms. The answers you provide truly do make a difference in how your acupuncturist will assess and treat your condition.

6. Don’t drink coffee or tea before your treatment.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we use various “tools” for determining what’s going on inside the body. Checking your “pulses” as well as reading your tongue are two diagnostic methods that we utilize. We realize Houston is plentiful when it comes to great coffee or tea shops, but try not to visit one just before your appointment. When you consume coffee or tea beforehand, this can leave a yellow coating on your tongue, which can sometimes be misleading for us when forming a diagnosis (please also refrain from overbrushing your tongue).

On another note, consuming a stimulant (like coffee or some teas) prior to your session can increase sympathetic nerve activity (A.K.A: your fight-or-flight response). This works against our goals of helping your body to enter a parasympathetic (or, rest-and-digest) state.

7. Turn off your cell phone.

Look, we’re connected to our cell phones just as much as any person these days, so we understand that the struggle is real when it comes time to setting your phone aside. But we highly encourage you to do so, and to put it on silent (not vibrate), so you don’t get distracted during your treatment. This is your time. Enjoy it.

8. Arrive with an open heart.

Though it’s been practiced for several centuries, acupuncture is still very new for many Westerners. We recommend entering your treatment with an open heart and an open mind. There may be terms used that are not familiar to you, and we certainly take a different approach to treating the body than you may be used to if you’ve grown up in the US, but please feel free to ask questions! We encourage you to stay open to a new perspective, as this mindset also benefits us on a deeper, physiological level; when our minds are more open, our bodies naturally follow suit, leading to more relaxed muscles, vasodilation (which helps to increase circulation), and ultimately, a more productive acupuncture session!

After Your Session:

So you've just awakened from acu-bliss...what's next?

As we mentioned above, while many feel energized after a session, some people (especially those who are over-worked or highly-stressed) may feel exhausted after a session. We encourage you to carve out time in your schedule for post-acupuncture rest, just in case. Our bodies know what to do – it’s simply up to us to provide them with what they need (and let’s be honest, most of us need sleep and more vegetables!). Even if you aren’t tired, it’s best not to do anything too strenuous the day of acupuncture.

It’s also a good idea to tune into your body and take note of the subtle shifts over the next couple of days. Maybe you’re sleeping more deeply? Or perhaps your acid reflux has settled down. Are your dreams more vivid or bizarre? How about your energy levels, or changes in your stool? If your acupuncturist was working on pain, you definitely want to monitor any changes in the severity by notating the level on a pain scale of 1-10, or jotting down a percentage of improvement.

If you received cupping during your session, refrain from showering or swimming for 2-3 hours afterwards.

And finally, take your acupuncturist’s treatment plan seriously. For many conditions, consistent treatments in the beginning makes all the difference. We didn’t create our habits and patterns overnight, and we typically can’t reverse them overnight either. Holistic practices, like acupuncture, take a little more time, however, the benefits can be sustaining when you make the choice to honor your body and lean into the process (and journey) of healing.

If you're ready to heal and in need of some assistance along the way, we'd love to help! Here at Nguyen Wellness + Recovery in Houston, Texas, we specialize in treating chronic pain, neuropathy, migraines and more! If you're interested in trying acupuncture or cupping, call us with any questions you may have, or book a session online today!

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