Acupuncture, Muscle Numbness and Sciatic Pain – A Case Study

Attorney Holmes was born in Boston to a relatively poor family. He took odd jobs shoveling snow and paving streets as a teenager before joining the army for three years, which helped pay for his college tuition. He started drinking alcohol when he was serving the army. In his early forties, he decided to quit drinking alcohol because he finally realized that drinking made him feel horrible afterwards and because he believed the alcohol could cause damage to his brain cells. Since he was trained to be a disciplined person in the US Army, once he decided to quit drinking, he was able to quit completely. But years of drinking had caused hormone imbalances. For example, abnormal estrogen levels stimulated his prostate and when he was in his seventies, he developed prostate cancer. He had radiation treatment and developed impotence for a while after surgery due to nerve and blood vessel damage. However, because he did not eat junk food or drink alcohol any more, he was physically very healthy and was able to put his impotence behind him after about a year.

He came to my clinic four years ago due to hand numbness and weakness as well as muscular atrophy. At the age of 82, he still went to the court a couple of times a week as a defense lawyer. He walked a mile with his dog every day, did not take any medication, and amazingly, could still sleep through the night for 7 to 8 hours. But he drank too much coffee – between 4 to 5 cups a day – before he started acupuncture treatment.

When he first came to see me, I noticed that his thumb muscles were slightly atrophied. His grip was not firm, and sometimes, things dropped out of his hands. First, he went to see a hand specialist, who recommended surgery, but said that although surgery may fix the problem, it may also cause chronic pain, swelling, and even nerve damage. He decided to try alternative medicine.

First of all, I recommended that he cut down his coffee intake to one to two cups a day. Because acupuncture helps his body produce endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine, it became easier for him to cut down his coffee while he was in treatment. Although coffee did not interrupt his sleep, it caused blood vessel constriction in his hands and feet, stimulated his heart rate, and made his upper shoulder muscle very tight. I told him that if he could cut down to one cup each day, he could still stimulate his brain cells without sacrificing his heart and hand health. He gradually cut down his coffee.

I also found out that he loved to sleep on his stomach with his head turned to one side. This may have caused his muscle tightness and pinched his cervical nerves. If the compression of the nerves lasts for too long, his hand muscles could get weaker and weaker. I chose acupuncture points on his neck and foot to deeply relax his neck muscles and then used electrical acupuncture to facilitate the regeneration of the nerves in his hand, which also strengthened his hand muscles. Once the blood circulation in his neck and hand were improved, his hand muscles quickly become stronger. After 24 treatments, his hand function recovered completely and he stopped needing acupuncture.

Two years later, he came back with severe hip, leg, and ankle pain. The pain was so bad that he had to take Aleve in the morning just to be able to walk around. I treated him once with electrical stimulation, combining points on his lower back and leg. He felt instant relief in one day. Then, he had such strong pain in the morning two days later that he had to double his painkiller dosage. He was so afraid that he could not walk that he decided to increase his acupuncture treatments to two or three times a week.

I noticed that his pain was distributed along the L3, L4, and L5 area. In the morning, his pain was the worst and moving around help relieve the pain. Considering his sleeping posture, which may have caused tightness in his periform muscle and irritated his sciatic nerves, I recommended that he sleep on his back. Initially, he had to periodically turn onto his stomach because that had been his preferred sleeping position for the past 84 years. In this way, he could not stay in one position for very long. He might sleep on his back for 3 hours and then sleep on his stomach for another 4 hours. Combining the positional changes and acupuncture treatments twice a week, we successfully got rid of this new pain within three weeks.

Case Study: Acupuncture for Gestational Diabetes

A 34 year-old pregnant woman in her sixth month came to me worried about how her newly diagnosed gestational diabetes might affect her baby’s health, and that of her own in the long term. She had not previously suffered from diabetes, although she explained that her father had had type-2 diabetes since his forties. She did not have high blood pressure, was not overweight before becoming pregnant, and neither did she have any of the other risk factors associated with gestational diabetes. This was her third baby and she had not had any issues associated with her previous two pregnancies.

The patient presented with fatigue in the late afternoon/evening as well as occasional back pain and she also complained of feeling a little cold in the evenings. She said that before becoming pregnant, she had always maintained good eating habits but did not exercise very much. Part of her worry with the gestational diabetes was that in this case, exercise did not seem to help regulate her blood sugar levels and she was concerned about taking too much insulin. She also wanted to prevent the possibility of her baby gaining too much weight in utero and possibly having other complications.

As she had been told by her doctor I explained that taking insulin while pregnant cannot harm the baby, but she hoped nonetheless to minimize the amount she had to take. I explained that acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine might help regulate her blood sugar levels but that she should continue to also follow her doctor’s advice and monitor her levels and also take insulin as directed by her specialist.

She began to see me once a week for acupuncture and Chinese herbs. My approach was aimed at strengthening her Spleen and Kidney (words capitalized here indicate differentiation from their scientific definitions) energy systems to combat the fatigue and manage her blood sugar levels by essentially helping her digestive system (i.e. her Spleen) function more efficiently.

Her pulse was choppy and slippery, and was also somewhat weak. Since she had occasional back pain recently and tended towards feeling a little cold in the evenings, I attributed these signs to a slight Kidney deficiency, possibly brought on by a third pregnancy. We used point such as DU 20, BL 17, BL 20, BL 23, ST 36, KD 2, KD 6.

The herbal formula used in this case was You Gui Wan, meant to tonify her Kidney deficiency to, in effect, support her Spleen and improve the efficiency of her digestive system. In this case the lower energy and feelings of cold indicated Kidney Yang deficiency.

Over the course of two months, with treatment nearly once per week, the patient was able to manage her gestational diabetes well and needed insulin injections most often only at night. In her last month of pregnancy, her specialist advised her to decrease the amount of insulin she was using, and we were able to reduce our frequency of treatments as well.

She came back to me two months after giving birth, and was happy to claim that her baby was in great health, and that her own blood sugar levels were back to normal and she no longer would need any insulin.