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Finger Numbness and Pain
Over the past few months I have been treating an elderly lady who complains of numbness and discomfort of her fingers. The problem has been going on for some time. It is also often burning, pain, stiff and tingling. Usually any elderly person who complains of things like this, whether it's the fingers or toes, should be asked if they have diabetes. This patient says she doesn't have diabetes however. Doctors say it's a pinched nerve. I think it probably isn't. A pinched nerve usually refers to the neck area and would mostly cause numbness of significant portions of the whole arm, not just the finger tips. There usually wouldn't be burning or stiffness either. I think this is probably some kind of nutritional deficiency or circulation issue.
Usually the way I treat this is using acupuncture. But considering the age of the patient I suggested that we incorporate herbs as well. However based on the patient's medication regimen we both decided it was too risky to incorporate herbs. We decided to see how much we can achieve with just acupuncture alone.
Over 3 treatment cycles with breaks in between across a 2 month period I was able to get rid of most of the pain, stiffness and tingling of the entire finger. Unfortunately the finger tip numbness remains the most obstinate. There were occasions where the patient felt improvements in the tip numbness such that she could feel something there when she picked up small items. However these episodes lasted shortly.
I think if herbs were incorporated her body systems would become more responsive to the acupuncture treatments, yet this was not possible owing to her special circumstances. Examples like this illustrate one of the frequent challenges I encounter in clinic when treating geriatric conditions. On the one hand I feel the drugs they are on aren't really doing much but simply keeping "numbers"---in other words lab reports---"normal". The root problem is still there. Yet they cannot be off their medications because they're often reliant on them already after years of being on them. If they go off of the drugs there would probably be certain consequences. However the fact they are on medications makes it difficult to incorporate herbs when I think it is needed. This is either due to the fact there are time slots to fit in herbs since they take medications throughout the day, or the consideration that their medications and our herbs may interact unfavorably. But the fact of the matter is that in certain individuals simply relying on acupuncture has its limits. If herbs are incorporated the treatment time can often be shortened. Such is the world of modern healthcare.