Acupuncture for Morton’s neuroma
A primer on Acupuncture:
Acupuncture is a holistic method of care that is known to improve the flow of energy across the inflamed tissues to enhance the pace of healing. Acupuncture began before 2500 BC in China and is now used all over the world to treat disease and pain, to improve general health, and even as an anesthetic. This is traditionally achieved by the careful insertion of very fine needles at well-defined pressure points. The overall purpose of the treatment is to bring the (female principle) and (male principle) back into balance with one another. It is believed that acupuncture promotes natural healing and regenerative potential of the inflamed tissues.
An acupuncturist should conduct detailed history and examination to identify the exact site of tissue inflammation via careful examination and tests in order to improve the quality of results. Acupuncture therapy for Morton neuroma often involves a combination of holistic practices such as:
- Massage and heat therapy
- Electrical stimulation (TENS unit)
- Herbal soaks that provides warmth to the inflamed tissues in order to enhance healing
Unfortunately, there have been no clinical studies demonstrating the effectiveness of any of these holistic approaches in Morton’s neuroma.
Mode of action of Acupuncture in Mortons neuroma:
There is a misconception among general population that acupuncture is a painful and risky procedure that always involves needling of inflamed tissues. In reality, acupuncture is a fairly sophisticated and calculated procedure that involves stimulation or activation of natural healing pathways. It is speculated that acupuncture works via:
- Alleviation of ongoing tissue inflammation. Persistent inflammation weakens the tissues and delays the process of regeneration of tissues.
- The key trigger of pain and discomfort in the setting of Morton neuroma is thickening of soft tissues around the nerve (or scarring). Acupuncture may serve to break down the scar tissue formation; thereby promoting the tissue rejuvenation. Various clinical and research studies indicate that acupuncture may accelerate the connective tissues of the joints to restore strength and endurance.
- Insertion of needles at specified points improve the overall circulation by stimulating the release of neurotransmitters and powerful mediators (growth factors).
- Acupuncture is complimented with Chinese herbal treatments and herbals soaks to reduce the swelling and pain.
To sum up, natural and holistic methods of care like acupuncture are a viable alternative to more traditional treatments but their effectiveness in Morton’s neuroma has not been proven. In general, acupuncture provides symptomatic relief from pain symptoms, while improving the overall health of the inflamed tissues by facilitating healing and tissue regeneration.
Janet D. Pearl, MD, MSc is the Medical Director of The Center for Morton’s Neuroma and Complete Spine and Pain Care, an interventional and integrated Pain Management program located in Framingham, Massachusetts. Previously, Dr. Pearl was the Co-Director of the Pain Management Center at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, where she was also the Director of the Fellowship program. She is the former Director of a satellite pain center of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Pain Management Center, located at the HealthSouth Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital. Dr. Pearl held academic appointments at Harvard Medical School and Tufts Medical School. She serves on the Health Care Services Board of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents since 2000 as one of its physician representatives and is Chair of the Committee on Pain Management.