As published in the April 2013 issue of Vitality Magazine
In my years of homeopathic practice I have heard many patients complain about experiencing numbness in some form, although in most cases numbness was not the primary reason for their visit to my office. Rather, it was revealed during my inquiries about their sleep, exertion, joint health, or some other bodily function.
While most people dismiss numbness as a simple case of blood circulation problems, such as those from sitting in one position for too long and restricting blood flow to the area, numbness can be a small symptom of a greater health condition or illness. For example, numbness in the extremities, face, or tongue is a common sign of an approaching migraine headache. As such, it is the migraine that needs curing, not the numbness.
I decided to write this article to shed some light on the possible manifestations and causes of numbness, as well as convey the great healing powers of homeopathic medicines. Not only can these medicines eliminate unwanted symptoms such as numbness, but they can also cure other underlying health conditions that may be responsible for the numbness.
Numbness is a loss of sensation which can occur anywhere in the body, but is most commonly felt in the hands, feet, arms, and legs. It is frequently accompanied by a tingling feeling or pins and needles.
Generally speaking, the underlying causes of numbness fall under one of three categories:
a) nerve damage from injury;
b) blood deprivation; or
c) disease or degeneration of certain nerves.
There are too many possible causes of numbness to cover in this article. Some of the most common ones include:
• Injury to a certain nerve causing numbness to body parts connected with that nerve channel;
• Pressure on spinal nerves (ie. herniated disc);
• Pressure on the peripheral nerve, due to enlarged blood vessels, infection, or tumours;
• Nutritional problems such as abnormal levels of calcium, potassium, or sodium in the body, and vitamin B12 deficiency;
• Nerve toxicity caused by consumption of alcohol and tobacco or exposure to lead;
• Complications from shingles (herpes zoster) infection;
• Multiple sclerosis;
• Stroke or warning signals of stroke;
• After-effects of surgery;
• Side-effects of medications or radiation exposure;
• Tooth infection.
In addition, numbness and loss of sensation can lead to increased chances of accident and injury.
One common cause of numbness is a problem with a peripheral nerve. There are dozens of nerves, each supplying different areas of the body. Knowing which nerve supplies which area can be helpful in getting to the root of the problem. For example if the numbness or tingling occurs in the ring or small fingers the problem is with the ulnar nerve, while the thumb, and index and middle fingers are governed by the median nerve – this is the affected nerve in carpal tunnel syndrome.
Ursula’s problem began gradually, with some pain in her right wrist and palm triggered by repetitive hand motions such as using the computer keyboard. At first she was able to manage the pain by taking painkillers.
The problem progressed to having numbness and tingling in her right wrist and fingers, and went on to include her left hand and forearm. Over a two-year period, Ursula’s pain became progressively more severe and the painkillers were less helpful. Since typing was one of the main functions of her job, she was forced to go on disability leave.
Diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, the 36-year-old customer service specialist came to my office seeking a natural solution to her problem.
As is customary in an initial homeopathic consultation, I asked Ursula many questions regarding her main complaint as well as her overall health. The pain and numbness were not limited to her wrists, hands, and forearms, but extended to her shoulders, back, and legs. Also revealed were details of her digestive troubles, sleep difficulties, and skin sensitivities. These physical symptoms combined with her personality traits, temperament, fears and anxieties pointed to Calcarea phosphoricum.
During the first month of treatment with this homeopathic remedy, Ursula reported having 50% less pain and numbness. Within six months of treatment her overall health improved greatly (better quality sleep and digestion) and the carpal tunnel syndrome became a thing of the past.
An important first step is to determine whether your numbness or tingling is caused by something that warrants immediate medical attention. For example, numbness that comes on suddenly without an apparent cause, is accompanied by weakness, and does not improve quickly, could be the warning signs of a stroke or heart attack. Therefore it is important to consult a medical professional as soon as possible and rule out emergencies and other serious conditions.
A 32-year-old male teacher complained of numbness in his chest, neck, and head. Most episodes were triggered by anxiety and being in uncomfortable situations, but at times they also occurred while resting or watching television. It would begin with the sensation of heat at the base of the sternum and move up to his throat and head. Numbness followed the heat, which was sometimes accompanied by difficulty breathing, tightness of chest, and a crawling sensation in the spine. At times, these sensations would last for a few minutes, and other times stay with him for days.
Michael also complained about migraine headaches, dry scalp, and arthritis in his left fingers. He was a sensitive and empathetic person who cared deeply about his students. He had idealistic views on life and a dislike for authority.
The remedy Causticum was prescribed, and within two weeks of taking this homeopathic Michael called and said “I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off my chest. The tightness is gone and the numbness is minimal.” Michael continued to improve on this remedy, and within five months his numbness, migraine headaches, and arthritis disappeared.
Numbness and paralysis are two different conditions that are often confused with each other. Numbness causes loss of sensation, but does not restrict movement, while paralysis may or may not cause a loss of sensation but definitely restricts movement.
Numbness is often referred to in an emotional context to describe feelings of detachment – a symptom commonly associated with depression. Such was the case of a 28-year-old woman with a broken heart. In her case, however, the emotional numbness had led to actual physical numbness.
“I had my heart broken two years ago and I’ve been numb ever since,” was her opening statement. “At first I felt overwhelming anxiety and sadness, but then slowly I became numb. Nothing seems to bother me, like I’m indifferent. I have increased pain tolerance. Even when someone touches me I feel very little. I don’t feel like myself and I’m scared.”
Marguerite complained about nightmares, sleepwalking, and a history of numbness in various parts of her body. As we continued to discuss her symptoms, feelings, and life events, the themes of anxiety, sexual guilt, suspicion, and paranoia emerged. The remedy I chose for Marguerite was Kali bromatum. I did not hear from Marguerite for seven months, until she called to schedule an appointment for an unrelated issue. She told me her depression had lifted within days after taking the first dose of the remedy. She was feeling like her old self again with no more numbness after one month.
One heavy equipment operator experienced numbness in his left index fingers after a work-related injury to his forearm. The homeopathic remedy Ledum Palustre brought back feeling to his finger.
An executive complained of numbness in his right foot that came on for no reason; it could happen while walking, sitting, driving, or standing. The remedy Sulphur was helpful in the total elimination of his numbness.
One young woman had numbness in her right thigh. She was also diagnosed with diabetes. With the remedy Phosphorus, her sugar levels were lowered to a more desirable range, while her thigh numbness decreased in frequency, severity, and duration.
Homeopathic treatment is all about the individual. Each individual diagnosed with the same condition experiences a unique set of symptoms quite different from the next person. Therefore the homeopathic remedy choice is also unique to the individual and not the ailment. As an example, not everyone with foot numbness that comes on for no reason (as is the case in one of the success stories above) will benefit from the remedy Sulphur.
Before prescribing a remedy, a homeopath will gather detailed information about all aspects of an individual’s health. We believe all ailments, symptoms, feelings, and discomforts experienced are related and should be treated as a part of the whole.
Numbness is a simple sensation and can be the body’s warning sign for a deeper health issue needing resolution. A proper diagnosis by a trained physician is crucial for uncovering the underlying cause of the numbness. Homeopathy is one great way of treating numbness and tingling.
Homeopathic treatment takes the entire person into consideration, addressing all physical and emotional aspects combined. Homeopathy can not only eliminate the sensation of numbness and tingling but also address and eliminate the underlying conditions responsible.
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