Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects millions of people each year. It is a result of damage to the peripheral nerves, and can take weeks, months, even sometimes years to develop. Though symptoms can be mild for some, they can also be debilitating and quite painful for others. While most people probably have a vague idea of what neuropathy is, or at least have heard of the word before, many are not aware of the true meaning of peripheral neuropathy and the potentially catastrophic effects it can have on the body. This article focuses on a few of the major things you should know about this type of neuropathy.
Fact Number One: What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the nerves of the peripheral nervous system sustain damage. These are the nerves that lie outside of the brain and spinal cord and act as messengers from the extremities of our bodies to let our brains know what we are sensing. (Hot, cold, pain, etc.) When damage occurs to these nerves, they are no longer able to effectively transmit this information. As mentioned, it typically affects the extremities of the body including the legs, toes, feet, arms, hands, and fingers.
Fact Number Two: There are Different Types of Neuropathy
There are well over one hundred different types of peripheral neuropathy. Healthcare providers often classify them into four groups for easier discussion and understanding. These include:
- Sensory Neuropathy—This type of neuropathy has to do with the sensory nerves, that are responsible for sensations that we feel such as heat, pain, or touch.
- Motor Neuropathy—This type of neuropathy refers to the muscles and nerves in the body that control movement, such as talking, moving the hands and legs, or arms.
- Autonomic Nerve Neuropathy—This type of neuropathy effects functions we are not necessarily consciously aware of, such as heartbeat and breathing, which can be quite serious.
- Combination Neuropathies—This type of neuropathy occurs when the patient suffers from a combination of two or more of these neuropathies.
Fact Number Three: Peripheral Neuropathy Has Many Symptoms
Symptoms for peripheral neuropathy vary greatly depending on the individual and the type of neuropathy in question. It also depends a great deal on the root cause of the neuropathy, which can range from a multitude of culprits, including:
- spinal injuries
- compressed nerves
- and a host of additional underlying factors.
Symptoms can range from burning, tingling, and numbness to muscle cramps and weakness. Sleep disruptions can also occur, as well as loss of balance and even the inability to sweat, which makes it difficult to tolerate heat. Incontinence, trouble eating or swallowing, and even difficulty breathing are all possible symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms can also change over time and will often be a combination of many of these, including some that are not listed.
Fact Number Four: Peripheral Neuropathy Can be Prevented
As previously mentioned, most of the time peripheral neuropathy is a result of an underlying chronic illness or condition. Therefore, one of the best ways to prevent neuropathy is to work closely with your healthcare providers and follow whatever recommendations they offer to minimize complications. Some general rules to follow, though, are:
- achieve and maintain a healthy weight
- reduce alcohol consumption
- avoid vitamin deficiencies and toxins
- and make sure to exercise regularly.
Fact Number Five: Peripheral Neuropathy Can be Treated
Usually, there’s no cure for peripheral neuropathy, but patients can take steps to minimize its effects on the body. Since the neuropathy is generally a by-product of an underlying disorder, treatment targets the underlying condition first, then attacks the symptoms of the peripheral neuropathy.
Oftentimes, pain medications are used to alleviate the symptoms of the neuropathy. Injections and patches are also sometimes used. Surgery is also used, but generally only as a last resort. For those who have tried these methods with less than stellar results, or who might wish to avoid the medication route and the risks and expense associated with surgery, there is another choice.
Bonus Tip: A Chiropractor Can Help Treat Neuropathy
It surprises many people to learn that a chiropractor may be able to provide some relief from their neuropathy symptoms. When people think of a chiropractor, neck, back, and shoulder pain often come to mind. But a chiropractor actually does much more than that. In fact, research has shown that chiropractic care is a viable option to treat neuropathy and can be an effective partner in your healthcare arsenal.
Chiropractors focus on issues relating to the spine and musculoskeletal health. Since the peripheral nerves all branch off from the spinal cord and brain, it makes sense that a chiropractor has expertise in this area. A chiropractor can perform a variety of assessments and treatments based on your individual needs. Treatments might include:
- spinal realignment and adjustments
- strengthening exercises
- and medical massage
They might also recommend physical therapy, which can often be offered within their own practice. They will also make lifestyle recommendations based upon their assessment. They’ll ask questions about your daily activities, including work and hobby habits, level of activity, and other daily habits that might contribute to the exacerbation of peripheral neuropathy.
The best part is that insurance often covers chiropractic care. Even when it doesn’t, it is still one of the more affordable options for treating neuropathy. Working with a chiropractor might allow you to avoid medications or even surgery. Adding a chiropractor to your healthcare team may just provide the solution you’ve been looking for to help alleviate your symptoms and allow you to lead a fuller, more productive life.
To learn more about seeing a chiropractor to treat your peripheral neuropathy, please contact A Family Chiropractic Clinic at (940) 566-0000. Our experienced staff is standing by to evaluate your condition and give you the information necessary to make the best treatment decision for your needs.