Peripheral Neuropathy: Common Causes and Effective Treatments
More than 20 million Americans in the US have been diagnosed with Peripheral Neuropathy. This is a huge problem and many Americans don't know where to start when they receive a diagnosis of Peripheral Neuropathy.
First, let's talk about what peripheral neuropathy means. The National Institute of Health defines Peripheral Neuropathy as damage to the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is the vast communication network that sends signals between the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) and all other parts of the body. The peripheral nervous system is responsible for communicating to the spinal cord and brain where your feet are in order to assist in maintaining balance, as well as communicating if your feet and hands are hot or cold and a wide variety of other sensory and motor input information. If these nerves are damaged, then there is a "communication breakdown" from your hands and feet to your spinal cord and ultimately your brain, where the information is processed.
The number one cause of Peripheral Neuropathy in the US is Diabetes. Diabetes affects the nerves in the hands and feet by reducing blood flow to the extremities which causes the nerves to be damaged and to not work as well. About 60-70% of people with diabetes have peripheral neuropathy. Other common causes include traumatic injury to nerves in the legs or feet, Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN), and vascular issues. At Be Strong Therapy, we see a lot of cancer clients and many of our patients have gone through cancer treatments, including chemotherapy. Some chemotherapy drugs are neurotoxic, or can damage nerves, causing pain, numbness and tingling in the patient's hands and feet.
Evidence-Based Therapeutic Treatments:
1. Exercise is a way to slow down the progression of neuropathy by delivering more blood, oxygen and nutrients to nerves in the hands and feet to improve nerve health.
2. Red Light Therapy (RLT) uses red low-level wavelengths of visible light on the skin. The light triggers the release of nitric oxide from blood vessels and red blood cells. Nitric oxide causes local vasodilation that lasts several hours after the therapy session has ended.
3. TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). This involves attaching electrodes to the skin at the site of pain and administering a gentle electrical current. TENS has been shown to improve neuropathic symptoms in those with diabetes.
4. Topical anesthetics have been shown to block nerve conduction for patients that have increased skin sensitivity and have fewer side effects than oral medications.
5. Compression socks can assist in protecting feet that are sensitive, and can ensure proper blood flow direction.
6. Physical Therapy. Falls and poor balance are side effects of peripheral neuropathy. Trained physical therapists can objectively assess balance and tailor exercises to meet the patient's needs.
7. Control blood glucose levels. In those with diabetes, controlling blood glucose levels can help avoid further nerve damage.
8. Smoking cessation if applicable. Smoking constricts blood vessels that supply nutrients to peripheral nerves. By quitting smoking, blood vessels become healthier and the peripheral nerves are given more nutrients.
At Be Strong Therapy Services, we provide care to assist in combating the effects of PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY. We have Doctors of Physical Therapy that use the strategies listed above to provide you with the best neuropathy care possible.
Contact us today to find out more about our Neuropathy Treatment Packages!
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