Everything your body does, from regulating your breathing to controlling muscle movements and sensing temperature, involves the nervous system. It is composed of nerve cells, otherwise known as neurons, that communicate with each other and other cells within the body.
The peripheral nerves make up an intricate network that connects the brain and spinal cord to the muscles, skin, and internal organs. Since these nerves carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord to different parts of the body, they are essential to everything that you do. Thus, any damage/disease to these nerves can result in peripheral neuropathy, which can seriously affect your quality of life.
Background On Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy indicates a problem in the peripheral nervous system. The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy depend on which type of nerve is affected. Patients who suffer from this condition generally describe a stabbing, burning, or tingling pain in the area of the body affected.
Diabetes is a leading cause of peripheral neuropathy. However, it can also result from infections, traumatic injuries, metabolic problems, exposure to toxins, genetic transmission, and other health conditions.
Because of its wide-ranging patterns of symptoms, peripheral neuropathy is often difficult to determine. However, in most cases, medical history, physical and neurological exams, body fluid, and genetic tests are utilised to confirm a diagnosis.
How Is Neuropathy Treated?
There are several types of neuropathy, and each necessitates different treatment. Sometimes, cases of neuropathy can easily be treated and even cured. Other times, a patient may need a combination of various treatments. The key is to identify the type of neuropathy and its underlying cause to employ the right treatment for the patient.
Addressing The Causes
By addressing the root causes of neuropathy, your nerves can recover or regenerate on their own. It can be done through healthy habits, such as eating a balanced diet, maintaining optimal weight, avoiding toxic exposure, and correcting vitamin deficiencies, for example.
If the cause of your neuropathy is diabetes, high blood sugar can be addressed to prevent further nerve damage while removing the exposure to a suspected toxin for toxic causes. These corrective measures may create conditions for your nerves to regenerate.
Managing The Symptoms
Specific symptoms can usually be managed. Mechanical aids, such as hand or foot braces, can reduce your physical pain for motor symptoms. Though sensory symptoms such as neuropathic itching are harder to control without medication, you can also use behavioural strategies to cope with chronic pain.
For autonomic symptoms, detailed management is commonly required. But one can utilise other complementary methods, such as massage, acupuncture, herbal medications, and psychotherapy, to manage neuropathic pain, for example.
Medication and Surgery
If you suffer from peripheral neuropathy, you may also be prescribed with oral medication to help with symptoms. Several medications help regulate pain by increasing the brain’s ability to restrain incoming pain signals. However, for some types of neuropathies, surgery is often recommended.
It is essential to note that there is no known cure for peripheral neuropathy, though it is possible in some cases. The goal of most treatments is to slow the disease’s progression, sustain foot health, reduce present pain, and improve quality of life.
The Role of Physical Therapy
Peripheral neuropathy is painful to handle, but physical therapy is an instrumental tool for pain management. It helps maintain strength, mobility, and function for patients with neuropathy regardless of its underlying cause.
A physical therapist can create a customised programme based on a patient’s needs and specific symptoms. But the following practices are commonly utilised in any programme.
Patients work with a physical therapist to perform stretches and exercises. It was once common practice to inform individuals with neuropathy not to exercise, however, research has shown that muscle strength can be moderately improved by strengthening exercises.
Immobility is a concern in peripheral-neuropathy patients. Thus, increasing movement and heart-rate are particularly essential. Since physical activity can improve blood circulation and increase oxygen flow, nerve tissues can be strengthened.
Since peripheral neuropathy can cause immobility (due to movement being painful), patients can be prone to muscular atrophy and loss of flexibility. Flexibility exercises, otherwise known as stretching, can help keep the joints flexible. It can also reduce the chances of injury and avoid muscle fatigue while exercising.
Peripheral neuropathy can make your muscles and joints feeling hardened and weak. Because of the damaged nerve function and sensation in your feet, it can significantly increase the risk of falls, specifically for individuals with diabetes-related neuropathy.
Thus, balance training is a crucial part of the recovery for those with peripheral neuropathy, as it can build strength and reduce the feeling of stiffness and unsteadiness. It can also improve balance and coordination, which can help decrease the risk of falls and its associated injuries, especially for older individuals.
Due to immobility, peripheral neuropathy can lead to decreased metabolism, which means less energy and a higher risk of gaining adipose tissue (aka fat). Higher levels of fat circulating in the blood are not good for those with peripheral neuropathy, as it can damage delicate nerve fibres and worsen their condition.
Because aerobic exercise helps burn excess fat and sugar, further nerve damage/pain can be reduced. Further, it can aid with improving physical functioning, combating depression, and improving pain tolerance.
As part of the treatment programme, a physical therapist may prodice education to the individual on how to manage peripheral neuropathy safely. The focus is to enhance safety, prevent further complications, and look for another means to perform specific daily tasks. However, it may still vary depending on individual’s needs.
Therefore, it is essential to have guidance from experts, like a physical therapist, to help the individual manage the symptoms without compromising their safety. For those suffering from peripheral neuropathy, there are treatment programmes one can find online, such as PhyxMe. They have the expertise to find the right combination of techniques for this type of condition.
Peripheral neuropathy is a serious condition that should be treated with appropriate medical care. Thus, it is vital not to self-medicate to avoid further health risks. Whether it is a simple exercise routine or cream to improve neuropathic pain, the first thing to do is consult a qualified medical/allied healthcare professional.