Roughly 16 million Americans suffer from chronic neuropathic pain. The word neuropathy translates to nerve dysfunction or damage. It is not a singular health issue but actually an umbrella term for a range of health issues involving the peripheral nerves. There are several types of neuropathy conditions and a range of causes associated with this group of ailments.
What is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is defined as nerve damage that results in weakness, tingling, numbness, or pain typically felt in the hands and feet. It may spread to other parts of the body such as the legs and arms. In some cases, neuropathy can feel like a sharp, throbbing, or burning pain. There is a range of reasons why one might begin to experience neuropathy.
How Does Neuropathy Occur?
There are two distinct parts of the human nervous system: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.
The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord.
The peripheral nervous system is made up of all the other nerves throughout the body. This is where neuropathy can occur.
Within the peripheral nervous system, there are two distinct roles. The first is controlled by the somatic or voluntary nervous system. This is what helps an individual control their limbs and make other conscious movements.
The second function is automatic or involuntary. Breathing and a person’s heartbeat are among some of the processes this part of the nervous system controls. The peripheral nervous system is also tasked with helping individuals feel sensations.
When either the somatic or autonomic peripheral nerves sustain damage or disruption, neuropathy can take place.
Neuropathy is interchangeable with the term peripheral neuropathy. Any damage that occurs to the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord falls under this category. Often times the central nervous system will still be in good shape when an individual has neuropathy although that’s not always the case.
Symptoms of Neuropathy
There are a wide variety of symptoms associated with neuropathy. This is due to the fact that there are many different root causes of this ailment. The symptoms will typically depend on which nerve is damaged. Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Painful touch
- Numbness, tingling, or a pins-and-needles sensation
- Loss of sensation
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of muscle or “muscle wasting”
- Dysfunction in the organs or glands
- Issues with urination or sexual function
- Emotional changes
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Digestive issues
What Causes Neuropathy?
Neuropathy comes in many forms. Since nerves play an important part in much of our bodily functions, there are a variety of ways they can become damaged or dysfunctional. There are over 100 known causes of neuropathy. Here are a few of the most common causes:
Diabetes. Roughly 60% to 70% of people with diabetes have neuropathy. Poorly controlled blood sugar can wreak havoc on the nervous system.
Trauma. Sometimes the nerve damage is caused by direct trauma. Cuts, broken bones, or other accidents can result in neuropathy.
Medications. There is a range of medications that can trigger neuropathy including blood pressure medications and certain antibiotics.
Chemotherapy and cancer in particular are associated with neuropathy. About 10% of Americans with neuropathy are undergoing chemotherapy. Cancer-relates neuropathy is often reversible under proper care. Seek out a reputable cancer treatment center for more information.
Illnesses. Many illnesses may result in neuropathy. Some include kidney disease, autoimmune issues, vascular disease, and infections. Alcohol abuse is also tied to nerve damage.
Dietary issues. What a person puts in their body will have a direct connection to the health of the nervous system. A vitamin b12 deficiency, a copper deficiency, or even an excess of certain nutrients can result in neuropathy.
Different Types of Neuropathy
Neuropathy will also vary based on the type of damage your nerves sustained. There are three different types of neuropathy that can occur:
Mononeuropathy. This type of damage is isolated to only one nerve.
Polyneuropathy. When multiple nerves are affected, this is called polyneuropathy. It tends to be more common than mononeuropathy.
Distal symmetric polyneuropathy. This type is most common in those with diabetes. It occurs when the first nerve fibers to malfunction are those furthest from the central nervous system. The symptoms start at the feet and travel upward over time.
What is the Diagnosis Process?
Neuropathy can be diagnosed in a few different ways. Again, it will depend on the circumstances surrounding each case. Here are some of the methods a healthcare provider might use to diagnose neuropathy:
Needle examination. This method involves inserting a thin needle into an individual muscle to record audio and visual data on how a given nerve is functioning.
Blood test. This will give the practitioner a better understanding of any potential underlying conditions that may be contributing to a patient’s symptoms. They will take stock of blood sugar levels, potential toxins, signs of genetic disorders, vitamin levels, and immune response.
Electrodiagnostic testing. A healthcare provider can also stimulate your nerves with electricity and analyze their responses for abnormalities.
Skin biopsies. This method involves removing a small sample of skin for examination. That sample is then examined to see if there is evidence of disorders affecting the nerve fibers there.
Quantitative sensory testing. With the help of computer testing, a healthcare provider can measure how nerves in the body respond to certain stimuli.
What is the Conventional Treatment for Neuropathy?
The traditional treatment plan for neuropathy will vary based on what the underlying affliction causing it is. In some cases, resolving this underlying condition will allow the damaged nerves to recover. This is a common occurrence with neuropathy caused by chemotherapy.
Other types of neuropathy can cause irreparable damage. Conditions such as diabetes can result in irreversible damage. In this scenario, a practitioner will likely focus on reducing the symptoms of the root condition to relieve the neuropathy and prevent further damage.
In either case, some common treatment options for neuropathy are over-the-counter pain relievers, antidepressants, antiseizure medications, or possibly surgery.
Changes in diet and lifestyle are also common strategies for dealing with neuropathy as well. This is especially true if the underlying cause is diabetes, celiac disease, or alcohol-related.
How Can Elevate Chiropractic Help With Your Neuropathy?
Many people suffering from neuropathy will hear from providers that there is no chance to reverse their condition. They will likely hear over and over again that the only option is to take different medications in order to stay comfortable. They suggest learning to live with it.
We can now say with certainty that in many cases this is simply not accurate! Neuropathy can be treated and even reversed for the right types of patients, pending their condition, cause, and severity.
At Elevate Chiropra we address your neuropathy at the root. Our method helps slow the damage happening to your body, nerves, and tissue and start healing naturally. No drugs or surgery necessary. When you become our patient, we will help to slow and reverse your neuropathy. We have four main goals for our neuropathy patients…
- Optimize the environment within the body for nerve healing.
- Increase blood flow to the nerves.
- Stimulate the nerves that are damaged (small fiber, large diameter, or motor nerves) to reduce pain and improve balance.
- Decrease brain-based pain.
Are you interested in learning more? Schedule your appointment with us today!