Peripheral neuropathy is a nerve disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. The condition is characterized by damage to the peripheral nervous system, which can cause symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and burning sensations in the hands and feet. The causes of peripheral neuropathy are varied, ranging from chronic diseases like diabetes to exposure to toxins and traumatic injuries. While there is no cure for neuropathy, there are treatments available to help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. One such treatment is massage therapy, which has been found to provide relief for many neuropathy sufferers. In this blog, we’ll explore what causes peripheral neuropathy, its signs and symptoms, and the different treatment options available, including the benefits of massage therapy. Get ready to discover how massage can be an effective tool in managing neuropathy symptoms, and how it can help you reclaim your quality of life.
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
The nervous system is made up of 2 main parts. The central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system. Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects the peripheral nervous system, which is made up of nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. When these nerves become damaged or dysfunctional, it can lead to a variety of symptoms such as numbness, tingling, burning sensations, weakness, and pain in the hands and feet. The causes of peripheral neuropathy are diverse and include chronic diseases such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, exposure to toxins, infections, and traumatic injuries. This condition can be challenging to diagnose because symptoms often develop slowly and gradually worsen over time. The severity of symptoms can vary widely from person to person, and in some cases, it can cause significant nerve damage and disability. However, with proper management, many people with peripheral neuropathy are able to reduce their symptoms and maintain a good quality of life.
Peripheral Neuropathy Causes: From Diabetes to Traumatic Injuries
Peripheral neuropathy is a multifaceted condition with a wide range of causative factors. Chronic diseases are some of the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy, including diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease. The accumulation of toxic substances in the blood due to chronic liver disease and kidney disorders can harm nerve tissue. People with kidney failure receiving dialysis treatment may experience varying degrees of polyneuropathy.
Autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome can also lead to nerve damage. Exposure to toxins such as alcohol, chemotherapy drugs, and industrial chemicals can cause neuropathy, as can infections like Lyme disease, HIV, and hepatitis. Traumatic injuries, including bone fractures and nerve compression syndromes like carpal tunnel syndrome, can also damage peripheral nerves. When there are hormonal imbalances, it can disrupt the body’s natural metabolic processes, causing inflammation in tissues that can compress the peripheral nerves.
In some cases, the cause of peripheral neuropathy may be unknown. This complex array of factors underscores the need for a comprehensive evaluation to determine the cause of neuropathy and develop a tailored treatment plan.
The Types of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is a complex condition that encompasses over 100 identified types. Each type presents with its own unique symptoms and prognosis, depending on which type of nerve fibers are affected. These nerve fibers include motor nerves, which control conscious muscle movements, sensory nerves, which transmit sensations such as touch and pain, and autonomic nerves, which regulate involuntary body functions like breathing and digestion. While many neuropathies will affect all three types of fibers to varying degrees, some may predominantly affect one or two types, leading doctors to use terms like “predominantly motor neuropathy,” “sensory neuropathy,” or “autonomic neuropathy” to describe different conditions. In about 75% of cases, these polyneuropathies are considered “length-dependent,” meaning that symptoms first appear or worsen in the farthest nerve endings in the feet before potentially spreading upwards toward the central parts of the body. In non-length-dependent polyneuropathies, symptoms can start around the torso or appear in a patchy distribution across the body.
Peripheral neuropathy encompasses several types:
- Diabetic neuropathy (caused by diabetes).
- Guillain-Barré syndrome is another type that occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s nerves.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome affects the hand and wrist due to pressure on the median nerve running from the forearm to the hand. [How to Massage for Carpal Tunnel]
- Meralgia paresthetica results in numbness and tingling in one thigh.
- Complex regional pain syndrome arises from small-nerve fiber damage and causes prolonged pain in an arm or leg.
Signs and Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy symptoms can vary based on the type of nerves affected and the extent of damage. Some people may experience mild symptoms, while others may experience severe pain and disability. Common signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathies include:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Burning or sharp neuropathic pain sensations in the hands or feet
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Sensitivity to touch or temperature changes
- Muscle cramps or twitching
- Difficulty with fine motor tasks like buttoning clothes or holding utensils
- Changes in blood pressure or heart rate
- Digestive problems including constipation, diarrhea, and nausea
The type and severity of symptoms can vary widely from person to person, and some people may experience no symptoms at all. It’s essential to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms, as they can be a sign of peripheral neuropathy or another underlying condition.
Diagnosing Neuropathy: What You Need to Know
Diagnosing peripheral neuropathy can be a complex process that involves a variety of tests and evaluations. To start, your healthcare provider will review your medical history and perform a physical exam to look for signs and symptoms of neuropathy. They may also order one or more of the following tests to help get peripheral neuropathy diagnosed:
- Nerve conduction studies: This test measures the speed and strength of electrical signals sent by the nerves in your body.
- Electromyography (EMG): This test evaluates how well your muscles respond to nerve signals.
- Imaging tests: X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans can help identify nerve damage caused by compression or injury.
- Blood tests: These tests can help identify underlying conditions that may be contributing to neuropathy, such as diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, or autoimmune disorders.
- Muscle and nerve ultrasound: A non-invasive and experimental technique used to image nerves and muscles that may have been damaged due to injuries like a severed or compressed nerve. Abnormalities related to muscle or nerve disorders can be detected through ultrasound imaging of the muscles. Additionally, certain inherited muscle disorders may exhibit distinct patterns when viewed through muscle ultrasound tests.
Additionally, your healthcare provider may perform a skin biopsy or a nerve biopsy to evaluate nerve function and assess the extent of nerve damage. By using a combination of these evaluation methods, doctors can diagnose peripheral neuropathy and develop an effective treatment plan to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
Top Treatment Options for Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral Neuropathy treatments depend on the underlying cause and the severity of symptoms. While there is no cure for neuropathy, there are several effective treatment options available that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Some of the top treatment options for peripheral neuropathy include:
- Medications: A variety of medications may be prescribed to manage neuropathy symptoms, including pain relievers, anti-seizure drugs, and antidepressants.
- Physical therapy: Exercise and physical therapy can help improve muscle strength, balance, and coordination.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): This non-invasive therapy uses electrodes to send small electrical pulses to the affected nerves, helping to relieve pain.
- Massage therapy: Massage techniques can help improve circulation, reduce neuropathic pain, and relax muscles, providing relief for some people with neuropathy.
- Acupuncture: This ancient practice involves inserting fine needles into specific points on the body to stimulate nerve function and reduce pain.
- Lifestyle changes: Quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet to improve high blood sugar levels and clear up vitamin deficiencies, and managing chronic conditions like diabetes can help reduce the risk of further nerve damage.
By working with healthcare providers and exploring different treatment options, many people with peripheral neuropathy, chronic pain and physical injury can effectively manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.
How Massage Therapy Can Provide Relief for Neuropathy
Massage therapy is an effective and non-invasive treatment option that can provide relief for people with peripheral nerve damage. By using gentle pressure and specialized techniques, massage therapists can help improve circulation, relieve pain and inflammation, and promote relaxation throughout the body. For people with neuropathy, massage therapy can be particularly helpful for reducing symptoms like numbness, tingling, and burning sensations in the hands and feet. However, patients with nerve disease should be careful when receiving deep tissue massage, especially in areas where they are experiencing numbness. It’s important to communicate any discomfort or pain during the session to ensure a safe and comfortable experience. Additionally, massage therapy can help improve muscle strength and flexibility, which can help reduce the risk of falls and improve overall mobility. By working with a trained massage therapist, people with peripheral neuropathy can experience the benefits of this holistic treatment option and improve their quality of life.
In conclusion, peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide and can significantly impact their quality of life. Although there is no cure for neuropathy, there are several treatment options available that can help manage symptoms and improve overall well-being. Massage therapy is one such non-invasive treatment option that has shown promise in reducing pain and inflammation, improving circulation, and promoting relaxation throughout the body. However, it’s important to work with a trained massage therapist and communicate any concerns or discomfort during the session, particularly if experiencing numbness in an area.
If you are struggling with symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, consider scheduling a massage therapy appointment at Body Ache Escape Massage Center. Our team of experienced massage therapists can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your unique needs and helps improve your quality of life. Don’t let peripheral neuropathy hold you back from living your best life – call us today to schedule your appointment and take the first step towards feeling better. 614-604-6358