Peripheral Neuropathy (PN) has become a troubling issue for many people. It usually begins in the hands and feet but then progresses up the arms and legs. The most common symptoms associated with PN are pain, swelling, numbness, or a “pins and needles” sensation.
It has been estimated that over 20 million people in the US alone have PN. Nearly 60% of those suffering from diabetes will also experience symptoms of PN.
Neuropathies (diseases of the nerves) occur when there is nerve damage or disease in the nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.
What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
The “peripheral” nerves (those not a part of the brain or spinal column) send information to and from the brain to the other parts of the body. Information such as a message that the feet are cold or that we have just burned a finger is sent to the brain by these nerves. When these nerves become damaged, it is like getting static on a telephone—the message cannot get through properly.
Each nerve carries messages to or from a specific part of the body. When PN damages a number of nerves, it can affect many organs and systems. At its worst, it can interfere with digestion of food, cause paralysis, cause blood pressure to fluctuate dangerously, or cause organ failure.
Some neuropathies are acute. With this type, the sufferer will experience symptoms suddenly, and the symptoms will progress rapidly. Since it takes time for these nerves to heal, resolution of the symptoms will typically be slow. Chronic neuropathies are those where symptoms begin more gradually. There may be periods of relief followed by a recurrence of the symptoms. The periods of relief may even last months or years. These neuropathies are rarely fatal unless other diseases complicate the process. It may even be another disorder which is the cause of PN, such as diabetes.
It is most common for the nerves that are most distant from the brain to show symptoms first—the hands and feet. Often the pain is noticed bilaterally. Symptoms may then progress into the torso. This is very common in diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
Toxicity is a key in many causes of PN. This toxicity can come from medications, alcohol, heavy metals, or chemicals (such as pesticides). When toxins build up in the body, the liver, lungs, kidneys and skin are all taxed, since they are the body’s filtering system for toxins. Neuropathy can also be caused by other issues such as nutritional deficiencies, infections (Lyme disease, AIDS, or shingles), tumors, cancer treatments, or other hereditary disorders.
Traditional medicine will usually treat this condition with anti-depressants or anti-convulsants as well as pain relievers which are sometimes addictive and dangerous. These will help with the symptoms (and may add to the toxic burden put on the liver), but they do not address the underlying cause of PN.
Often at the root of PN is a lack of blood sugar control and a nutritional deficiency. When the underlying cause of the PN is known, the first step a wholistic practitioner will take toward resolution of the symptoms is to address that underlying issue.
For diabetics it is very important to keep blood sugar under control. Most people today are deficient in magnesium. The body uses this essential mineral to form fatty acids, for protein, blood clotting, forming new cells, and supporting the function of muscles and nerves. Diabetics are especially prone to have exacerbations of PN when their magnesium levels are low. Some good sources of magnesium include seafood, dark green, leafy vegetables, whole grain, nuts, and legumes.
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fresh fish will be ideal for anyone suffering from PN. Fatty acids are helpful in treating peripheral neuropathy due to the fact that as much as 75% of the myelin (the protective covering over the nerves) is composed of fat. DHA, for example, is a thin oil, which helps in rapid message relay in the nervous system. However, deep fat fried foods are heavy fats which will slow down the relay of messages.
The quality of our food will affect PN. Alcohol and tobacco need to be eliminated completely. Any types of junk foods and processed foods are more likely to cause issues—soda, fast food, caffeinated foods and beverages, food sprayed with pesticides, etc. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, or additives such as MSG, can have a negative impact on the nervous system as well.
Besides a diet change, some other treatments that have proven helpful for some PN sufferers are massage, biofeedback, relaxation therapy, acupuncture, and castor oil packs.
Light exercise is another component to improving symptoms of PN. Exercise keeps blood circulating, helps to control blood sugar, and can slow down the nerve damage that is a result of peripheral neuropathy. The key is light exercise. Activities such as running or walking could cause foot injury. An activity such as stationary cycling or swimming would be a better choice. After exercise, it is best to check for any sores which may have arisen from the exercise, and treat them immediately to avoid infection.
A few “home remedies” can be of assistance. Deep breathing will help to massage the inner organs. Take 100 deep belly-moving breaths each day spread throughout the day. Drink plenty of water. (Drink as many ounces as half your body weight. For example, a 100-lb. woman would drink 50 oz. each day.) Make sure to move every day. Take a swim or a stroll. Move every joint through its full range of motion each day.
Microcurrent Electrical Stimulation
If you are having to deal with the pain of Peripheral Neuropathy, we have seen some great results in our office using Microcurrent Electrical Stimulation. Even though there is no cure available, this treatment has helped to eliminate or reduce the symptoms associated with Peripheral Neuropathy. The microcurrent works by unblocking and balancing the energy pathways of the body and restoring its normal electrical functions. Because this treatment is very gentle, it is an excellent option for children and the elderly, as well as anyone else.
Even if you have seen doctor after doctor, had test after test, and tried every new drug available, PLEASE DON'T GIVE UP because there is a new alternative treatment that is now available for many patients, even diabetics. Call us at 864-963-9304 for more information.