Updated: Oct 18, 2022
There are treatments that can help. You can do a lot of the treatments yourself at
home. Most people have been told there is nothing that can be done except take medication. That is just not true.
First, we will go over the cause of the problem. Then we will go over the treatments, including what you can do at home.
What Causes Neuropathy ?
If you break-up the word “Neuro-pathy” we get “Neuro” and “Pathy.” Any word that has “neuro” in it has something to do with nerves. Any word with “pathy” in it has to do with feelings, or not working correctly. Neuropathy refers to feelings or sensations that you get when your nerves are not working correctly. People with neuropathy feel pain, tingling, pins and needles, numbness, or burning. Some people get the symptoms in their feet. Other people feel it more in their hands. Some get the feelings in their feet and hands.
If you have these feelings in your feet and hands, diabetes is the most common cause. Another common cause is chemotherapy cancer treatment. Some people get “idiopathic” neuropathy which means we don’t know what caused it – they don’t have diabetes, and they never had cancer.
Neuropathy symptoms in your feet and hands happen because of problems with the small nerves in your feet and hands. People with neuropathy symptoms often have problems with balance, walking, and use of their hands. This happens from the numbness and also from weakness of muscles that don’t get normal signals from the small nerves.
What Causes the Nerve Problem in Neuropathy?
In diabetes, the nerves are “poisoned” by the extra blood sugar. This blocks the nerve from working correctly. In some nerves it prevents signals from being sent so you end up with numbness. In other nerves this causes signals to be sent that are not normal that causes things like pain, burning, or tingling. With chemotherapy similar things happen.
In some people the diabetes, chemotherapy, or other medical conditions cause poor circulation. The small nerves in your feet and hands don’t get the nutrients they need. Or the nerves can’t get rid of their waste. You end up with nerves that don’t work correctly and get the numbness, burning, pain, and tingling.
What about Tingling from My Neck or Back?
If you have a problem with your neck or back, you can get the same symptoms. Pain, tingling, burning and numbness from neck or back problems generally don’t only impact hands and feet. Neck problems usually also cause pain in the neck and arm. Back problems usually also cause symptoms in the back and leg. Your history and a good clinical exam can sort this out.
A lot of people with neuropathy also have neck and back problems. A lot of neck and back problems also impact the nerves. People with a neck or back problem, plus neuropathy usually have more pain, burning, tingling, or numbness. If both the neck, back, and neuropathy problems get the right treatment you will have less symptoms than if just the neck and back, or neuropathy get treated.
Carpal Tunnel and Other Nerve Problems
Carpal tunnel is usually felt as pain, tingling, pins and needles, or numbness in your
thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger. It is caused by pinching of a nerve in your wrist. A lot of people have surgery to relieve the pressure on the nerve and get better. Studies are now indicating that people can clear up carpal tunnel with physical therapy and avoid surgery – a story for another day.
There are lots of other places in your arms or legs, neck or back that you can get an isolated pinched nerve. The area of pain, pins and needles, tingling, or numbness from these pinched nerves means it's not neuropathy pain. If you do have one of these isolated pinched nerves and neuropathy the symptoms are usually worse. It is important to get the right treatment for both, for the best recovery.
Treatment for Neuropathy
There are ways to treat the symptoms, poor balance, and weakness impacting walking or use of your hands. Unfortunately, most people with neuropathy are told there is no treatment or are offered pills that don’t address problems that can be fixed.
Exercise is the basic treatment that all people with neuropathy should be doing. There is no question that the right kind of exercise will improve the health of nerves. Improving the health of nerves will decrease the symptoms and improve how muscles are working. Balance gets better, walking improves, it’s easier to use your hands! A lot of this treatment can be done at home.
Class IV laser treatments have been shown to reduce neuropathy symptoms and
improve sensation. The laser penetrates the tissue and nerves. The laser interacts with parts of the cells that allow the cells to make energy more efficiently. This energy is then used by the cells, including the nerves, for healing. Symptoms decrease, balance improves, walking gets better, using your hands is easier.
Infrared light therapy has been shown to reduce neuropathy symptoms. The infrared light interacts with the tissues to improve circulation. The improved circulation provides the nutrients your nerves need to help them heal and work normally. This is treatment that you can do yourself at home.
Diet and lifestyle changes can make a major difference for people with neuropathy. Diet and lifestyle changes are important to discuss with your primary care and diabetes healthcare providers. You can benefit a lot by going beyond the standard advice. You can get a lot more help from groups like The Total Neuropathy Solution or Virta Health. The Total Neuropathy Solution has a free app and you can subscribe to health coaching to reverse medical conditions contributing to neuropathy. Virta Health is a company that specializes in the use of technology and treatment to reverse Type II diabetes.
Christopher DiPasquale, PhD, PT, OCS, SCS, CHT is a physical therapist at Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine with offices in Hebron and Colchester, Connecticut. He is board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and Sports Physical Therapy and a Certified Hand Therapist by the Hand Therapy Certification Committee.
For more information visit pptsm.com or call the office: Colchester 860-537-3014 or Hebron 860-228-4883