Neuropathy is a fairly common condition that involves problems with nerves, primarily “peripheral” nerves, like those that run through your arms and legs. Some people with peripheral neuropathy don’t even realize it. Others are debilitated by pain and numbness. Either way, the tingling sensations, itching, burning or “pins-and-needles” sensations in hands or feet, are worth a look by a medical professional.
While there are several types of neuropathy, the two most common are diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) and chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). Both involve damaged and painful distal sensory and motor nerves. In DPN, the cause is uncontrolled blood glucose (diabetes), while CIPN is a side effect of chemotherapy.
About 30% of neuropathy cases are “idiopathic”, meaning the cause is unknown. Neuropathy is sometimes, but not always, associated as a related complication attributable to diabetes (most common) and more rarely to vitamin deficiency, poisons in the environment, infections and liver disease.
Common treatment for neuropathic pain often involves drugs like Lyrica (pregabalin) and/or also pain killers. Localized anesthetics are also used. The target of medicines is symptomatic relief.
Alternatives to medicine for relief
Despite some information published elsewhere on the web, peripheral neuropathy very rare leads to amputation. And neuropathy does not have to be a lifelong condition. Often the use of complimentary therapies, like massage, can increase the quality of life for sufferers.
Early symptoms of neuropathy is often treated with physical therapy to address muscle weakness, pain, and the loss of balance, mobility, or strength. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation units are recommended for pain control. Physical therapists also teach patients vigilant skin care, and they can attend to open wounds, should the condition progress.
Massage can help too. Treatment protocols are available to massage professionals that focus on easing tension in the areas and promotion of healthy blood flow. The therapist will work arm, hands, legs and feet, carefully, to help invigorate these areas and retain flexibility.
Many neuropathies do get better over time. They can heal themselves if the underlying cause is removed. It takes time and doesn’t always happen, but never give up hope.
- Int J Endocrinol. 2015;2015:519032. doi: 10.1155/2015/519032. Epub 2015 Apr 27. Critical appraisal of international guidelines for the management of diabetic neuropathy: is there global agreement in the internet era? Sun M1, Zhang M1, Shen J1, Yan J1, Zhou B1.
- American Diabetes Association. Neuropathy, information about living with diabetes complications. Published online, accessed September, 2015.
- Neuropathy Association, www.foundationforpn.org
- Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), abmp.com article. Accessed September, 2015.