Peripheral neuropathy is the medical term for the damage occurring to the nerves in the peripheral nervous system (the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord). This term alone says very little about the broad spectrum of symptoms you might be experiencing if your nerve endings have been damaged.
Today, over 100 neuropathies have been discovered, and each of them has its own causes, symptoms, and prognosis. Although this makes finding the right treatment for nerve pain a clinical challenge, there are efficient treatment options that allow you to look beyond surgery or medications.
In this guide, we’ll explore the symptoms and causes of neuropathy, and we’ll look at how Neuragenex’s treatment programs are providing a non-surgical, non-invasive, non-chiropractic, and drug-free alternative for patients with neuropathy.
Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is a nerve pain condition that results from nerve damage due to underlying conditions, injuries, or medications often taken for other chronic medical conditions.
It is one of the most complicated conditions because there are dozens of causes and symptoms that also range from mild to severe. Because of the range of symptoms and their severity, understanding the causes of peripheral neuropathy is essential in order to avoid a false and premature self-diagnosis.
What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy? Let’s Begin With The Most Likely
Understanding what causes neuropathy isn’t a straightforward process. Today, it is estimated that 20-30% of all cases of neuropathy are idiopathic, meaning that they have no known cause.
Nonetheless, learning what the most likely causes of neuropathy are can help you address the risk factors that might be contributing to your nerve pain. Below, we’ll look at the most common causes of peripheral neuropathy.
Certain neuropathies, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, are hereditary, and it is estimated that 1 in every 2500 cases of peripheral neuropathy has a genetic component.
What’s more, your genetic composition can put you at greater risk of developing autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. These diseases cause high levels of inflammation which, in turn, can damage nerve fibers and cause neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy and type 2 diabetes are interconnected diseases. Nerve pain can be one of the earliest signs of diabetes, while poorly controlled blood sugar can lead to nerve damage.
The reason for this is that the sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar levels in people with diabetes can damage the blood vessels responsible for supplying nerves with oxygen and nutrients. Peripheral neuropathy is a comorbidity in 51% of cases of diabetes, and the risk of developing nerve damage increases alongside the period in which blood glucose isn’t adequately managed.
Hormonal Or Other Biological Imbalances
Several hormonal changes and imbalances can have a detrimental effect on nerve health. In particular, neuropathy can arise due to the overproduction or underproduction of certain hormones:
- Sex hormones – Estrogen and testosterone play a role in managing the body’s levels of inflammation. As these hormone levels drop with age or after biological changes such as menopause, inflammation-induced nerve damage becomes more likely.
- Progesterone – This hormone influences the formation and maintenance of the nerve’s protective sheath, called myelin. Low levels of progesterone lead to nerve damage caused by a loss of myelin (demyelinating polyneuropathy).
- Hypothyroidism – An underactive thyroid leads to increased fluid retention, swollen tissue, and impaired metabolic processes. This can add pressure to nearby nerves, causing damage.
- Growth hormones – The overproduction of growth hormones can cause the enlargement of several components of the musculoskeletal system, including bones and joints. Overgrown parts can begin to press on nearby nerves and cause damage.
Metabolic disorders such as Celiac disease can also cause neuropathy by inhibiting the absorption of essential nutrients and leading to nerve-damaging deficiencies (i.e.: lack of Vitamin B12, vitamin E, and copper).
Exposure to Toxins
Some chemicals and compounds have a neurotoxic effect, which means that they cause the deterioration of the myelin (the nerves’ protective coating) or lead to the death of nerve fibers. Some of these toxins, such as mercury and lead, can be found in food, while others are contained in alcohol and nicotine.
Some prescription medications can have a toxic or damaging effect on the nerves in the peripheral nervous system. Some of these medications include drugs to control blood pressure (such as Amiodarone), medicines to treat infections (such as Didanosine for HIV) and medications to ease the symptoms of autoimmune diseases (such as Infliximab).
The drugs used in chemotherapy can also have a neurotoxic effect and, today, 85% of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy have neuropathy.
Injury or direct trauma can sever a nerve’s connection to the brain, thus leading to nerve damage, pain, and numbness. If only one nerve is affected by a collision, fracture, or rupture, this condition is called mononeuropathy.
Common Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms
Several of the symptoms of neuropathy depend on what nerves have been damaged. However, generally, damaged nerve endings prevent signals relating to touch sensations, temperature, and muscle movements from reaching the brain.
The most common sensations associated with peripheral neuropathy include the following:
If you experience any of these conditions (especially in the case of diabetes) you may be experiencing peripheral neuropathy and its related symptoms.
Why Early Diagnosis Is Crucial
Neuropathy is a degenerative disease. This means that, over time, the nerve damage, pain, and numbness you experience will progress and intensify. However, there is a lot that you can do to address the symptoms of this condition and prevent serious complications – starting with obtaining an accurate diagnosis as soon as you notice the early signs of neuropathy.
As you begin to experience pain or numbness, you should consult a specialist who will run several tests to determine the causes and extent of neuropathy. These examinations include physical and neurological exams, imaging tests (i.e.: CT scans), and electrodiagnostic tests.
An early diagnosis is also crucial to determine which course of treatment is best for your specific case. For example, resorting to pain-relievers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to treat nerve pain when your neuropathy is actually caused by poorly managed blood sugar can expose you to the complications of uncontrolled diabetes. Alternatively, if nerve damage is caused by a tumor pressing on the nerve fiber, an accurate diagnosis will help you access treatment as soon as possible.
But what happens if the pain you are experiencing is left untreated? Although this varies from one patient to another, there are some disabling complications you need to be aware of. Let’s look at those below.
Possible Complications If Left Untreated
Because of how affordable and accessible NSAIDs and pain-relievers are, you might be tempted to use these medications to ease the pain you are experiencing.
But, beyond simply exposing yourself to the side effects of these pharmaceutical therapies, not addressing the underlying causes of neuropathy can have serious and even life-threatening consequences.
Here’s how bad neuropathy can get.
Muscle Weakness And Numbness
Peripheral neuropathy can affect motor nerves, which are the nerves responsible for transmitting motor signals to the brain. These nerves stem from the brain and the spinal cord and extend into the muscle fibers of each muscle.
When these nerves are damaged, their connection to the brain is inhibited, which translates into the inability to move muscles or involuntary muscle movements (i.e.: spasms, cramps, and fasciculations).
These symptoms can lead to a cascade of consequences. Firstly, sudden and unprovoked muscle movements can wake you up at night, thus causing sleep disturbances.
Additionally, damaged motor nerves can prevent you from moving your muscles properly. Over time, underused muscles can experience a loss of mass and become weaker or smaller. In severe cases, you might also experience muscle atrophy and paralysis.
Foot Ulcers Or Sores
Although ulcers are not a direct consequence of nerve damage, they are among the most common severe consequences of some neuropathies, such as diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
In most cases, ulcers, sores, and the death of tissue (gangrene) happen when your neuropathy affects the sensory nerves in the feet and toes. When these nerves are damaged, they are unable to transmit signals relating to pain, discomfort, vibration, or temperature to the brain. In turn, this can cause you to inadvertently expose your extremities to extreme heat or cold, or cause you to not notice when a wound is becoming infected.
Over time, infected tissue can degenerate into an ulcer. Currently, these wounds are the cause of 75% of limb amputations not deriving from direct trauma.
Neuropathic pain commonly begins in the hands and feet. This is because neuropathy tends to start in the nerves that are furthest from the spinal cord and the brain, following a principle called “dying back” or axonal degeneration. This process aims to protect the more important nerves located closer to vital organs.
However, when left unaddressed, nerve damage can continue to spread and affect the autonomic nerves, which are responsible for regulating bodily functions we don’t have direct control over, such as heartbeat, sweating, and breathing.
Reduced Ability To Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
When neuropathy affects the autonomic nerves, several bodily functions become impaired. For example, you might struggle with a loss of bladder and bowel control, excessive sweating, or digestive issues.
In particular, autonomic nerve damage can impact the cardiovascular system. When this happens, you may experience sharp drops in blood pressure or heartbeat abnormalities such as tachycardia. The symptoms of neuropathy can also conceal low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia), which can worsen your diabetes and lead to further nerve damage.
Peripheral Neuropathy Treatment
Regardless of the cause of a patient’s peripheral neuropathy, there are several treatments that can address its frustrating symptoms and complications.
In the case of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, the answer is lifestyle management and a constant effort to balance insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance.
Hormone imbalances may be tested and addressed, injuries may be evaluated and addressed, and medication-induced neuropathy may not be avoidable if the medication is essential for treatment in another condition.
Neuropathy is complex and there may be multiple contributing causes combined to create the symptoms reported above.
Because of this, it is crucial to look beyond simply taking pain relievers or NSAIDs to manage neuropathic pain. Below, we’ll look at the non-surgical and non-pharmaceutical treatment options available to patients today.
Drug-Free And Surgery-Free Treatment Is Possible
Some patients may also choose to undergo expensive surgeries and risky implants to address the pain. Other, more simple solutions include the use of pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, or even opioids in severe cases of chronic neuropathy.
However, there are drug-free and surgery-free solutions that can treat peripheral neuropathy and address underlying health that may be both simple and lasting.
Neuragenex: A Rapid And Long-Lasting Pain Relief Solution
Neuragenex offers the nation’s most innovative solution for treating a wide range of chronic pain, including peripheral neuropathy, chronic knee pain, joint pain, back pain, and pain associated with fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, and endometriosis.
Electroanalgesia therapy often results in rapid pain relief and, with regular treatments following a Neuragenex treatment plan, long-lasting pain relief solutions that can last several months without any additional need for medications and other therapies to relieve pain.
Patients routinely express relief from the pain in 1-3 visits but also express the peace of mind that they do not need to rely on potentially addictive medications that have less desirable side effects of surgeries and implants.
Our approach – a combination of Neuralgesia and Neurofunctional Pain Management – uses a range of techniques, including electroanalgesia, IV therapies, massages, and hydration therapies to help patients address their neuropathic pain without surgery or drugs.
Let’s look at the properties of our approach to treating peripheral neuropathy below.
Neuragenex leverages non-pharmaceutical techniques that allow patients to free themselves from pain relievers and NSAIDs. Electrical stimulation, massages, and IV therapies can provide long-lasting relief while supporting the body in its healing process.
At Neuraganex, our mission is to help patients regain their body’s functions and improve their lives without having to face the consequences of undergoing surgery, which often includes significant costs and long, painful rehabilitation periods.
Thanks to our proprietary Neurofunctional Pain Management approach, we provide patients with an option to delay or avoid surgery. We do so by simultaneously easing pain and addressing the underlying cause of nerve pain.
For many patients with advanced peripheral neuropathy, invasive procedures such as nerve decompression surgery might begin to seem like the inevitable choice. However, with Neuragenex’s approach to treating neuropathy, patients can successfully manage inflammation, swelling, and mechanical problems that are damaging their nerve endings without invasive procedures.
Although chiropractic care can provide pain relief in the short term, this is not a cure for neuropathy – nor is it the right line of treatment for all patients. At Neuragenex, our goal is to create treatment programs that reflect the needs, goals, and preferences of each patient, while helping individuals find a long-term solution to manage their pain.
Work With A Healthcare Team You Can Trust
To this day, neuropathy remains a clinically challenging condition to diagnose and treat, with symptoms of nerve pain that are often misunderstood. However, as we have seen above, nothing is as important as obtaining an accurate diagnosis as the first symptoms begin to appear.
Because of this, your top priority should be to find a team of specialized healthcare providers who can help you understand what’s affecting your nerves and discover the range of non-drug and non-surgical treatments for neuropathy.
That’s where Neuragenex can help.
Thanks to our expertise and experience, we are able to deliver custom treatment programs that go beyond simply easing neuropathic pain. Our team can help you identify the underlying cause of nerve damage, prevent the complications of neuropathy, and guide you in the process of regaining control over your life and health.