Peripheral Neuropathy: The Number One Doctor-Ignored Condition
By James D. Skaug
Too often in our office, we hear our clients say that their doctors have told them, “Sorry, nothing can be done,” for the pain, numbness, and burning associated with their peripheral neuropathy. Or “learn to live with it; it’s only going to get worse. Here, take some Vicodin.”
Unfortunately, too many people believe this. Why are doctors telling their clients that “nothing can be done”—when those of us in the massage, homeopathic, or nutritional fields know and have proven that there are alternatives to living with pain? Like most of us, doctors do not take the time to keep up with advances in every field. And neuropathies are too easily handled with a simple prescription for an addictive drug and a pat on the back while ushering the patient out the door.
But let’s step back a bit: What exactly is peripheral neuropathy—and what can be done for it besides addictive drugs? Simply put, peripheral neuropathy is damage to the long nerves radiating from the spine to the arms and/or legs from poor circulation.
There are many types of neuropathies—with many different causes. However, the bottom line is that nerves have “gone to sleep,” so to speak, because they have been deprived of oxygen … or, in other words, hypoxia (decreased blood flow/poor circulation) has occurred.
Diabetes leads the causes of hypoxia, with its high sugar levels causing the outer sheathing of the nerve cells to degenerate. Lower-back inflammations can also decrease oxygen to the extremities. In addition, many other factors, such as drugs for blood pressure, cholesterol, and arthritis, chemotherapy or toxins and free radicals, or complications from surgeries, food allergies, alcoholism, frostbite, repeated trauma, or simple aging can cause neuropathy. In my case, neuropathy was caused by damage to the L5 disc and piriformis (muscle) entrapment.
So what can be done? Of course, nutrition plays a major role. With all the processed foods we eat daily, it is no wonder that poor nutrition or food allergies could be at the root of a neuropathy. Today, in fact, it is almost impossible to eat as well as one should. This is where holistic treatments can help. But holistic treatment, although helpful in improving the immune system and removing toxins—can rarely address the cause of peripheral neuropathy.
Another alternative, vitamins, such as thiamine (B-1), can be very effective in reversing diabetic neuropathy. However, some vitamins cannot be stored in the body as they’re water soluble. B-6 is also helpful when used with certain neuropathy drugs. Vitamin B-12, B-3, folic acid, and Vitamins K and E have also shown usefulness in reducing pain and numbness. But some vitamins have actually been found to worsen a condition if taken in insufficient amounts. And unfortunately, a vitamin regimen is often “too long-term in continuation” for results. While vitamins help, they still do not come close enough in treating the pain, burning, and numbness of neuropathies.
So, what else can be done? Are there any physical treatments that might work as well or faster than vitamin or a holistic approach? Yes. Nerve rebuilding and muscle toning—a form of electronic massage.
Many have heard of TENS units to control pain, while others have heard of EMS units to help tone muscle. However, there are electronic-massage devices specifically designed for diabetics, which, while similar to the above-mentioned devices, actually “rebuild” the nerves’ synoptic junctions by bringing them closer together. At the same time, they reduce the myelin coatings, which may thicken through neuropathy and block healthy transmission of nerve signals. In addition, a pain-relieving and muscle-building signal is overlaid to relieve pain; it can have longer-lasting effects the more it is used. This signal emulates that of a healthy nerve signal—amplified many times so it can “jump,” so to speak, the widened/thickened synoptic junctions. It travels through the foot, up the leg, across the hips and lower back, and back down the other leg and into the opposite foot 7.83 times per second—before reversing direction. Numbness and pain relief is often felt immediately, and edema (swelling) is visually reduced.
Again, these effects accumulate through use—to reach a point at which pain medications may be reduced or eliminated, walking is easier because of less pain, and most important, falling is less likely as the calf muscles are strengthened through time.
More information on neuropathy and other conditions may be found at www.amassageplace.com