Do you have numbness, tingling, pins and needles, burning pain, aching, and weakness in your arms, legs, hands, or feet? While other issues may cause these symptoms, in this blog, I am going to explore neuropathy specifically.
What is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that affects the peripheral nerves. The peripheral nerves are nerves that exit the spine and travel down your arms and legs to your fingers and toes. These nerves travel a long distance and there are many factors that can lead to problems along the way.
What is causing my peripheral neuropathy?
There are many causes of peripheral neuropathy including:
- Joint misalignment
- Spinal stenosis
- Nerve entrapment at the exit of the nerve from the spine or somewhere along the path
- Over-use injuries
The most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is the actual misalignment of the joints where nerves pass through. While this is not a blog about the anatomy of the body, some understanding of the area is crucial and I will try to make it simple. Vertebra or spinal bones sit on top of each other and between every 2 of them, there are a set of nerves that come out through a hole on each side of the vertebra. In the picture, you see the nerves in yellow, coming through the holes called Intervertebral Foramen, to go down to the end organ.These nerves go to all different parts of your body on the right and on the left. If these nerves are irritated, not just pinched but irritated at the ‘hole’ where the nerves exit or anywhere along the way as some of them go to the toes or fingers, there will be issues. These issues are the pins and needles, tingling, burning pain, achiness and weakness in the arms and legs that are part of neuropathy.
Neuropathy is typically seen in the elderly and it is said to be a part of aging. That is NON-SENSE! The truth is that people don’t do anything about their health until they have pain and it is common to have more problems as we age- not because we are older- but because we have had more years of ignoring our body because we were too focused on pain!!! Age does not cause Osteoarthritis, the most common arthritis of the joint, with the destruction of the joint and formation of bony protrusions in places that should not have them. Let me explain: If you have a door hanging crooked on the frame after only a short while you will start seeing wear and tear where the door hits the frame. That is wear and tear! In contrast, an old door that is properly aligned on its frame will show no signs of wear where it meets the frame but only the aged wood. When a joint is misaligned, there is wear and tear. The body will produce calcifications called osteophytes in an attempt to stabilize the area. These calcifications limit the movement within the joint. When formed inside the hole where the nerves exit, the nerves become irritates and cause minor symptoms that become major before long. I am trying to draw a picture in your head so you better understand what is going on. What I am explaining here is just one example of what can happen to lead to the symptoms you may be experiencing.
Oh no! How can my joints become misaligned?
Many factors can be involved in causing a joint to become “mis-aligned”. You may be thinking of injuries such as falls, car accidents, lifting, or being hit by an object. You are correct! These things can definitely be the start of the joint misalignment whether the injury is new or old. Although, these are not the only problems. Sedentary work and lifestyle conditions can be just as bad. How can this be? The simple answer is: we are meant to move and not to sit. If the design of this car, called our body, was to move, then when you go against the design, you will get less and less performance. Health comes in movement and not in sitting!
When you sit, the brain, out controlling system, has to make the best of what you are throwing at it. Under healthy conditions, one which does not include a sedentary lifestyle, the brain is sufficiently activated by your healthy daily activities. The mid portion of the brain in charge of the upright position and deep breathing is activated, the body is oxygenated and is in its best and healthiest posture. When sitting for extended lengths of time every day, the most resumed posture is the forward flexion- the posture opposite of sitting up straight! Since that part of the mid-brain that sends the command to be upright against gravity is not used, through time, it starts shrinking; no sense in holding on to something if there is little use for it. Now the command center, the brain, does not even send the command to sit up straight like it was designed to do. Your daily routine created a negative impact on your brain and therefore created a negative impact on your body’s abilities to stay on the right track. You don’t have to have a formal education in anatomy, physiology or biomechanics to say that too much sitting, collapsed posture and weakness in the muscles leads to failed joints and compression of the spine. Remember the nerves exit the spine through those sets of holes that are on the side of the vertebra. What do you think happens to the integrity of those holes over time and the lifestyle I just talked about?
Over-use injuries are injuries by which you perform the same motions over and over again throughout the workday. Sitting behind a desk, looking at a monitor that is not at the correct height, and a keyboard that stresses the elbow are examples of things in life that can be considered overuse injuries. Eliminating poor work environments plays a huge role in preventing peripheral nerve symptoms and carpal tunnel syndrome. I did a blog on carpal tunnel syndrome that you can read about. Check out this checklist which will help you evaluate and customize your work environment in less than 5 minutes. Email me your picture (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will give you my input. Just do it and get at least one common factor that is making your body age fast out of the way!
One of the health conditions that is commonly associated with neuropathy is Diabetes. Unless you are a type 1 diabetic meaning your body from birth did not produce enough insulin, you have a solution to your problem. Diabetes is not a disease of insulin deficiency!! It is the lack of insulin and leptin working together to signal hunger vs. feeling full. It is more common than ever before because our diet is worse than ever before. The peaks and valleys in blood sugar make us more susceptible to diabetes than ever before. This is not the subject of the blog but I strongly encourage you to check out Metabolic Typing where I fully explore what it is and why it is crucial to find out what yours is. I don’t want to guess what food is good for me, I want to KNOW what the right fuel is for me. Sheesh, how many times we hear “wine is good… wine is bad,”
“high protein/low carb is good” “high protein/low carb is bad.” “Coffee is good/coffee is bad.” Come on!!! The truth is for some people they are good and for others, it is not. What category you belong to is only determined by doing your own Metabolic Typing. Let me know if you have any questions.
Alcoholism is another element related to neuropathy. Alcohol robs your body of vital B vitamins that your nerves need to stay healthy and to heal. The lack of B vitamins irritates and damages the nerves giving you peripheral neuropathy. I know what you may be thinking. If you think you can drink alcohol and take vitamin B to offset it, think again!! This is like eating pizza and taking antacids to not get indigestion!!!
I can’t prevent peripheral neuropathy because I already have it. What can I do to treat it?
Surgery is always a worry people have when they have symptoms of numbness, tingling, pins and needles, burning pain, aching, and weakness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet. Neuropathy is hardly a case for surgery and there are many modalities that need to be used before surgery is even considered. Let’s just say that in my practice, I have NEVER recommended surgery and thankfully have been successful in treating neuropathy with conservative care.
A commonly prescribed medication is Gabapentin or Neurontin with the side effects that make me nervous just reading them. This is the list from the website Healthline under serious side effects:
- Changes in mood or anxiety. Symptoms can include:
- thoughts of suicide or dying
- attempts to commit suicide
- anxiety that’s new or gets worse
- crankiness that’s new or gets worse
- panic attacks
- trouble sleeping
- aggressive or violent behavior
- extreme increase in activity and talking
- unusual changes in behavior or mood
- Changes in behavior and thinking, especially in children ages 3 to 12 years. Symptoms can include:
- emotional changes
- trouble concentrating
- changes in school performance
- hyper behavior
- Serious and life-threatening allergic reaction. Symptoms can include:
- skin rashes
- swollen glands that do not go away
- swollen lips and tongue
- yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes
- unusual bruising or bleeding
- severe tiredness or weakness
- unexpected muscle pain
- frequent infections
What amazes me is that this medication was approved for seizures and yet, it is being used on a daily basis by patients with no history of seizures!! Knowing how political healthcare is in this country and most of the world, I guess I should not be surprised!
There is no need to worry because conservative treatment proves to be highly effective in avoiding surgery and relieving you of these peripheral neuropathy symptoms that are affecting your life. The sooner treatment is rendered, the sooner you can stop suffering from the symptoms. If you have been suffering for a long time, there is still hope! In my practice, I see many patients that are referred to me as their last resort, and thankfully they have never had to have surgery to get well.
For peripheral neuropathy, it is important to evaluate and adjust not only the misalignments in your spine but to also work on the nerve path and the joints that may exist in between. I often adjust one or more joints such as the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, fingers, hip, knee, ankle, foot, and toes when treating my patients with neuropathy. Chiropractors adjust all joints and not just the spine. In this video, I explain what an adjustment does but the adjustment is not the only solution to neuropathy.
I find ART or Active Release Technique a form of functional rehabilitation to be helpful when treating patients with neuropathy. Active Release Technique is used to treat the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that have learned to work out of sync with the required movement and function of the joint, leading to further issues.
Lymphatic Pumping is a technique I use to facilitate the flow of lymphatic drainage of the involved area. The lymphatic system is a way to get rid of toxins in the body and when an area is inflamed, it becomes even more crucial to assure proper draining of toxins. Lymphatic pumping will facilitate this draining and help get rid of the pain. I use Cold Laser Therapy to stimulate lymphatic draining as well as reduce inflammation in the area where the nerve exits the spine or along the nerve pathway.
TENS unit is a device I recommend my patients to use to manage their pain at home while addressing the cause of their neuropathy. TENS unit is like an electronic pain-killer and works on decreasing pain with no chemicals put into the body. It makes it on my list of favorites for patients to have. Visit my website to get your TENS unit direct from the manufacturer at a discounted price arranged for my patients.
Almost all patients with neuropathy have struggled with pain for a long time. Meanwhile, their body typically shifts away or toward the site of pain depending on what the actual cause of nerve irritation is. With the brain-based neurology and postural assessment I do at the initial exam, once the pain is addressed and has decreased, the patient is able to perform at-home exercises that activate the brain to resume proper posture. This is absolutely crucial in assuring that there is no biomechanical cause for future recurrence of pain. You can learn more about brain-based neurology and posture which is the pivotal part of my comprehensive examination.
If you have neuropathy, have been taking medication for it and still feel the pain and limitation, if you feel there is no hope, think again. Contact me and let me see what is going on. You are the Designer and the Director of your own life so design and direct it the way you wish to live it.