Do you are a loved one struggle with peripheral neuropathy? If so, you are not alone! Unfortunately, it is a common condition affecting 10% of middle-aged adults and nearly 40% of people over the age of 70. It is a complex and poorly understood disease in which the body’s peripheral nerves gradually deteriorate. Symptoms range from mild tingling and numbness to severe throbbing, stabbing and burning pain. As peripheral neuropathy progresses it leads to muscle weakness and impaired sensation which increase the risk of falling and foot ulcerations. The good news is that alternative therapies can play a helpful role in the management of this painful condition!
While any peripheral nerve may be involved, the nerves that go to your feet are most often affected. Part of the reason is because they are so long. A single nerve that leaves your spinal cord and travels to the bottom of your foot can be over 3 feet in length. Providing nutrition and metabolic support to such a long structure can be difficult for your body even when its healthy. Certain health conditions and medications make it very hard for your body to correctly care for these peripheral nerves.
The greatest risk factor for developing peripheral neuropathy is diabetes. Other common causes include autoimmune disorders, alcoholism, kidney disease, exposure to toxins, vitamin deficiencies, certain medications and chemotherapy drugs. Medications for peripheral neuropathy remain relatively ineffective. Fortunately, research is showing promising results managing symptoms with exercise, nerve glide stretches, vibration therapy, textured insoles and nutrition.
Exercise has been shown to significantly reduce pain and nerve symptoms and increase the number of nerve fibers in the skin. Exercise can also delay both the onset and progression of both diabetes and diabetes-related peripheral neuropathies. A combination of aerobic and strength training produces the best results. A typical program for peripheral neuropathy would be done 3 x week and would include balance training, strengthening of the feet and legs and moderate cardiovascular exercise; such as, using the elliptical machine or stationary bike.
Gentle nerve glide stretches have also been shown to improve nerve function. Specific nerve glides performed briefly and frequently, 3 times a day for 10 minutes can reduce nerve pain and improve sensation. It does take a commitment from you, but a few small exercises can make a significant improvement in symptoms.
Vibration stimulus applied to the soles of the feet may be the most interesting technique to improve nerve activity. Performing 10-minute vibration sessions could be the easiest intervention you can do! Studies have shown a reduction in pain and improved nerve conduction in participants after a foot vibration trial. The great news is that local vibration can be applied with inexpensive home massage units.
One of the biggest problems with peripheral neuropathy is impaired sensation along the bottom of the feet. Even a slight reduction in sensation can greatly increase the risk of falling or developing foot ulcerations. If you have decreased feeling in your feet consider wearing textured insoles. These insoles have special elevations that amplify sensation (like a hearing aid amplifies sound). The nice thing about textured insoles is that they are inexpensive and you know immediately if they will be helpful. As soon as you put them in your shoes, you should notice an improvement in balance.
Multiple treatments offered at our clinic are beneficial for neuropathy. We combine dry needling, myofascial release and nerve glides. Dry needling produces small injuries that your body heals with stems cells and other substances that help to heal the nerve entrapment sites. Myofascial techniques release adhesions the nerves can form along the paths they travel. Nerve glides, also known as nerve flossing, moves nerves in ways that help free them from entrapped areas. Nerve flossing is largely a self-treatment.
It is clear that alternative therapies can play an important role in the management of peripheral neuropathy. Exercise, vibration therapy, textured insoles, myofascial release and dry needling are safe and effective. These techniques can reduce pain, enhance balance and improve the overall quality of life for people with peripheral neuropathy. Please contact Advanced Healthcare and Sports Injury for help setting up the right treatment program for you! Always consult Dr. Iodice or your physician before making any changes to your medical program.

Reference:  Michaud, Tom. Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy: Why Alternative Therapies Are Finally Getting the Attention They Deserve.