What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Think of peripheral neuropathy like static on a telephone line, both interrupt the sending of information. Peripheral neuropathy is a result of nerve damage in the peripheral nervous system; causing a disruption of information from the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body. Peripheral neuropathy can occur following traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, and exposure to toxins. Diabetes is a common cause of peripheral neuropathy. Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include muscle weakness, numbness, tingling sensations (paresthesia), loss of sensation, and pain in the feet and hands, and other parts of the body.
Peripheral neuropathy can affect motor nerves (muscle control), sensory nerves (sensations), or automatic nerves (those that control heart rate, breathing, or body temperature). In chronic forms of peripheral neuropathy symptoms develop subtly and progress slowly, many people even feel periods of relief from numbness and tingling in feet and hands, followed by relapses. In the most common forms of peripheral neuropathy, nerve fibers distanced further from the brain and spinal cord, like in the feet, malfunction first.
- Gradual numbness and tingling in hands and feet, which can spread up legs and arms
- Burning pain in the hands or feet
- Sharp, jabbing, or electric pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch, even light touch
- Skin, hair or nail changes
- Lack of coordination
- Muscle weakness, or paralysis
- Heat intolerance
- Bowel, bladder, or digestive problems
- Change in blood pressure, causing dizziness or lightheadedness
Common Treatments for Peripheral Neuropathy
There are no medical treatments that cure peripheral neuropathy, but there are many treatments that can control and limit the pain of peripheral neuropathy. Controlling the underlying cause of your peripheral neuropathy is one goal of treatment. Often if the underlying cause is corrected the peripheral neuropathy improves on its own. The other goal of treatment is relieving the painful symptoms.
- Some medications used to relieve peripheral neuropathy pain include: pain relievers (anti-inflammatory, and opioids), anti-seizure medications, immunosuppressive medications, capsaicin, lidocaine patch, and antidepressants.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) may help relieve symptoms. Adhesive electrodes are placed on the skin and gentle electric current is delivered through the electrodes at varying frequencies.
- Cold Laser Therapy my help peripheral neuropathy by using the energy of the light to heal the nerve tissue.
Adopting healthy living habits, maintaining weight, diet and exercise, correcting vitamin deficiencies, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption can reduce effects of peripheral neuropathy. Different types of exercise can reduce cramps, improve muscle strength, and prevent muscle deterioration in paralyzed limbs. Maintaining a healthy diet can improve gastrointestinal symptoms. Neuropathic symptoms can be intensified do to smoking constricting blood vessels supplying nutrients to peripheral nerves, so it’s important to quit.
How Can Spinal Cord Stimulation Help Peripheral Neuropathy?
When all conservative treatments fail, another option is Spinal Cord Stimulation. Spinal Cord stimulation is commonly referred to as Neuromodulation. The main courses of action for Spinal Cord Stimulation would be intercepting the pain signals that go to the brain, as well as increase blood flow to the area in pain. One of the major benefits to neuromodulation is the ability for patients to try the therapy device before anything is surgically implanted. During a trial period two small medical wires are placed under the skin in an area called the epidural space. After the procedure, as the patient you can control the level of stimulation and see if the stimulator controls your pain and improves your quality of life. After one to three weeks, you will be able to assess the level of pain control you receive and whether or not you would like to have the device permanently implanted.
At Arizona Neuromodulation Center, we have performed hundreds of Spinal Cord Stimulation implants with remarkable results in peripheral neuropathy patients. Some of the symptoms peripheral neuropathy patients describe experiencing are walking with rocks in their shoes, pins and needles in their hands, loss of mobility, and lack of coordination. Majority of neuropathy patients experience significant to complete elimination of all symptoms during their Spinal Cord Stimulation trial. Neuropathy is something millions of patients suffer with, trying multiple different treatments, many of which do not control their pain. The good news, neuromodulation could be the light at the end of the tunnel, and provide the solution to improve your quality of life.
Patients with Spinal Cord Stimulator implants rather than painful sensations, experience a gentle massaging sensation in the areas where they typically experienced pain. Some patients prefer to achieve pain relief without feeling the massaging sensation, sending slightly lower levels of energy to the pain area. Spinal Cord Stimulation increases blood flow to the painful area, improving skin’s color and awakening the feet. Simply put neuromodulation can help fix the underlying problem not just mask the pain.