Neuropathy is a disease of the nerves that causes pain and or numbness or a tingling sensation usually in the feet and or hands. Neuropathy is most commonly associated with diabetes and is referred to as diabetic neuropathy. This type of neuropathy occurs as a result of the changes in glucose and insulin levels. Other types of neuropathy are idiopathic meaning we aren’t sure of the cause and polyneuropathy meaning it is occurring in more than place.
What causes neuropathy?
Neuropathy occurs when the nerves have been temporarily deprived of oxygen. One or any of the following things can cause a temporary lack of oxygen to the nerves:
- Pinched nerves: Nerves such as the sciatic nerve can become pinched by larger muscles causing a lack of blood flow to the nerves
- Inflammation: This often occurs when muscles have been strained or sprained as there is a lack of blood flow to the nerves
- Changes in blood glucose and insulin: When changes in the levels occur nerve cells can swell and scar which displaces oxygen
- Toxins: Such as agent Orange, cleaning solvents and other environmental toxins that have a lot of free radicals the make oxygen unusable
- Chemotherapy: that affects cancer and other fast growing or functioning cells like hair and nerves
- Trauma: Accidents that change the blood supply to the nerves including frostbite or prolonged standing on concrete
- Surgery; complications
- Drugs: Side effects that include changes in metabolism
- Excessive uses of alcohol or tobacco
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy:
- Pins and needles, burning, or tingling sensation in the feet or hands
- Numbness or a sense of heaviness
- Sharp pain or cramping that is often worse at night
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Muscle weakness as a result of disuse which leads to loss of balance and confidence
- Increased sensitivity to touch and temperature
Treatment of Neuropathy:
Following a thorough evaluation by a physical therapist a specific treatment program is designed in combination with the goals of the patient. Treatment goals include decreased pain, increased sensation, increased strength, ROM and improved balance for safe walking. Decreased pain and improved sensation are addressed through the use of Infrared light therapy. Research has shown infrared light increases the release of nitric oxide which improves circulation, increases sensation and promotes tissue healing.
Seabreeze therapy also utilizes the ReBuilder electrical stimulation which works to re-polarize and re-educate the nerves. Once the sensation improves and pain diminishes the patient is able to progress with strengthening and balance exercises enabling the patient to have an improved quality of life.