The Tragedy of Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy is a deeply frustrating, distressing condition for the millions of Americans who suffer with some form of it. Nerves are the medium of communication between your body and brain, as well as the mechanism by which muscles, glands, and various autonomic systems are controlled.
When nerves in your feet and legs are weakened or damaged, you might feel stabbing pain, or you might feel nothing at all—as in, total numbness. Muscle weakness, loss of balance, even digestive or blood pressure problems may arise depending on what kinds of nerves are affected.
Worse yet, the nature of nerve fibers—they’re very thin and require a lot of energy—inhibits their ability to self-heal after sustaining damage.
But the real tragedy isn’t the symptoms themselves. It’s the way that peripheral neuropathy gradually limits your lifestyle, taking away the things you love one by one. One day, you might discover you can no longer enjoy a nice hike or a long run the way you used to. As neuropathy gets worse, your inability to feel your feet could force you to stop driving—if you can’t feel the pedals, you can’t operate a vehicle safely. And that same numbness makes any vigorous activity exponentially more dangerous, since you wouldn’t necessarily be able to feel a major wound or injury until it was too late. And so, your activity decreases and your world gets smaller.
But does it have to be this way?
No! True, the medical profession still has a long way to go toward finding a true cure for peripheral neuropathy. However, new treatments—combined with healthy lifestyle choices and adaptive technologies—are making it much easier to manage and treat the condition, improve your symptoms, and help you to regain and maintain an active, healthy, full lifestyle.
Making Healthy, Safe Lifestyle Choices
If you have neuropathy, it’s critical that you stay as active as possible. Regular activity and physical fitness promote healthy circulation and make your body more nutritionally efficient, which helps limit the progression of nerve damage and keep symptoms to a minimum.
However, if your feet are already quite numb, certain exercises and activities can be dangerous—especially if your bones are weak, or you have poor circulation due to diabetes. That’s why you should generally concentrate on low-impact exercises.
Important note: If you have neuropathy, you should always check with us first before starting an exercise plan. While the information below represents what a typical case might look like, we want to be absolutely sure that your exercise plan will be safe and effective for your specific situation.
Walking—the easiest and most basic form of exercise—is nonetheless one of the very best for people with nerve damage in their feet. Walking puts much less stress on your lower limbs than running, while providing many of the same benefits. You should try to walk a minimum of three times per week for at least 30 minutes, but more if you are able.
If you’re looking for higher-intensity cardio, good substitutes typically include swimming, water aerobics, and biking. In fact, our webpage on the topic has a lot of good advice for safe cycling.
Seated exercises are a good choice since, obviously, you don’t have to worry about bearing weight. All you need is a sturdy chair (or exercise ball), a set of weights, and a couple of resistance bands. Mix up exercises that work on building strength as well as flexibility and range of motion.
Balance training is highly recommended for neuropathy sufferers, especially older adults who may also be more limited in terms of flexibility and muscle strength. This can substantially reduce your fall risk.
Beyond staying active, eating a healthy diet and managing underlying conditions (such as blood sugar levels) will be critical in helping you slow the progression of neuropathic damage.
You should also thoroughly examine your feet every day for sores, cuts, temperature fluctuations, or any signs of infection or injury. Problems that do not improve within a couple of days should be examined by our team.
Adapting Your Environment
Many tools are available to help enable healthy and safe activity with neuropathy. Some you wear, and some you install in your house or vehicle. You can find several examples below, though many more exist. Speak with the team at Absolute Foot Care Specialists, your general practitioner, and/or an occupational therapist about tools that can help you improve your activity and independence.
Be mindful of your footwear. The right pair of shoes—supported by an appropriate orthotic device—can make a huge difference. Many shoes can offer increased stability and balance features that can prevent you from wobbling and toppling. Plus, you’re going to want enough arch support and cushioning to protect your feet from accidental cuts, damage, and other injuries.
Other wearable tools that could improve your mobility and increase your safe activity level include compression stockings, braces, or a cane.
Installing grab bars, bath mats, bath chairs, and other similar tools in your home can allow you to maintain greater independence with everyday tasks like using the restroom, bathing, navigating stairs, etc.
If you can’t feel the pedals with your feet anymore, hand controls can be installed on almost any vehicle. You’ll have to be medically cleared to use them, and you’ll need to practice. But they’re fairly easy to learn and operate, and they won’t get in the way of standard controls—so others can still drive your car in the standard way.
Emerging Medical Treatments
Traditional peripheral neuropathy treatments have focused on symptom management via medication. In addition to standard oral and topical anti-inflammatories, other classes of medications (including anti-seizure and antidepressant meds) have proven somewhat effective. However, these treatments may induce side effects, and they also don’t really address the root causes of nerve pain, either.
A more aggressive (and effective) option would be combined electrochemical therapy (CECT). This treatment uses a two-pronged approach:
Local anesthetic blocks. This is performed using a low-dose, low-volume injection of a nutrient-infused anesthetic. This isn’t just for pain relief; the nutrients in the anesthetic enhance the effects of the second “prong” of treatment, multiplying its effectiveness.
Electrostimulation of the nerves, more properly known as electrical signal therapy (EST). This device sends a pulsed electrical current through the frayed and damaged nerve fibers, forcing them to “fire” repeatedly. This is an effective tool for pain relief, since the electric signals can temporarily overload the nerve’s signal processes and decrease them. But we’ve also seen strong evidence that this combination of electrical stimulation with chemical factors in the anesthetic block may trigger cellular regeneration and stimulate nerve regrowth, restoring a higher level of function on a much more permanent basis.
In other words, CECT represents one of the most promising recent advancements in peripheral neuropathy—one that shows effectiveness at healing and reversing the existing damage, rather than simply reducing the symptoms. Sessions typically take around half an hour, and a full treatment course ranges from around 8 to 16 sessions.
At around an 80% success rate for radically improving peripheral neuropathy symptoms, CECT is markedly better than previous forms of treatment. If neuropathy has taken away your ability to work, run, hike, or drive, it could very well enable your return to those once-abandoned sources of joy and independence.
So, what are you waiting for? You may have been told in the past that there was no hope for your neuropathy, but that’s just not true! If you’ve been suffering for years, there’s never been a better time to get help. Give the Absolute Foot Care Specialists in Las Vegas a call today at (702) 839-2010.