Chances are we all either know someone who has neuropathy or we have it ourselves. There are a number of different things you can do for neuropathy, but there are so many conflicting things you hear on the internet about what to do. Listed below are the top 5 frequently asked questions we, as physical therapists, get asked the most.
- What is the difference between mononeuropathy and polyneuropathy?
- Mononeuropathies tend to be caused by physical injury as they affect only one peripheral nerve root. For example, carpal tunnel is a mononeuropathy caused by repetitive stress or injury to the median nerve in the wrist. Car accidents, serious falls, and sports injuries may also cause physical damage to a single nerve root. Polyneuropathies occur when there is damage to multiple nerves throughout the body typically from acquired diseases, diabetes being the primary cause of mononeuropathy. Other things that can cause mononeuropathy include autoimmune disorders, genetic disorders, cancer treatment, infections, alcohol and other toxin exposure, and nutritional imbalances as they will affect the body systemically rather than in one specific area.
- What treatments are available for neuropathy?
- While there is no formal cure for neuropathy it is important to find an effective option to help control pain and allow for a higher quality of life. Physical therapy is a great option to improve strength, flexibility, and improve coordination to allow you to continue to remain active and moving well into older age. Other options can include topical pain relieving creams and pharmaceutical medicines to reduce nerve symptoms. Nerve block procedures may also be considered with your doctor if other methods aren’t proving effective. There is some preliminary evidence for the use of laser or light therapy to help with neuropathic symptoms and different dietary strategies and vitamin combinations may also help reduce symptoms as well.
- What about pre-diabetes, can that cause neuropathy?
- Pre-diabetes affects around 1 in 3 Americans currently and most have no symptoms/don’t even know they have it. While it does not always progress to diagnosed diabetes it frequently does and can contribute to health issues including neuropathy. Luckily if found and addressed it can be quickly reversed with proper dietary and exercises/lifestyle modifications. Even if you have progressed to type II diabetes, adopting a healthy lifestyle has allowed many people to reverse the course of the disease by improving their blood sugar control, exercising regularly, and making positive lifestyle changes such as good sleep, stress reduction, and social connection.
- Since I have poor sensation in my feet will exercise cause more damage?
- No, exercise is an important factor in improving your neuropathy symptoms! If you have reduced sensation in your feet and lower legs you should definitely perform frequent skin checks as discussed earlier in the guide. Numerous studies have shown improvements in a number of different neuropathy symptoms with regular aerobic exercise and strength training activities to improve quality of life. Some longer studies have even shown positive changes in nerve conduction, nerve regrowth, and improved vascular function with aerobic activity.
- What will happen if I don’t get treatment for my neuropathy?
- Diabetic neuropathy and vascular disease is the primary cause of amputation in the country. Left untreated, neuropathy will possibly progress to the point of requiring limb amputations due to loss of nerve function and damage to blood vessels. With treatment, the earlier the better, you can halt the progression of symptoms and even see improvement, if not reversal, if caught early enough.
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