Updated: May 31
If you have ever experienced the feeling of pins and needles, numbness, or a burning sensation in your feet because of damaged nerves, you probably have experienced neuropathy. Neuropathy can be triggered by many things and can be alarming, but there are pain management techniques that can help control symptoms and prevent further damage.
While it isn't common, neuropathy is treatable. If you are unfamiliar with the condition, this article will discuss the causes, symptoms, and New York pain management options of neuropathy.
What is neuropathy?
Neuropathy (also known as peripheral neuropathy) is a broad name indicating a diverse range of nerve impairments. The word neuropathy comes from the Greek words for "nerve" and "suffering," so it's easy to see why this condition can be so troubling.
It could be considered one of the most challenging conditions people face in NYC today. While some patients may not experience any symptoms, others can be overwhelmed with fatigue and pain. It can lead to people seeking pain management treatment for neuropathy to improve their quality of life and reduce pain.
Neuropathy is a condition of the peripheral nerves, as opposed to the central nervous system, which is responsible for coordinating movement and other critical bodily functions. It can affect every type of nerve in the body, but it most commonly affects nerves in the arms, legs, or hands. It can occur at any age; however, it is more common in older age.
Neuropathies are classified as acute and chronic. Acute neuropathies result in pain, numbness and restricted movement. Chronic neuropathy is initiated with pain and numbness in a localized area of the body. It can progress to weakness, impaired mobility, muscle atrophy, and peripheral neuropathy.
Neuropathy is when nerve damage occurs due to hereditary causes, alcohol abuse, diabetes, and immune system deficiencies. There may also be cases wherein there is no clear evidence of a primary cause of neuropathy. However, at times, there can be a sign of a viral infection that triggers the nervous system.
If a person does not get treatment, it can lead to a stroke or permanent paralysis. Therefore, obtaining professional help is paramount as it will give you relief and assist in coming up with an in-depth and effective pain management plan for neuropathy.
What causes neuropathy?
When most people hear the word "peripheral neuropathy," they think of diabetic neuropathy. But, in fact, peripheral neuropathies can have many causes other than diabetes. The causes of neuropathy may be traumatic, related to lifestyle, or it may be inherited.
Neuropathy may be caused by a number of different diseases or conditions. These include:
Injury to the nerve (traumatic neuropathy)
Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis
Certain medications (such as chemotherapy drugs)
Heavy metal poisoning (for example, lead or arsenic)
Vitamin B12 deficiency
What are the symptoms of neuropathy?
The most common symptom of neuropathy is pain. The pain may be a burning sensation or aching, or it may feel like an electric shock or like your foot is asleep. You may also feel numbness, tingling, or other unusual sensations in your hands and feet. It can be hard to know if you have neuropathy.
Neuropathy is more common as you get older. In most cases, it isn't serious and can be treated. Sometimes the symptoms are so mild that you don't even notice them. Other times, they can be so severe that they affect your ability to work, sleep and enjoy life. Consult a pain management specialist as soon as you experience nerve pain.
Other symptoms may include:
Numbness or pain in the hands or feet
Tingling, burning, or prickling sensations
Muscle weakness or paralysis
Frequent muscle cramps
Changes in skin color (for example, pale or blue)
Dry skin and hair loss
How is peripheral neuropathy treated?
In some cases, nerve damage can't be fixed. But treatments can help keep your condition under control so that it doesn't get worse over time. The primary goal of neuropathy treatment is to reduce pain and other symptoms.
So the first step is to identify the underlying cause of the symptoms. Once the cause is identified, physicians can prescribe pain management strategies that target specific nerve damage.
Depending on the cause, other treatments may be needed. For example, if you have diabetic neuropathy, your doctor will probably recommend that you control your diabetes with proper diet, exercise, and medication. If another medical condition is causing your neuropathy (such as lupus), treating that condition may improve your symptoms.
You may also need non-invasive pain management techniques like physical therapy to reduce pain or correct muscle weakness related to peripheral neuropathy. In addition, your pain doctor might suggest acupuncture as an alternative treatment for some types of neuropathy.
Treatment may include:
Exercise. Exercising three to four times a week can help improve circulation, reduce muscle spasms, and keep your joints flexible. In addition, a pain management specialist may recommend certain types of exercise depending on which part of your body is affected by neuropathy.
Stress management. Techniques such as meditation or yoga may also help reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality — two factors that can contribute to neuropathy symptoms worsening over time.
Lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight if you're overweight, improving your diet, increasing physical activity, avoiding tobacco products, avoiding alcoholic beverages if you consume alcohol regularly, quitting smoking if you smoke cigarettes, and controlling diabetes through diet and exercise.
Nerve blocks. In a nerve block procedure, a health care provider injects anesthetic medication into a specific set of nerves to numb the area and temporarily relieve pain. Nerve blocks are often done for severe pain that does not respond to other treatments.
Botulinum toxin type A (Botox). Botulinum toxin type B is also used to treat certain types of muscle spasms in people with peripheral neuropathy, although it's not as effective as botulinum toxin type A.
Therapy. Therapies can help prevent further nerve damage or manage complications such as foot ulcers. These include physical therapy, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation.
Neuropathy continues to be one of the most common causes of chronic pain. Because these issues tend to be complex and treatment can be exhaustive, it is important to know your pain management options so that you can take an active role in determining what solutions are best for you.
Whether your neuropathy is caused by diabetes, alcoholism, or cancer treatment (or something else), your symptoms can be managed and improved with a comprehensive approach that is customized to your specific needs.
Using multiple pain management techniques, a neuropathy sufferer can find relief from the pain caused by neuropathy. It is important to remember that all of the techniques described above can be used in conjunction with each other and not as single treatments for neuropathy. The combination of all of these techniques will result in a powerful synergistic effect that could assist patients in gaining their life back from neuropathy.
Awareness of neuropathy and its symptoms is the first step toward treatment. Ways to control neuropathy pain effectively include improving blood flow, peripheral nerve stimulation, lifestyle changes, and medications. I hope this post will help people you get more information about this condition and what treatments you can take to reduce the pain and improve your quality of life.