Are Your Nerves Shot?
Roughly 30% of the American population will experience peripheral neuropathy, but sometimes it can be avoided. While there are no definite ways of doing so, cutting out some bad habits can go a long way. Prevention is the only way to stave off this disease, as cures are unreliable. One of the few treatments is peripheral neuropathy treatment.
The Five Types of Neuropathies
While peripheral is the most common, there are four other neuropathies. Of these variations, it’s believed 20 million American citizens are currently living through one of them. Worldwide, this affects 2.4% of the population under 55 years old and swells to 8% in those 55 and older. The percentage rises to 70% in diabetics.
Clarity comes when we break it down into three parts: peripheral (beyond the brain), neuro (nerves), and pathy (disease). These diseases can affect any nerve located outside the purview of your brain. Nerves from your face to your foot are all peripheral. Human brains have no pain receptors, yet headaches can still be agonizing.
A compromised peripheral nervous system is the sole source of this ailment. Think of this system as the communications department of your body. Its main job is to translate signals and messages passed to and from the central nervous system and all other parts of the body. No communication happens without a peripheral nervous system.
How Peripheral Neuropathy Can Affect Your Nerves
Peripheral neuropathy is the condition where the nerves that fire pain and sensory signals to your brain malfunction. Two types of glitches can occur: false signals communicated to the insula and anterior cingulate cortex, or no signals are transmitted at all. Those brain sectors (cortexes) are activated when nociceptors (pain receptors) detect agony.
Ranking as the second most common of the five, this variant affects the nerves in your lower body. Chiefly, the nerves under its influence are those in the hips, thighs, and glutes. Similar to sciatica, it can affect one side of the body but can migrate into both sides.
While contained in your cranium (skull), these nerves do not attach directly to the brain. Instead, these connect to the brainstem. Brainstems are the posterior stalk or shaft portion of the brain that connect the cerebrum and the spinal cord. By far, the most localized, corresponding nerves are relegated to just the eyes and face. This can take the form of:
- Bell’s Palsy
- Microvascular cranial nerve palsy
- Multiple cranial neuropathies (MCN)
- Third, fourth, or sixth nerve palsy
You’re experiencing this form of neuropathy if you damaged the nerves in your involuntary (autonomic) system. These are located within the heart, sweat glands, bowel/bladder, sex organs, circulatory system, and digestion system.
By far the rarest and saddest variation of the disease, this disproportionately affects diabetics at a higher clip. Contained to those aged 40 and over, this isn’t a ubiquitous form. It’s the most lethal, as those diagnosed with this have a life expectancy of only 5-10 years.
Only slightly more common than autonomic neuropathy, this variant has just one damaged peripheral nerve. It is commonly associated with damaged nerves of the carpus (wrist), foot, and thigh. It may also affect your chest, back, or even eye muscles. Like the others, this targets those with diabetes more than others.
Potential Causes and Treatments of Neuropathy
The potential causes of frayed nerves are widespread, stemming from lifestyle habits to genetics, depending on the case. Even though there’s an assortment of neuropathies, there are even more potential causes:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Systemic illness
- Autoimmune disease
- Bone marrow issues
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Many more
Clocking in as one of the most common causes is the lack of exercise. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), up to 85% of the world’s population leads a sedentary lifestyle. Each generation becomes more and more inactive, just as foretold by the kid’s movie WALL-E.
As society advances, the percentage of sedentary time increases. Sedentary refers to time spend idle (sitting or lying down). As the years progress, new technology comes out that can turn athletes into couch potatoes.
Those at risk the most are office workers and the elderly. Why? Office workers spend 40 or more hours a week sitting in a chair, then factor in time spent eating, commuting, watching TV, or gaming, and the time spent on your rear increases.
Most of the world is at “high risk” or “medium risk” of neuropathy development as we tend to sit for more than eight hours a day. An abysmal percentage of the world’s population adheres to guidelines and spends less than four hours a day sitting.
Cells slow down, malfunction, or completely stop all functionality depending on the state of proteins. Only if the proteins are produced in appropriate amounts and are unaltered do the cells usually perform. Any deviation in them and can render them inoperable or less efficient.
To understand generational inheritance, reimagine your family genes as blueprints. Genes aren’t passed down equally. We aren’t a 50/50 byproduct of both parents. Instead, we are more of our mother’s child than our father’s.
All it takes for us to develop the family illness is for it to be dominant. If it’s recessive, while it’s still passed on, it won’t awake or activate. However, if a recessive gene pairs with another, it has a chance to become dominant.
You can adjust several things in your life to better position yourself from developing one of these conditions. However, much like the diseases themselves, some risk factors are also inherited. Here is a list of all known risk factors:
- Poorly controlled sugar levels (mainly associated with diabetics)
- Lyme disease
- Hepatitis B or C and HIV
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
- Liver, kidney, and thyroid disorders
- Certain toxins
- Repetitive motion
Alcohol is a massive risk factor for many adverse health disorders and conditions. Despite not being linked to a healthy diet, many people consume alcohol often. It can even lead to death. One reason for abuse is heredity.
Over time, excessive abuse can lead to alcoholic neuropathy. Like other forms, it manifests as unusual sensations in extremities, hampered mobility, and can result in a total loss of functionality in a given body part.
This ties into personal diets as many alcoholics struggle to maintain a balanced diet due to impairment. Did you know that alcohol impedes the body’s nutrient absorption rate? Both of these reasons are why alcoholics suffer the effects of neuropathy at roughly the same rate as diabetics.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Regardless of which type is affecting you, three nerve groups in your body are impacted by neuropathy. Sensory nerves connect to your skin, motor nerves attach to muscles, and autonomic nerves latch unto internal organs. Possible symptoms include:
- Arms or legs feeling heavy
- Obnoxious sweating
- Piercing pains
- Plugged bowels
- Tingling or numbness of hands or feet
- Decreased blood pressure
Treatment Options for Peripheral Neurology
Cures are only available in some instances, and those need to be caught very early on. Therefore, the only way to “treat” conditions is to alleviate symptoms and by targeting the source of pain.
Essentially, nerve damage is irreversible, and the effectiveness of treatment plans varies from person to person. However, the following are routes that patients can take, depending on what your doctor or neurologist think will be most beneficial:
- Pain medication
- Anti-seizure meds
Avoid Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medication
Your neurologist may prescribe you painkillers. However, painkillers are known to affect livers and kidneys adversely. Why risk further complications?
How Stretching Helps Alleviate Pain
It’s important to note that while stretching can aid in pain management, it isn’t a cure. Only a few forms of neurology are curable, and of those, the likelihood of total recovery lowers each day it isn’t treated. Early detection is key.
Four basic stretching exercises are known to help decrease discomfort and provide preventative measures. However, the required stretches are static, which can injure your muscles and complicate your condition further.
We recommend dynamic stretching beforehand. As opposed to the stretches that come after, you don’t hold these in place. Dynamic stretching is the key to safely exercising. By doing so, you can ease your muscles into activity while promoting blood flow while simultaneously improving flexibility. Both are vital to mitigating pain.
Common dynamic stretches include any of the following:
- Hip circles
- Leg pendulum
- Arm swings
- Spinal rotations
When performing these, don’t neglect your hamstrings. These muscles are often the tightest in your body, and by stretching them, you may relieve a lot of built-up tension in your back, thighs, and legs.
Tight hamstrings cause added stress on all parts of the body. For example, bending with tight hamstrings causes your lower back to round out instead of staying straight. When you round your lower back, you move it out of alignment, and this causes pain.
Taut hamstrings can also cause poor posture, including the slight rotation of your hips and pelvis. These muscles that are on the underside of our thighs are essential to good posture. Make sure to stretch these muscles frequently, regardless of if you have neuropathy or not.
Over time, neurology impacts your equilibrium and weakens your strength. The key to balance is strong core muscles, which you can easily obtain by regularly stretching. However, you’ll need to do these in conjunction with various others to ensure the best balance and mitigate as much pain as possible.
The major core muscles include the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae (sacrospinalis), longissimus thoracis, and the diaphragm. Any of these can become injured, so it is crucial to building these up early in life.
Types of stretches you can expect to do are:
- Seated side-straddle
- Chest opener (with exercise ball)
While not a form of stretching, aerobic exercise is vital to do as well as stretching. These are beneficial because they increase blood flow, warm up muscles and joints, and involve you being active. Remember, sitting will only make the pain worse. Simple things you can try are walking more, biking (traditional or elliptical), and even skating.
If you want to try stretching, remain cognizant that improper stretching leads to injury. Even professional athletes find themselves in pain from time to time doing the easiest of stretches. This is why athletes such as Drew Brees trust in the process, as he’s opening multiple facilities in Lousiana.
Muscles and joints both have ranges of motion, and overextension is a surefire way to cause damage. It’s normal to feel resistance, but overdoing it can tear a muscle or tissue. While unlikely to tear the muscle right away, repeated over-stretching leads to more microtears, which can deepen.
The more tears in the muscles, the weaker they become. Nothing weakens muscles more than shrinkage and overextension. The best-case scenario is that you stop in time and allow the muscle time to heal.
In the unfortunate scenario of repeated hyperextensions, you can cause instability in your muscles and joints. Instability leads to lowered physical ability. However, our stretch practitioners are muscle and joint experts, and when they stretch you, it limits the chance of these adverse side effects.
What Happens When Neuropathy Isn’t Treated?
Long-term effects of peripheral neuropathy, or other variations, are dependent upon leading factors that cause the condition. In addition, even the afflicted nerve has sway in long-term effects. This is why treatment of your disease and its symptoms are so important.
In extreme scenarios, you may grow ulcers. For example, a foot ulcer can become infected over time. As the infection worsens, the surrounding area can become gangrenous.
Gangrene is the death of tissue due to a lack of blood flowing through the gangrenous extremity. Commonly associated with arms and legs, it can develop in your toes and fingers. Stretching when you have the time can significantly reduce this outcome.
Ready for Quality Peripheral Neuropathy Treatment?
Book your assisted stretching session today for much-needed neuropathy pain relief!