Neuropathy or peripheral neuropathy… what is it?
Peripheral neuropathy often referred to as just ‘neuropathy’ is a relatively common ailment, it is an umbrella term used to describe a list of common symptoms but there are many underlying causes.
The Mayo clinic lists the signs of symptoms as including:
- Gradual onset of numbness, prickling or tingling in your feet or hands, which can spread upward into your legs and arms
- Sharp, jabbing, throbbing, freezing or burning pain
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Lack of coordination and falling
- Muscle weakness or paralysis if motor nerves are affected
If autonomic nerves are affected, signs and symptoms might include:
- Heat intolerance and altered sweating
- Bowel, bladder or digestive problems
- Changes in blood pressure, causing dizziness or lightheadedness
Peripheral neuropathy can affect one nerve (mononeuropathy), two or more nerves in different areas (multiple mononeuropathy) or many nerves (polyneuropathy).
Carpal tunnel syndrome is an example of mononeuropathy. Most people with peripheral neuropathy have polyneuropathy.
Pain from peripheral neuropathy can cause those who live with it to wake intermittently during the night with stabbing pains or or electrical sensations, therefore adding loss of quality sleep to their list of ailments.
Older people are more prone to neuropathy in feet and legs, it is thought that it can contribute to falling incidents because of poor sensation of feet and legs.
What causes neuropathy?
There are many underlying causes including:
- diabetes – too much sugar or too little blood sugar can cause nerve cell damage
- chemotherapy often results in neuropathy, in particular from toxin buildup but also because chemotherapy acts by attacking fast growing cells including the cells of the hands and feet
- some infections, particularly viral infections can lead to nerve damage
- toxin buildup – for example heavy metals
- inflammation – for example an inflamed thyroid (goitre) can lead to carpel tunnel syndrome
- other underlying causes of neuropathy include deficiencies – in particular magnesium, vitamin D and some of the B vitamins. Further reading on deficiencies and toxins that may result in neuropathy here.
Conditions that have a high incidence of peripheral neuropathy include multiple sclerosis (MS) and motor neurone disease (MND) but a diagnosis of neuropathy does not mean that you have MS or MND.
Can reflexology help?
Improved circulation is one of the many benefits of reflexology, anything that improves circulating blood with oxygen and nutrients can only help the body to heal. In the right circumstances your body’s default is to heal itself.
Reflexology stimulates the nerves in the body, in particular the nerves in the feet and legs. This combined with improved circulating blood with nutrients and oxygen may in the right circumstances help the nerves of the feet and hands to regenerate.
Reflexology helps to relax muscles of feet and hands and the body and this in turn may help to reduce the incidence of trapped nerves.
Improved circulation helps to remove toxins and reduce stagnation which may result from metabolic disease or chemotherapy.
In a small study comparing the effect of reflexology on diabetic neuropathy, reflexology was found to have a statistically significant reduction in symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. For the full research text click here
I work at a local hospice near Tunbridge Wells once a week, several of the day patients clients who have had a diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy have noticed an overall reduction in pain and in particular night time pains after several weekly sessions of reflexology with me, some have noticed an improvement after only one session.
Is reflexology suitable for me?
Reflexology is a safe, non-invasive complementary therapy that is suitable for people of all ages. It may result in lower blood sugar which can be an issue for diabetics with uncontrolled blood sugar levels. If in any doubt please check with your GP before booking an appointment for reflexology.
What else can I do?
Drink more water – important for removal of toxins as well as nerve function.
Eat a balanced diet rich in magnesium rich foods (especially leafy green vegetables a form more easily assimilated by the body)
Make sure that your diet is rich in B vitamins – especially B12, check your B6 levels (neuropathy can result from too much B6 as well as too little), check your vitamin D levels.
It may be worth speaking to a good osteopath to discuss the possibility of misalignment leading to a trapped nerve or trapped nerves.