A patient I have not seen in a few years called me concerning a diagnosis he received of neuropathy after experiencing numbness in his feet. The term neuropathy according to Wikipedia means ” damage to or disease affecting nerves, which may impair sensation, movement, gland or organ function, or other aspects of health, depending on the type of nerve affected.” Basically, the term peripheral neuropathy is a very vague diagnosis describing problems in the nerves that are away from the spine.
The term itself has been used by mass marketers to advertise cures and treatments, both in newspapers using full page ads or on the internet. The ads usually mention, the symptoms, their solution and how they can cure the problem with their unique technologies. Where the care goes from there is of course practitioner dependent.
Peripheral Neuropathy can be caused by diabetes, and numerous other diseases that are relatively rare. In the majority of the cases, the peripheral neuropathy symptoms are generally caused by a nerve entrapments in the fascia and connective tissue resulting in the numbness or other symptoms. Since the scarier diagnosis is least likely to happen, getting the best person to help usually does not mean seeing a neurologist, who will run a gamut of expensive and often uncomfortable tests that come back negative. Seeing someone who understands body mechanics, rehabilitation and the mechanisms behind why you are experiencing numbness is most likely the right person to help you get relief fast.
Often, people are scared because perhaps someone in their family may have had what seemed like a similar experience or symptom. Inherited body traits can give us similar problems to parents, aunts and uncles since we come from the same family gene pool and not only look like them, but walk like them too.
Rarely, does the conversation of body mechanics develop when discussing neuropathy, yet, most neuropathies leading to numbness in some or multiple parts of the body are due to body asymmetry and gait problems that are inherited.
In the case of my patient, he has severely flat feet, with asymmetry which will cause pelvic torsion, upper body torsion and alterations on how he walks and moves his body as a secondary manifestation. Generally, this can lead to numbness in the feet and even the arms, as the body tries to compensate for the poor body mechanics, and the legs tighten over time. In the book, Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain, it discusses the idea of how the body will adapt to its body mechanics and how something as simple as a foot orthotic can level the pelvis and change the rules of the game for patients who are asymmetrically built. Just leveling the pelvis will help the core work better and more effectively, often relieving feelings of numbness in the hands and feet.
The mechanism by where the numbness comes from can be complex, so your healthcare provider needs to look at you from the feet up to get a much better understanding of why you feel this way. Through a process of elimination, carefully resolving nerve entrapments by hand that may be causing numbness is the most efficient way of resolving problems that affect the peripheral nerves in the soft tissues of the legs and arms. Common places of entrapment may include the toes (Morton’s neuroma), back of the knees (popliteal nerve), piraformis muscle in the buttock (sciatic nerve), and in the upper back, forearms and under the armpit and under the pectoralis minor as well as in the hands and wrists.
Treat- test – treat active treatment and evaluation protocols are a scientifically proven method of evaluating and restoring function. Feeling around for adhesions in the arms or legs or feet can be an effective way to resolve the neuropathy as well as checking for poor firing patterns and poorly coordinate muscular system, something active evaluation methods excels at.
While working by hand is the most effective method, some healthcare practitioners have had varying success using cold laser and other methods as well.
Typically, most neuropathies will resolve more quickly (less than 10 visits) through the use of manual methods of the soft tissues as well as joint manipulation. Patients who have other mechanical problems that have become chronic may take longer to treat, since they may have other functional problems due to the length of time the problems existed that are secondary to the original problem causing the neuropathy.
You should be suspicious if the treatment is taking too long without a rational reason as to why. Also, if the same treatment is used over and over, doing the same thing every time, what are they treating and why? In most cases, problem areas should change from visit to visit and changes in the function of the body part should be noticeable from visit to visit.
Peripheral neuropathy is not as scary as the name sounds, and with the right healthcare practitioner, most resolve relatively quickly. Considering most neuropathies of this sort are mechanical in nature, a mechanical solution offers the best likelihood of treatment success. Chiropractic doctors who have been trained in myofascial release, active release treatment or Graston technique are often a great place to start to get great advice, excellent care and a good result, helping you avoid unnecessary testing. If the problem is more involved or is a more life threatening problem, your chiropractor will refer you to someone who can help you better than they can. Seeing a chiropractor first can avoid unnecessary expenses and tests that may not be helpful or necessary to properly understand and diagnose the problem.