How Living With Peripheral Neuropathy Feels Like For Patients

by Will Bozeman

If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, you are probably familiar with the term “peripheral neuropathy”. It may have been mentioned by your doctor, a friend or family member suffering from the condition, or heard from a pharma ad. However, until you experience life with peripheral neuropathy, you may not anticipate the ups and downs the condition presents. For those experiencing the condition of peripheral neuropathy for the first time, what can you expect? When and how will things become manageable? And where can you find lasting relief from the pain?

Most Common Negative Impact: Lack Of Sleep

When questioning patients with peripheral neuropathy, one of the most common complaints is the lack of sleep from the constant tingling pain in the fingers and toes. While this is one of the most common side effects of neuropathy, it is also one of the highest recurring, and unfortunately, you can expect even worse albeit intermittent side effects. 

Patients who struggle with falling asleep because of the tingling may turn to sleep pills or aids and painkillers like ibuprofen which can be habit-forming, addictive, and potentially dangerous. Over time, the lack of sleep has caused many patients to feel “hopeless” about their condition. Many patients claim that the constant irritating pain made them depend on pain medication and sleep aids that they would rather leave alone.

Other Negative Effect: Loss Of Balance

The second non-pain side effect of peripheral neuropathy is a loss of balance. Because of the nerve damage that sets in from the condition of peripheral neuropathy, a loss of feeling is common, and patients report that the ensuing numbness can cause them to lose balance. 

One patient from Glendale, Arizona told us about a time when the numbness was so bad that he lost his balance. Because of his age, his fall resulted in hospitalization. Hospitalizations related to falls due to peripheral neuropathy are actually a common cause of hospitalized falls. 

This patient also told us that he uses a cane around the house, “just in case the numbness creeps up” on him. It’s not just the pain or tingling but the numbness that can result in something even more dangerous like a fall, broken bones, and hospitalization. So, while younger patients experiencing the painful conditions of peripheral neuropathy may not find a loss of balance too serious, an increase in age increases the risk associated which is why it is a more serious side effect of peripheral neuropathy.

Coping With Peripheral Neuropathy

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are often not immediately outwardly noticeable, which makes this condition an “invisible illness”. Undeniably, this makes diagnosing and treating peripheral neuropathy a challenge – but it does not make the symptoms you are experiencing any less real. 

Nerve damage is a degenerative disease that may begin with mild discomfort and numbness. But, over time, the symptoms of this condition can progress into disabling pain, abnormal sensations, and extreme fatigue, which can impact all aspects of your life.

That’s why, if you have neuropathy, it is invaluable to learn about the coping strategies available and use them to manage the emotional, physical, and psychological challenges that arise when living with neuropathy. 

Below, we’ll look at the complications of peripheral neuropathy and at how you can effectively address them.

Physical Challenges

One of the first symptoms of peripheral neuropathy is mild pain and numbness in the hands and fingers. But for how minor, these symptoms should not be left unaddressed. 

Indeed, peripheral neuropathy is a condition that progresses with time and is length-dependent. According to the dying-back principle, the nerves that are the longest and farthest from the spinal cord – the ones in the fingers and toes – are the first ones to be affected. This is due to the body’s attempt to protect more important nerves closer to vital organs. 

If untreated, neuropathy can degenerate into a severe condition that prevents important nerve signals from reaching the brain. Over time, the symptoms may grow in intensity, which can lead to complications such as the following:

  • Severe numbness (often localized in the hands, feet, fingers, and toes): The inability to feel touch or pain can cause minor wounds to become infected, which can lead to gangrene and ulcers. If you are unable to feel temperature, you may also damage parts of the body by inadvertently exposing them to extreme heat or cold. 
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch: Damaged sensory nerves can misfire and cause you to experience extreme pain in response to stimuli that should only be mildly uncomfortable (hyperesthesia). Peripheral neuropathy can also cause allodynia, a condition that causes you to feel pain when performing actions that should be painless, such as brushing your teeth. 
  • Loss of coordination and balance: Damage to motor and sensory nerves can impact the brain’s ability to process signals relating to your body’s position in the surrounding space. This, coupled with numbness and involuntary muscle movements, can put you at greater risk of falls and accidents. 
  • Muscle shrinking: If motor nerves are affected, you may experience numbness and involuntary muscle movements like cramps and spasms. The inability to control your muscles as you normally do may lead to underuse which, in time, translates into muscle weakness and shrinking
  • Impaired bodily functions: When autonomic nerves are damaged, nerve signals relating to bodily functions are unable to reach the brain, which puts you at risk of heartbeat irregularities, loss of bladder and bowel control, and digestive issues.

These symptoms alone are certainly debilitating, but the complications they lead to can be even more impactful. For example, extreme sensitivity to touch may cause you to feel pain at the lightest touch and prevent you from falling and staying asleep.

This can impact your interpersonal and professional relationships, and lead to extreme fatigue, loss of productivity, and inability to concentrate. Studies have shown that nearly 70% of those with neuropathy also deal with sleep deprivation and disturbances.

Emotional Difficulties

Living with neuropathy can have a profound impact on your psychological and emotional health. The pain, discomfort, and numbness can cause you to miss days at work, withdraw from social activities, and impact intimate relationships. 

Dealing with neuropathy can also have significant financial consequences, which can lead to money-related stress and anxiety. As highlighted by a 2019 study, up to 43% of patients with neuropathy report that their employment status is affected by their condition. Additionally, nerve damage can cause employees to miss an average of 5.5 days of work a month due to pain. 

What’s more, progressive isolation, coupled with feelings of helplessness, can lead to mental health disorders. According to a 2020 study, 65% of people with neuropathy also suffer from depression, while 73% have an anxiety disorder diagnosis. 

However, having neuropathy does not have to be a condemnation of living with mental health conditions. Modifying your lifestyle, surrounding yourself with friends and family members, and educating yourself about treatments for neuropathy can help. Let’s look at the coping strategies you should know about below.

Support Systems

While receiving a diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy can be life-changing, it is important to remember that you are not alone in this. 

Firstly, sharing your concerns and decisions about the best line of treatment with your loved ones can help you accept your condition and make the necessary lifestyle adjustments. Sharing your responsibilities – such as paying the bills or keeping the home tidy – can also help you focus on your health and slow down the progression of the disease. 

The loved ones of someone with neuropathy play an important role in preventing complications such as mental health disorders and falls. For example, keeping company with a person with nerve damage, supporting their treatment, helping them stay active, and massaging their hands and feet can ease the symptoms of neuropathy and improve their quality of life. 

Beyond friends and family members, you should also consider expanding your support circle to caregivers and specialists. Caregivers can help you take care of daily activities, improve home safety, prepare nutritious and balanced meals, and care for wounds that are not healing. 

On the other hand, physical and occupational therapists, as well as mental health professionals, can help you adjust your lifestyle to ease your symptoms, deliver balance and strength training to prevent falls and cope with the psychological challenges that come from living with neuropathy.

Coping Strategies

Although not all symptoms of neuropathy are curable, there are some coping strategies that can help you ease pain and regain your body’s functions. The following complementary strategies can be useful to ease anxiety and stress, reduce muscle tension, and relieve complications such as sleep disturbances. 

  • Massage therapy: Massages can trigger the release of the body’s natural painkillers, endorphins. They can also relax the muscles in the hands and feet and ease pain. 
  • Relaxation techniques: some relaxation techniques may be useful to lower stress and cortisol levels, which contribute to inflammation and pain. These include meditation, body scans, breathing exercises, and mind-body activities such as yoga. 
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture may support the blood flow in the areas affected by neuropathy and stimulate the nerve pathways in the area affected by nerve damage. This translates into better nerve conductivity and signaling, which improves sensory, motor, and autonomic functions. 
  • Support groups: Finding support from others struggling with nerve pain can help you learn more about coping strategies and existing treatment options. Additional support groups offer a safe space to establish new social connections and voice your concerns and grievances. 

If you are unsure about what coping strategies to rely on, consulting your healthcare provider can help you better understand your options.

Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle

Your lifestyle profoundly impacts how you cope with neuropathy. 

Firstly, nerve damage may be caused by imbalances in your diet, vitamin deficiencies, and conditions that prevent you from absorbing essential nutrients (i.e.: celiac disease). Addressing these risk factors with a change in your diet can prevent neuropathy from developing further. 

Additionally, maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle can help you prevent the most severe complications of nerve damage and boost your body’s functions. 

Below, we’ll look at how to adjust your lifestyle to improve the symptoms of neuropathy:

  • Focus on your diet: A nutritious and balanced diet can help you prevent conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and nutritional deficiencies, all of which are significant risk factors for neuropathy. What’s more, eating for energy can help you counteract the feelings of fatigue often associated with nerve pain. 
  • Make exercise part of your routine: An active lifestyle and regular physical activity can strengthen your muscles and counteract the effect of motor nerve damage. What’s more, moving your body can boost blood circulation and trigger the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. 
  • Improve your bedtime routine: If your nerve pain or extreme sensitivity to touch is preventing you from getting enough quality sleep, consider improving your bedtime routine. Start by sleeping in a dark room, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, and staying away from light-emitting devices. You may also consider the benefits of supplementing your diet with melatonin supplements and practicing relaxation techniques before going to bed. 
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco: Alcohol and nicotine are neurotoxic compounds. Exposure to these chemicals can aggravate the damage to nerves and cause the degeneration of the myelin, the nerves’ protective sheath. 
  • Focus on personal care: A structured personal care routine can help you avoid some of the most severe complications of neuropathy. For example, massaging your hands daily may improve nerve conductivity, improve circulation, and reduce pain. Additionally, inspecting your hands and feet for wounds daily may help you avoid infections and ulcers. 

Working with a specialized lifestyle counselor can help you better understand how to adjust your lifestyle to cope with the symptoms, challenges, and complications of neuropathy.

A Long-Term Pain Solution For Peripheral Neuropathy

Regardless of the physical and emotional difficulties, and the severity of side effects of living with peripheral neuropathy from lack of sleep to an imperceptible danger of falling, patients are looking for an answer to treat their pain and give them the hope they need to live with the highs and lows of this condition. 

From dependency on prescriptions to expensive and dangerous surgery, patients are met with a litany of solutions that only seem to produce temporary relief and nearly always more side effects. This is why, when it comes to managing peripheral neuropathy pain, patients should look for a lasting solution.

Neurofunctional Pain Management – The Next Level Of Chronic Pain Management

Neurofunctional Pain Management uses high-pulse electrical stimulation that reaches into the true medical analgesic range, a high-pulse level therapy range that must be supervised by an actual medical provider, and not by another type of non-medical provider. 

It attempts to heal damaged tissue and nerve damage that causes peripheral neuropathy. Neurofunctional Pain Management is not only used to treat the effects of peripheral neuropathy but other chronic pain conditions such as back pain, joint pain, knee pain, fibromyalgia pain, and pain resulting from injuries caused by accidents or post-op surgical pain.

The next level of chronic pain management is Neurofunctional Pain Management therapy because it is a non-pharmaceutical, non-surgical, non-invasive, and non-chiropractic treatment protocol that works and relieves pain, restores health and magnifies the quality of life.

Get A Breakthrough Treatment for Peripheral Neuropathy

Neuragenex offers a non-pharmaceutical, non-surgical, non-invasive, and non-chiropractic solution to peripheral neuropathy and chronic pain through the Neurofunctional Pain Management treatment program. Hundreds of patients have experienced relief from the pains and irritations of peripheral neuropathy through Neurofunctional Pain Management therapy protocols. 

Patients who may have been concerned about taking medication or undergoing expensive surgery to alleviate neuropathy symptoms can instead find lasting relief from chronic peripheral neuropathy pain using the combination of specialized hydration therapy and high-pulse electrical stimulation. 

Many patients experience immediate relief and regain function in their extremities after only a few treatment sessions. So if you are also suffering from peripheral neuropathy, you too can take the important step towards living a healthy and fulfilling life free from the difficulties of peripheral neuropathy.

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