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Physical Therapy for Peripheral Neuropathy – Information, Exercises, and More

You can hardly stand the burning, tingling sensation in your feet.

Living with peripheral neuropathy symptoms can be difficult.

Thankfully, there are many treatment options that can help reduce your pain and symptoms.

In this guide, we will go over the signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, and the treatment plans available to you.

What is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when there is damage to the peripheral nerves, which branch off of the spinal cord and extend to all parts of the body.

Peripheral neuropathy usually affects the hands and feet — causing pain, numbness, and weakness. 

It can also have the same effect on other parts of the body.

What Causes Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when there is damage to the peripheral nerves, which can be the result of multiple different medical conditions.

Some examples of health conditions that cause peripheral neuropathy include:

Other causes of peripheral neuropathy include: 

  • Alcoholism
  • Exposure to poisons
  • Certain medications like chemotherapy
  • Trauma or nerve compression
  • Vitamin deficiencies— like B vitamins, vitamin E, and niacin

Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms

Symptoms vary depending on the type of nerve that is affected.

There are three classifications for peripheral nerves:

  • Sensory nerves, which sense temperature, pain, vibration, or touch from the skin.
  • Motor nerves, which control muscle movement.
  • Autonomic nerves, which control blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, and the bladder.

Some common symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include: 

  • Numbness and tingling in the feet or hands, which can spread up the legs or arms
  • Stabbing/burning pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Abnormal pain from activities that should not cause pain, such as bearing weight on your feet.
  • Loss of coordination and increased falling risk
  • Muscle weakness
  • Paralysis, if the motor nerves are affected.

You may experience the following symptoms if autonomic nerves are affected: 

  • Intolerance to heat
  • Excessive sweating or inability to sweat
  • Bladder, bowel, or digestive problems
  • Dizziness or light-headedness caused by changes in blood pressure

Peripheral neuropathy can affect one nerve or multiple nerves at a time.

 Be sure to speak to your doctor about your symptoms so that other injuries can be ruled out. 

Peripheral Neuropathy Treatment

Treatment for peripheral neuropathy can vary depending on if there is an underlying condition present, as well as which nerves are affected. 

Let’s take a look at some treatment options that may be available for you.

Medications

Aside from medications that may be prescribed to treat an underlying condition, here are some medications that can be prescribed for peripheral neuropathy relief:

  • Pain relievers. For mild cases, over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed. If your pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe a stronger medication containing opioids.
  • Anti-seizure medications. Medications that are used to treat epilepsy like gabapentin and pregabalin can be used to treat nerve pain.
  • Topical treatments. Capsaicin cream can be applied topically to help treat peripheral nerve pain. Some people may find this intolerable, as it can cause irritation and burning due to its inclusion of an ingredient found in hot peppers.
  • Antidepressants. Certain antidepressants have been found to relieve peripheral nerve pain by interfering with the chemical process in your brain and spinal cord that allows you to feel pain.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

Electrodes are placed on affected areas and deliver gentle electric currents to stimulate muscle contraction. 

The TENS unit is applied frequently over a course of time to relieve pain.

Plasma Exchange and Intravenous Immune Globulin

These treatment types can work well for people with anti-inflammatory conditions, as they help suppress immune system activity. 

Plasma exchange involves drawing blood and removing proteins and antibodies that are then returned back to the body. 

Immune globulin therapy involves receiving high levels of immunoglobulins, which are proteins that work as antibodies.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy for peripheral neuropathy.

Physical therapy is especially helpful in treating muscle weakness that can be attributed to peripheral neuropathy.

Physical therapy can also help decrease neuropathic pain.

Surgery

Surgery may be required if nerve compression is the cause of your peripheral neuropathy.

This can often be the case if a tumor is causing compression, in which the tumor is removed to release pressure on the nerve.

Peripheral Neuropathy Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?

The answer is yes.

Physical therapy can help:

  • Reduce pain
  • Strengthen weakened muscles
  • Maintain flexibility in extremities
  • Increase balance and control of movements

A physical therapist can create a customized treatment plan to relieve your pain from the affected area in which you are experiencing symptoms.

Best Peripheral Neuropathy Exercises

Before attempting any exercises, it is important to consult with a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Treatment for peripheral neuropathy may vary depending on where your pain and symptoms occur.

Let’s take a look at some physical therapy exercises that may be recommended for you.

Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic exercises can help increase movement and heart rate.

These exercises are used to help promote blood circulation, which can help strengthen nerve tissues by delivering more oxygen.

Flexibility Exercises

Flexibility exercises can help release tension from tightened muscles caused by a decrease in immobility. 

These exercises can help increase your range of motion and decrease pain.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening exercises help decrease muscle weakness and strengthen targeted muscles.

Balance Exercises

Balance exercises can help you become more stable by re-training your body on how to make controlled movements.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Peripheral Neuropathy

Dealing with peripheral neuropathy symptoms can be draining and overwhelming. 

That is why In Motion O.C. has helped thousands of people like you decrease their peripheral neuropathy pain and symptoms. 

As the 1# physical therapy clinic on Google and Yelp!, In Motion O.C. is dedicated to helping improve the lives of others through physical therapy.

Let us help you increase your quality of life and reduce your pain.

In Motion O.C.