Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is incredibly prevalent in the United States, with more than 20 million people suffering from the condition. The experience of the disease differs from patient to patient: symptoms can accrue gradually or strike suddenly and intensely. This disease can arise at any point in life but is most likely to occur in old age. Peripheral neuropathy is also expensive to the American taxpayer, with Medicare spending more than $3.5 billion to treat it each year
Here are notes on the causes of pain and the urgency of neuropathy treatment.
What causes the tingling or “pins and needles” sensation?
Usually, nerves only communicate a problem when they experience a stimulus. For instance, the nerves in your hand aren’t going to send out any alarms until your finger gets near the candle flame.
Pain medicine specialist Dr. Corey W. Hunter compares nerve behavior during neuropathy to that of a phone that isn’t working properly. It rings without anyone having called it, resulting in a burning sensation. It doesn’t give us a dialtone when we are getting ready to call out, resulting in numbness.
“Even when it has nothing of importance to say to the brain, the nerves will send a message and a confused message at that,” said Hunter. “The ‘confused’ message can be interpreted by the brain as pain or strange sensations like ‘pins and needles.’”
Peripheral neuropathy actually isn’t just a problem of the peripheral nervous system. It eventually impacts the central nervous system as well. After the spinal cord receives a huge amount of messages from the nerve, it will start to adapt so that the nerve alerts are assumed moving forward. In other words, neuropathy pain relief is not just about getting the nerve to stop sending its pain signal but retraining the spinal cord as well.
Will the pain ever subside?
Many people with peripheral neuropathy recover, but chance of recovery diminishes as the injury becomes more substantial. Often the illness is caused by a factor that can be treated, such as a compressed nerve. If whatever caused the PN remains in place, healing can be difficult.
“In fact, if the nerve stays injured for too long, the damage can be irreversible,” said Dr. Hunter. “The most important thing to keep in mind is the sooner a neuropathy is treated, the better the chances to have a good recovery.”
Neuropathy pain relief
If you want neuropathy treatment to alleviate the pain of the disease, you want a medical clinic you can trust. We welcome new patients to our integrative, clinic with a free consultation and 20-minute massage.