Neuropathy Can Be Controlled or Reversed
Dec 23, 2015 01:50PM
● By Kim Martin
Neuropathy, which comprises weakness, numbness and pain from nerve damage, usually in the hands and feet, is a progressive disease that if not controlled, only gets worse. The number one cause of accidents in patients over the age of 60 is falls because they might trip a lot or lose their balance if they can’t feel where their feet are on the ground. But neuropathy can be controlled, and in many cases, even reversed. Working with a doctor that understands the importance of neurological issues, combined with metabolic issues, will increase the patients’ outcome for success.
Nerve regeneration is possible, especially with younger patients, non-smoking patients and those that have their blood sugar levels and metabolic issues under control. When properly supported by appropriate changes in lifestyle, this can be affected in from 30 to 90 days.
Our feet play a critical role in helping us maintain balance. Someone with peripheral neuropathy often has damage to the nerve fibers in the feet, as well as the rest of the body. As it progresses, this condition typically affects more and more sensory fibers in the affected nerves. Loss of these fibers gradually causes difficulty with things like sensing the contour of the ground we are walking on, so that we might not be able to feel a crack in the sidewalk and accidentally trip. There are many ways in which the brain controls balance, and each can play a role in correcting neuropathy and reducing symptoms.
The ability to maintain balance depends on information that the brain receives from three different sources—the eyes, the muscles and joints, and the vestibular organs in the inner ear.
Input from the eyes
Nerve endings or sensory receptors in the retina send impulses to the brain with visual cues that aid in balance. For example, if a person is walking down the street, buildings appear to be aligned straight up and down.
Input from the muscles and joints
The input received by the brain from the muscles and joints comes from proprioceptors, or sensory receptors that are sensitive to stretch and pressure in the tissue that surrounds them. These sensory impulses are then sent to the brain for cues on what the body is doing. Most important are the impulses that come from the neck, which indicate the direction the head is turned, and the ankles and feet, which indicate the body’s movement or sway relative to the ground while standing.
Input from the vestibular system
The vestibular system, or inner ear, is a complex series of passageways and chambers within the skull that are filled with and surrounded by fluid. Each inner ear has a hearing component and a balance component. Inside each fluid-filled canal is a sensory receptor that responds to head movement. When the head moves, the fluid in the ear lags behind, causing the sensory receptor to bend, which creates an impulse to the brain. When the vestibular apparatus on both sides of the head are functioning properly, they send symmetrical impulses to the brain. When impulses are not symmetrical on the right and left sides, we can become off balance and dizzy.
Central Nervous System Processing
All of the sensory input concerning balance from the eyes, the muscles and joints and both sides of the vestibular system is sent to the brain stem, where it is sorted and integrated with contributions from other parts of the brain.
After the brain processes all of the information coming in regarding movement and environment, it must respond quickly and tell the body what to do in order for us to maintain balance and keep upright. It sends impulses back to muscles in the head, neck, eyes, legs and the rest of the body to maintain a state of balance.
Motor output to the eyes
The impulses that go to the eyes coordinate to produce clear vision during head movements. This is controlled automatically by the vestibular system. If this did not occur, anytime we moved, our vision would become blurry.
Motor output to the muscles and joints
The impulses that are sent from the brain to the other muscles of the body control their movement so that balance is maintained whether a person is sitting, standing, walking or playing a sport. Through practice and repetition, the impulses from the sensory receptors to the brain and then out to the muscles form a pathway. With repetition, it becomes easier for the impulses to travel over the same network or pathway until maintaining balance during any activity becomes automatic.
In order to treat neuropathy effectively, three factors must be determined: the underlying cause; how much nerve damage has been sustained; and how much treatment the condition will require. The amount of treatment needed for the nerves to recover will vary and can be determined after a neurological exam. As long as there has not been more than 85 percent nerve damage, there is hope.
Dr. Kim Martin, DC, FASA, BCIM, CFMP, is a holistic practitioner specializing in functional medicine, chiropractic and acupuncture. For more information, call 847-715-9060 or visit NorthShoreHealthSolutions.com.