What is Neuropathy?
Neuropathy is the medical term used to describe nerve pain. Oftentimes, patients with neuropathy are not aware that this is what is causing their pain. This is because neuropathy pain commonly manifests in the extremities. Therefore, if a patient has damaged a nerve in the lumbar spine, it may cause the patient to experience pain in their legs or feet. Due to these inconsistencies, many patients do not realize they have neuropathy until they see their primary care physician for a diagnosis.
If you suspect you may have neuropathy, you will want to undergo a few diagnostic tests to be sure. Your doctor will typically begin by asking you about the symptoms you are experiencing, followed by other questions relating to your health history. Oftentimes, your doctor will also ask for your family’s health history, as this can help them gather facts to organize the appropriate imaging and testing.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor will recommend a series of tests to determine whether neuropathy is what is causing your pain. The diagnostic process often begins with bloodwork which can identify any abnormalities linked to nerve damage. After this, doctors commonly use other tests and imaging such as electromyography (EMG) or MRI.
If you learn you have neuropathy after diagnostic testing, it is important to remain calm and remember that neuropathy is a common condition. This condition is even more common in certain groups. For example, if you have diabetes, or if you have undergone chemotherapy, you are more likely to develop neuropathy at some point.
If you have neuropathy, you are likely familiar with the chronic pain it can cause. Depending on the type of neuropathy you have, you will experience symptoms unique to your condition. Some common symptoms that patients frequently report are:
- Tingling sensation
- Burning sensation in the feet
- Numbness in the extremities
In addition to neuropathy pain, individuals with specific types of neuropathy may experience additional symptoms. For example, if you have autonomic neuropathy, you may struggle to control systems that would otherwise function autonomously. It is important to familiarize yourself with your unique condition so you can prepare yourself for any potential symptoms that may develop.
How to Manage Neuropathy Pain
Although neuropathy is irreversible, there are certain steps you can take to manage your pain. Additionally, some of these options can help your pain from worsening with time. Being proactive in your treatment is an important factor in staying healthy.
- Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). Many patients are able to find relief from neuropathy pain through the use of NSAIDs. Although these medications will not necessarily confront symptoms relating to function, they can certainly help you to reduce the pain you are experiencing in the extremities. If you become reliant on these medications, however, it is important to inform your doctor of this, as more involved treatment may be necessary.
- Physical Therapy. Oftentimes, patients with neuropathy can lose function in their extremities, making them lose balance. Physical therapy allows patients to regain balance in a controlled environment while relearning how to walk under the circumstances they have been given. Many patients with neuropathy will use physical therapy throughout treatment as a way to maintain physical ability.
- Adjust Your Lifestyle. Although this may sound tedious, making simple lifestyle changes can significantly improve your condition. This includes quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, staying active, and switching to a healthy diet. Believe it or not, unhealthy habits can be large contributors to the development of neuropathy.
- Alternative Treatments. To this day, it is unclear whether alternative treatments are successful in reducing neuropathy pain. However, a large percentage of patients rely on these methods to find relief, so it is only appropriate to include this option. Alternative treatments include acupuncture, taking supplements and vitamins, and other traditional therapies.
- Treatment with Dr. Shall at BEST Health System. Dr. Jeffrey Shall is a board-certified surgeon at BEST Health System’s Cleveland location. His goal is to help patients find relief from their neuropathic pain through various medical interventions. Dr. Jeffrey Shall was one of the first surgeons to perform minimally invasive stabilization procedures, making him a leader in this field. This procedure allows patients to find relief from pinched spinal nerves. Depending on the location and severity of your nerve pain, a unique procedure will likely be recommended.
BEST Health System
BEST Health System is a collection of spine and orthopaedic ambulatory centers located throughout Ohio. Our board-certified surgeons specialize in minimally invasive procedures, allowing our patients to enjoy many benefits. Our procedures result in less scarring, less pain, and a shorter recovery time, all while being on an outpatient basis.
We understand how debilitating neuropathy pain can be, and it is our primary goal to help our patients find relief. Contact BEST Health System today to begin your path toward recovery.