One of the more common but unpleasant and currently incurable conditions to affect residents of Manchester and elsewhere is peripheral neuropathy, which is when the nerves in different points of the body begin to send out pain signals for unknown reasons.
Though neuropathy by itself isn’t something that’s generally considered terminal, it sometimes can affect people already receiving in-home care or in hospice situations and make their life even more challenging.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice have worked with a variety of patients dealing with neuropathy. We know how painful it can be as well as how frustrating it can be to not be able to find relief. For example, some other pains, like a bruise or a sprain, usually fades over time or at least you can do something about it, everything from taking medicine to wear a cast or brace.
But when the pain originates in the nerves, sometimes randomly at different points in the body, it’s difficult to find methods to make it stop.
Adding to the unknowns is why it seems to be connected to so many health conditions.
According to the American Public Health Foundation, as many as 30 million Americans currently have some form of peripheral neuropathy. Among these include people with diabetes (about 70 percent of diabetics have neuropathy), cancer (40 percent of those with cancer have it, especially those who have gone through chemotherapy), and HIV/AIDS (30 percent have neuropathy.)
Other observations have shown that people with back surgery may begin to develop neuropathy along with those with sciatic pain. There may be a connection with the spine and the central nervous system but research hasn’t revealed what yet or how to reverse it.
The American Health Council said about 1 in 15 people may have neuropathy but it’s often misunderstood or not diagnosed properly by medical professionals. Trying to deal with the pain can also lead to anxiety and depression, which may lead to other negative health conditions.
If you have been diagnosed with neuropathy or a loved one has been, experts say to try and keep your hopes up.
More attention is being given to this condition now that more medical professionals are aware of it – in the past, it may have been seen as a simple “side effect” to whatever condition people were dealing with but now there might be some common areas of research.
It also can help to start learning more – and spread the word yourself – between now and May.
May 6-12 is considered National Neuropathy Awareness Week, an opportunity for the public to know more to also encourage more research.
The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy is inviting those affected by it currently or in the past to join them in pushing Congress to authorize funds for more research.
Getting comfort now
If you have neuropathy now, you may not be all that eager to get involved politically, since that may not benefit you right now. The level of pain and its location seems to vary – often it’s the hands and feet, and the sensations can be anything from pins and needles to stronger stabbing or burning.
Especially hot or cold weather also may aggravate it.
Some ways to help the pain include:
- Protect your feet and hands. Fingers toes can be especially sensitive and because of nerve pain, you may not be able to detect standard pain in them. Wear heavy gloves and socks even if it appears comfortable outside. Socks shouldn’t be constricting so they allow good circulation.
- Improve your diet. This can provide better circulation and improve your immune system. If you’re diabetic you may already be trying to do this but could provide more encouragement. Whole foods are better for your body while processed foods can cause inflammation that may trigger pain in parts of your body.
- Stop smoking. Making this lifestyle choice can quickly lead to dramatic improvements in your health including improving your respiration and circulation.
- Use Massage Therapy. This is already known as an effective technique to relieve other pains, which is why it’s one of the services offered by Above and Beyond Home Health Care. It also recommended especially for patients dealing with neuropathy who may find temporary relief. While a massage therapist can do a fine job, it’s not hard to give yourself a quick rub to hands or feet. It can reduce pain, improve circulation and maybe warm up limbs that are starting to get cold.
- Find ways to exercise. If your legs hurt, look for ways to exercise your arms and the rest of your body, or vice versa. If all you can manage is a walk, do that, maybe wearing your gloves.
- Get regular sleep. Like “stop smoking,” getting better sleep can do so much so quickly. Some people with neuropathy may have their sleep interrupted if they move around and bump their feet. One solution some suggest is putting a small hoop in the bed that will push up the bedsheets down by the feet so you’re less likely to brush into them.