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Elkhart Neuropathy

Neuropathy, or neuropathophysiology, is a term used to define the pathophysiology of the nervous system. This complex concept does not limit itself to one disease, but is a way to describe a number of conditions that impact the nerves of the body in different ways. While this idea may seem complicated, it can be broken down into components to make it easier to understand.

One type of neuropathy involves the nerves controlling motor and motion of the body. These nerves control the muscles of the body. Problems resulting from neuropathy include muscle spasms that result from nerve problems that control those muscles. Muscle spasms can bring not only pain, but also involuntary movement that can cause problems on several fronts. One may have trouble with their work environment if expected to perform in any public capacity, such as presenting; spasms can also result in danger to those operating a vehicle or machinery; and finally the spasms can make typing or speaking difficult.

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Sensory nerves have a broad impact because they not only allow a person to sense their environment through vision, touch, taste, smell, and hearing; but it allows a person to control a series of activities due to the reaction caused when the brain reacts to the incoming information. The sensory system triggers a series of events including processing information and interpreting senses. This can be merely a cognitive interpretation, but it can also set instinctual results into motion. For example, touching a hot stove can cause a series of reactions which will cause a person to pull their hand away before the brain has fully reviewed the situation. This reaction is only possible when the senses and nervous system work together with the entire bodily system and muscular system properly.

 

About 4 years ago, my family doctor, a doctor of osteopathy, began treating me for severe back pain and numbness in my right leg that caused my foot to drag and sometimes I'd fall. I was a student so I carried a heavy backpack and did a lot of walking across campus, which just aggravated my symptoms. She ran some test, took a long history and then announced to me that she thought I may have the beginnings of Multiple Sclerosis. My shock was great but my fear was worse.

I saw a neurologist who performed some tests and then sent me to Indiana University School of Medicine Hospital for further evaluation. Tests there were inconclusive (technically my diagnosis was "poly-neuropathy") so I continued treatment with my D.O., only my symptoms became worse. I was losing my balance, the numbness in my leg was so bad that I was finally fitted for a leg brace so that I could walk and walk without falling. The neuropathy was spreading to my left leg and both my arms and hands, although my right side was affected more than the left. I'd often drop things and lose my balance just trying to sit down or go through a doorway.

I had finished my B.A. degree and was accepted into a PH.D. program at the University of Notre Dame. After being there a year and trying to get around campus the size of a small city, I was very discouraged about being able to complete my goal. I was not getting better, felt hopeless and became depressed. I had to give up many of the things I did with my kids like rollerblading, roller-skating, walking, biking and my favorite, playing racquetball. I was even having trouble getting everyday household chores done. The most difficult and humbling thing was to apply for a handicapped parking sticker - I felt as if I was giving in to the illness that plagued me. Then Dora Ross, a friend from my children's school, told me about Dr. Schneider and the success she had at his clinic for her back problems. I knew that I had to do something different before I ended up in a wheelchair, so I made an appointment and went in.

I was apprehensive about seeing a chiropractor because I had learned to depend on medicines for pain relief and knew he would not be able to prescribe medicines. I immediately found that the traditional idea I held of a chiropractor (twisting and contorting my body in all sorts of ways) did not hold up with Dr. Schneider. His technique, tests, x-rays, procedures, everything, was explained to me thoroughly. For the first time in several years I had hope that I could be well and feel better about myself.

I am healing and I do feel better. Within the first 2 weeks of treatment, the neuropathy began to disappear. The numbness, tingling and "restless leg" symptoms I had were rapidly dissipating and I was able to throw out my leg brace! I am now 9 months into treatment and not only has all the feeling and strength come back to both arms, hands and left leg, I have 90% of the feeling and strength back in my right leg, the leg I though was "dead" forever.

I am beginning my third year at Notre Dame and LOVE walking around the beautiful campus - the same campus I saw a year ago as an obstacle to my future. I have enjoyed playing racquetball again and have the strength to rollerblade, bike and walk with my kids. They think Dr. Mark is the best ... and so do I!

~Chris P

Autonomic functions are often taken for granted. People tend to simply assume that their bodies will breathe, digest food, pump blood, excrete necessary chemicals, etc. However, these functions are also a part of the wider system and dependent on the proper functionality of the nervous system.

Symptoms of neuropathy are varied and should be evaluated by a professional. Initial complaints often include a loss of sensation. The general area may be numb, with lessened or no feeling to signify touch or pain. However, the symptoms vary greatly. Another common set of symptoms includes pain that is often described as sharp, shocking, stinging, or knife-like. This wide differentiation in symptoms should not make a person think that it is not neuropathy since there are so many ways for the problem to present itself based on location and extent of injury or illness. People often have a sensitivity to touch that can inhibit their choices in clothing, ability to participate in a crowd, and closeness with friends and family. Sometimes symptoms happen gradually, perhaps with a slow approach of numbness or tingling, often in the extremities.

Another side effect of neuropathy is a loss in coordination. Because the nervous system is not translating information properly to and from the brain, a person can lose hand eye coordination, walk or run with less coordination, etc. In extreme cases, paralysis or muscle weakness may result.

One often overlooked symptom of neuropathy includes changes to one’s appearance. Skin can take on a different look. Fingernails and toenails may grow differently, resulting in not only a different appearance, but also different strengths and usefulness. Hair may change over time as neuropathy affects the hair follicles as well.

Some serious symptoms can result if autonomic nerves are compromised by neuropathophysiology. For example, blood pressure can be affected, resulting in dizziness. This can be very dangerous for anyone and especially for people who operate heavy machinery, including a car, or working with dangerous objects, including sharp kitchen utensils. This form of neuropathy can also cause an intolerance to heat or cold. Digestive problems can result, both with the urinary tract system as well as the bowels.

Neuropathy can result from many events that lead to the breakdown of the system’s functions. The main cause of neuropathy is associated with diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy is caused by microvascular problems when blood glucose levels are too high, resulting in problems with the blood vessels themselves. The primary areas where nerve injury results in numbness or tingling includes the legs and feet. This can cause serious problems as the lack of pain allows diabetic individuals to overlook serious injuries to those areas which can result in improper healing. The already compromised body parts are often prone to wounds that do not heal and can become severely infected.

Other illnesses and diseases that cause neuropathy include liver and kidney disorders, immune disease, such as AIDS, cancer, or Lyme disease.

Neuropathy Symptoms

Regardless of the symptoms and presentation of the problem, neuropathy should be managed with close help from a medical health care professional. A primary care physician can help people begin on the journey to managing and reversing this neuropathy. The core problem should be uncovered so that appropriate therapeutic techniques can be implemented.

Managing stress can add to the recovery process. For example, massage may bring great benefits since the skeletal muscular system is closely linked with the problem at hand. Acupuncture has also proven to benefit patients and reduce their suffering. Many of these techniques are offered by chiropractors, who are an integral part of the health care team when dealing with neuropathy. One example of necessary chiropractic care involved the deterioration of the spine, with vertebral subluxation. This deterioration can cause the bones to put pressure on the spinal nerves, resulting in neuropathy. By adjusting the spine to relieve the pressure, a spinal adjustment can allow for the proper function of those nerves. Nerves can become compressed and a chiropractor is capable of manipulating the spine and connective tissue to relieve the pressure, thereby relieving the symptoms. Over time, the body will respond to this treatment and, in combination with massage, the muscles and connective tissues will respond to provide long term relief.

It is important to take the time to speak with a local primary care physician and chiropractor to get to the root of neuropathy and find solutions to improve health and quality of life.

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