Burning, tingling or numbness in your hands or feet coupled with muscle weakness and discomfort are often signs of peripheral neuropathy, a condition that affects over 30 million Americans, typically those over 45.1

Peripheral neuropathy is caused by damage to nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Diabetes is the most common culprit, but other causes include neck/back problems, toxins, autoimmune diseases and genetics. Sometimes, the cause is idiopathic and remains unknown.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to contact your primary care provider who may order blood work, imaging or nerve conduction studies. While there is no cure, treatment can manage symptoms and slow progression.  Following are factors to consider:

Healthy lifestyle. Quit smoking and reduce sugar and alcohol intake as all are toxic to small fiber nerves. Eat whole foods and stay hydrated (70-100 oz. daily); pure water bathes and nurtures our cells. Manage stress and prioritize sleep (including naps!); sleep is restorative as this is the time our bodies repair. Invest in a supportive mattress, keep your room cool and dark, and avoid electronics prior to sleep.  Incorporate meditation, spiritual practices and breathing techniques. We are fortunate to live in our beautiful Coachella Valley where these life enhancing practices are readily available.

Exercise. Daily walks, strength training, swimming, yoga, qigong and tai chi all improve balance, reduce stress and can enhance nerve connectivity. Massage is not only soothing, but helps increase circulation to areas affected by numbness and tingling.

Supplementation. B vitamins, alpha lipoic acid (ALA) and magnesium are commonly recommended for peripheral neuropathy. Of the eight B vitamins, B1, B6 and B12 are most helpful for small fiber nerve repair. ALA is a powerful antioxidant which can decrease inflammation while magnesium serves over three hundred cellular functions including soothing tired muscles.

Medical management. Based on the severity of symptoms, your doctor may prescribe physical therapy, compression stockings or electrical stimulation therapy, an effective pain and drug-free therapy FDA-approved for peripheral neuropathy. Medications to treat the condition include Gabapentin or Lyrica. 

By collaborating with your health care provider and adopting healthy habits, you can manage peripheral neuropathy while improving your quality of life.

Laura Padron is a senior nurse practitioner specializing in adult gerontology and peripheral neuropathy. She is owner of Best Pain Care Center in Indian Wells may be reached at (760) 565.6700. For more information, visit www.bestpaincarecenters.com 

Reference: 1) https://www.ohsu.edu/brain-institute/peripheral-neuropathy

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