What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy occurs when there is a problem with the functioning of the nerves in the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system is the network of nerves that connect your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord nerves) to the nerves in the other parts of your body, like arms and legs, hands and feet, face, and internal organs.
When there is a problem with these peripheral nerves, signals about physical sensation don’t get transmitted to your brain properly. Sometimes the peripheral nervous system may send pain signals when there is no cause of pain, or if there is something causing harm the nerves may not send any pain signal at all.
Disruption to the normal functioning of the peripheral nervous system can be caused by many different factors, including injuries, hormonal imbalances or inherited disorders.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
Overall, there are two main types of peripheral neuropathy: when one nerve is damaged it is called mononeuropathy, and when multiple nerves are damaged it is called polyneuropathy.
However, doctors will tell you what type of neuropathy you have depending on which group of nerves are affected. The three groups of nerves are motor nerves (for moving muscles), sensory nerves (sensations like hot/cold or pain), and autonomic nerves (processes like heartbeat and breathing).
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy depend on which group of nerves are affected. While patients of motor neuropathy may experience symptoms such as muscle cramps and weakness, twitching and paralysis, patients of sensory neuropathy may experience other symptoms like tingling (“pins and needles”), numbness, reduced sensations from heat, cold or pain, and increased pain from things which shouldn’t cause pain. Contrastingly, patients of autonomic neuropathy may experience rapid heart rate, dizziness, bloating or belching, or constipation/diarrhoea. Please remember that these symptoms may also be caused by other health problems, not just peripheral neuropathy.
Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy
Most cases of peripheral neuropathy are acquired, and only rare cases are from genetics. There are many different causes, and doctors often have trouble identifying a single cause.
Some of the most common causes of neuropathy include other diseases (like diabetes), injury, toxins, infections, autoimmune disorders and medications. These factors can all contribute to damaging the nerves. Causes of neuropathy such as previous injuries or existing diseases such as chickenpox and shingles may be hard to avoid. But other causes may be easier to avoid, such as avoiding toxins like alcohol, keeping good hygiene to minimise risk of infections, and managing diabetes by keeping blood sugar levels within the recommended range.
How Can Chinese Medicine Help?
Traditional Chinese Medicine views the body as a whole and analyses a patient’s symptoms in relation to this whole. For example, in Chinese Medicine, all the organs in the body are seen as related to each other. Hence, a weakness in one organ may lead to another organ not functioning as normal, which leads to an imbalance in the body and causes symptoms to arise. Chinese Medicine is particularly focused on finding out what the root cause of the symptoms are, then addressing the imbalance so that your body can regain its normal function.
As with any syndrome, or set of symptoms, a Chinese Doctor will ask questions to see what your symptoms are, then use techniques such as taking your pulse to get more information about the specific nature of those symptoms. Then they will be able to give personalised treatment, such as a unique formula of herbs to take, or acupuncture to help heal and rebalance your body. For peripheral neuropathy, Chinese Medicine may be able to help clarify what is the underlying cause of your symptoms. Acupuncture is also very effective at relieving pain from many conditions, and helping your body come back to a healthy state.
For more information about how Chinese Medicine can help, please see our website at https://balancetcm.co.nz/traditional-chinese-medicine-hamilton/.
For videos about neuropathy and Chinese Medicine, see our website page at https://balancetcm.co.nz/category/a-z-diseases/neuropathy/.
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Phua, S. (n.d.). What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine? Centre of Balance Hamilton: Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine. https://balancetcm.co.nz/traditional-chinese-medicine-hamilton/
Centre of Balance Hamilton: Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine (n.d.). Archive for category: Neuropathy. https://balancetcm.co.nz/category/a-z-diseases/neuropathy/
Carey, E. (2021, October 5). Peripheral Neuropathy. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/peripheral-neuropathy