Neuropathy

The word neuropathy is used to describe a generalized dysfunction of nerves. This can create a variety of symptoms depending on the portion involved and the cause of the dysfunction. The anatomy of the nerve is composed of 3 separate and distinct parts. The sensory portion carries signals to the brain about sensation, including pain, heat, touch, etc. The motor portion carries signal from the brain concerning the contraction and relaxation of muscles. The final portion of the nerve, the autonomic portion, carries signals from the brain to various organs like the heart, lungs, intestines, bladder etc.

Cranial neuropathies effect any of the 12 cranial nerves, directly attached to the central nervous system. Common examples of these include the optic and auditory nerves. Optic neuropathy can inhibit the optic nerve from transmitting visual signals from the retina to the brain, causing vision issues or even blindness. Auditory neuropathy can cause difficulty hearing or complete deafness by interfering with the signals form the inner ear to the brain.

Peripheral Neuropathy is an instance in which one nerve outside of the spinal cord is dysfunctional. Common examples of peripheral neuropathy involve the sciatic or ulnar nerves. When the sciatic nerve is affected, it causes pain, which many people call sciatica, beginning in the gluteal region and possibly traveling along the length of the nerve down to the foot. When the ulnar nerve is affected it can result in weakness or pain in the hand, often referred to as “Carpal Tunnel”.

Neuropathy can also alter the function of the motor portion of the nerves. This can result in objective signs such as muscle weakness, loss of motor reflexes, cramping/spasms, etc. Weakness, when left unresolved, can cause the affected limb(s) to be cumbersome or essentially useless resulting in tripping, falls, or even the requirement of aids such as a wheelchair or cane.

This nerve dysfunction can cause pain, lack of senses, and weakness as stated above, but it can also cause other complications as well. When the autonomic portion of a nerve is damaged or inflamed, the function of the organ in which it reaches can be affected. For example, if the autonomic portion of the nerve reaching the heart was affected, the patient may have complications such as high blood pressure or tachycardia, a faster than normal heartbeat.

Diabetic neuropathy is one of the most common types of neuropathy, seen primarily in people with uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes. It can take a number of forms, however the most common is neuralgia, or nerve pain, or loss of sensation in the feet. It often goes undiagnosed until the loss of sensation is so severe that foot damage occurs. In fact, painless blisters can often be the patient’s first sign to diabetic neuropathy.

Subluxation is another extremely common cause of neuropathy. The small misalignments in the spinal column can create inflammation. This inflammation causes interference in the function of the nerves nearby. This interference can result in pain and dysfunction, often tracing the pattern of the nerve distribution. For instance, if there is a subluxation present in the lower neck, affecting the C5 vertebra, the neuropathy follows the path to the bicep, causing weakness, pain or lack of sensation to the shoulder, or sore throat and hoarseness.

In conclusion, the goal of chiropractic care is to improve nervous system function and communication. In the instance that neuropathy is caused by subluxation, the inflammation and interference decrease when the subluxation is corrected. Without the inflammation interfering with the nerve function, it can begin to heal and repair, reducing the symptoms. Also, in the instance of other neuropathy causes, chiropractic improves the body’s nervous system and nerve function.

Author
Circle City Chiropractic

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