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Peripheral Neuropathy Physiotherapy
Peripheral neuropathy (PN) refers to a medical condition that affect the nerves of the
body that results in a variety of symptoms including
- changes in
- and alterations in muscle activity
PN may be associated with
other disease processes such as
- bodily injury
- and overuse
Sometimes peripheral neuropathy also can occur as a side effect of medications, such as
Although the symptoms of some types of PN have been shown
to improve over time, many do not.
Treatment by our senior physiotherapists can
help reduce symptoms of PN in some cases, and reduce the effect the
symptoms have on movements and activities to improve an individual's
quality of life.
What is Peripheal Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is a condition that affects the nerves of
your body. It is generally classified by
- the number of nerves affected
- the type of nerve cells affected
- or the process affecting the nerves
Depending on these factors, the symptoms of PN vary widely, and can
- sensory (eg, touch)
- motor (eg, movement)
- and/or autonomic (ie,
issues (see the “How Does It Feel” section below for
Common classifications of PN include:
This is a condition only affecting 1
nerve. It is often a result of the compression of a nerve, which
creates an onset of symptoms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is an example of a
mononeuropathy, in which compression of the median nerve in the arm
results in altered sensation, pain, and weakness of the hand.
This is a condition affecting 2 or
more nerves and is generally a result of a disease process that affects
the entire body. This type of PN can result in an individual
experiencing symptoms in various body parts, on both sides of the body.
This is a condition that
results from inflammation of a nerve. There are many causes of this
type of PN including infection, injury, or exposure to chemicals.
How Does it Feel?
To understand symptoms of PN, we must first understand that nerves
have influence over 3 primary functions, all of which may be altered by
- Motor function (movement)
- Autonomic (nervous system) function
Depending on the location and type of nerve(s) involved, people with PN may experience:
- Numbness and tingling, most commonly starting in the feet and hands, and possibly spreading up the limbs
- Loss or absence of sensation (the ability to sense contact with outside objects)
- Pain, often described as burning, sharp, or "electric-like"
- Increased sensitivity to light touch
- Clumsiness or decreased coordination in the affected limb(s)
- Weakness or paralysis in the muscles or parts of the body affected by the nerve or nerves
- Bowel or bladder changes; nerves controlling these functions may be affected
- Temperature intolerances
- Decreased balance
- Poor wound healing
- Excessive sweating or skin dryness
- Flushed or pale skin
- Abnormal nail growth
- Decreased ability to participate in normal functional activities
CAUTION: If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above symptoms, consult a medical professional.
How Is It Diagnosed?
A thorough examination by a medical professional will help determine
if you have symptoms of PN. There are several methods and tests a
clinician may use to make a diagnosis, such as
- testing your reflexes
- and muscle strength
If you have suspected symptoms, your physician may also order
- diagnostic imaging (such as an MRI)
- or nerve-conduction testing
These tests are generally ordered based on the suspected origin of
how our senior physiotherapists can help
Our senior physical therapists can play a vital role in helping individuals improve
and maintain functions that may be limited by PN. We will work with you to develop a treatment plan to help address
your specific needs and goals.
Because the cause, type, and symptoms of PN can all vary, the
approach to care will also vary. We may provide the
following recommendations and care:
Nerve gliding activities
To function well, nerves
require 3 things: movement, blood, and space. Exercises that move and
“glide” your nerves are often effective at helping to manage symptoms of
PN, as well as promote nourishment and healing of the nerve. We can show you effective exercises that move and glide
We may recommend moderate-intensity exercises to help improve your strength and physical function.
Balance and coordination activities.
We may work on strategies to improve your balance and
coordination, both of which may be altered by PN. Improving balance and
coordination can help decrease your risk of falling.
We may prescribe
bracing for your nerve injury. Braces can be used to protect injured
nerves or to help you move safely.
We will educate you
on how to safely manage peripheral neuropathy.
Your education will vary based on your
individual needs, and may focus on improving your safety, preventing
further complications, and finding alternative ways to perform certain
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