There are a multitude of illnesses and injuries that can sometimes lead a person to experience issues with peripheral neuropathy. Diabetes, certain infections or medications, trauma, alcoholism, tumors, and a host of various diseases and other issues, are often the culprits behind neuropathy. Patients experiencing neuropathy often report issues with:
- numbness (pins and needles feeling)
- reduced dexterity and coordination within the affected area
- a burning sensation
- extreme sensitivity to touch
It is not uncommon for a physician to prescribe a series of physical therapy treatments to help with the issues that stem from neuropathy as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for their patients.
How Physical Therapy can Help
Peripheral neuropathy typically begins in either the feet and/or the hand and finger area. In some cases, the symptoms can also spread upward into either the legs or arms. Physical therapists will design a treatment plan based upon where the neuropathy occurs. If the neuropathy occurs in the feet, patients can have trouble with their balance, experience issues with walking and perhaps have trouble with falling since they have a diminished ability to feel obstacles in their path. A comprehensive physical therapy treatment plan will attempt to deal with all these issues, as well as introducing stretching exercises to ensure the joints remain flexible and muscle strengthening exercises in the feet and legs. A physical therapist might also use electrical stimulation to help relieve the symptoms of pain and burning, as well as performing manual techniques in order to help relieve any compression.
If a patient is experiencing neuropathy in the hands and fingers, balance is not an issue but coordination and dexterity is. Physical therapists will include special exercises designed to increase these abilities in a patient, along with tendon and/or nerve glide exercises to keep these components flexible. A treatment plan will also include muscle strengthening exercises to combat any issues with weakness in the fingers or hand and wrist area. As with peripheral neuropathy of the feet, neuropathy in the hand may be treated with electrical nerve stimulation to reduce burning and painful symptoms, as well as manual manipulation by the physical therapist in order to relieve any nerve compression.
Hampton Roads Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine has a team of physical therapy professionals well skilled in treating neuropathy symptoms. If you’ve been prescribed physical therapy for peripheral neuropathy, or are experiencing the symptoms and would like an appointment with one of our physicians or physical therapists, contact us at (757) 873-1554 for an appointment.