The countless nerves running throughout your body perform multiple different functions, but they all fall under one of two categories. Your central nervous system involves your brain and spinal cord, and your peripheral nervous system connects the rest of your body to your central nervous system. Together, they communicate sensations of pain, pleasure, and touch to your brain and control vital bodily functions.
Damage to any of the nerves in your peripheral system is called neuropathy, and without intervention, it can progress from mildly annoying to life-changing. At Family Foot and Ankle Center of South Jersey, our team of expert podiatrists specializes in neuropathy, identifying the source, and bringing you much-needed relief. Here’s how to recognize nerve pain.
We classify your peripheral nervous system according to the main bodily functions they control:
Inflammation, injury, infection, diabetes, tumors, and much more can affect any of these nerves. Up to 30% of all Americans will experience some degree of neuropathy over their lifetime — most frequently because of diabetes.
With more than 100 different possible types of neuropathy and countless variables that affect the way it presents, it’s impossible to outline the progression of each one here. But there are general stages of progression that most types of neuropathy follow, and it’s important to know them so you can recognize the symptoms.
In the beginning stage of neuropathy, you may only feel symptoms now and then. A little poke of pain, some tingling, even occasional numbness are typical. You may also notice that you lose your balance a little more easily or that your reflexes seem off. You may wonder if these sensations are worth the trouble of a doctor appointment.
In stage 2, persistent pain sets in and you definitely know that something is wrong. Most people don’t need to be told that they should seek medical attention at this point. This stage of neuropathy is difficult to endure without treatment.
The pain is most intense in stage 3 of neuropathy and can stop you from performing normal daily tasks, such as walking, driving, and working.
If you somehow endure the pain and other symptoms of neuropathy and let it progress to stage 4 without treatment, you may end up with no feeling left at all. Total numbness and loss of all sensation make it impossible to walk (if the neuropathy is in your feet), and you’re in danger of suffering an injury without knowing it.
Like most medical conditions, neuropathy responds best to early detection and treatment. That’s why we urge our patients to learn the warning signs and come in as soon as possible. Early treatment gives you two critical advantages over waiting to seek medical help.
Depending on what type of neuropathy you have and what’s causing it, your symptoms can vary widely from prickly sensations to sharp pain, from excessive sweating to digestive problems, from blood pressure issues to paralysis.
We assess your neuropathy, your health, your age and weight, and your lifestyle to determine the best treatment for you. Often, physical therapy can relieve pressure on nerves and relieve your symptoms, and other times, medication is more effective, or a good complement to physical therapy.
Our main goal is to identify the underlying cause of your neuropathy so we can address the source and stop nerve damage from marching forward. Often, resolving the primary problem resolves your pain and saves your nerves from further damage.
If your nerve becomes damaged beyond repair, or it dies, treatment becomes more difficult and your symptoms more challenging to manage. As we work to treat you medically, there are a few things you can do to help yourself. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and quitting smoking, can strengthen your nerve health, as can exercise, as it aids in oxygenation to your nerves.
The sooner we diagnose and treat your neuropathy, the better chance you’ll have of stopping further damage, regenerating your nerves, and alleviating your symptoms.
If you have signs of neuropathy, regardless of what stage you’re in, come see us right away to begin treatment that can save your nerves, relieve pain, and restore function. Contact us by phone or online to set up a consultation with one of our nerve specialists and find out which treatment is best for you.