You may be familiar with peripheral neuropathy through your treatment of diabetic clients, or clients undergoing chemotherapy. I wrote a blog about treating chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy last October. You can read it here if you missed it.
But beyond diabetes and chemotherapy, there is a wide range of causes of peripheral neuropathy (PN), particularly in the over 55s. For this reason, I thought it might be useful to look at the condition in more detail and to explain how massage can offer real benefits to the sufferer.
The name of the condition tells you a bit about what it is:
Peripheral: Beyond (in this case, beyond the central nervous system)
Neuro: Related to the nerve
Peripheral neuropathy is the result of damage to, or disease of, the nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system) and to the rest of the body (the peripheral nervous system). This affects the body’s ability to carry out both voluntary and involuntary processes, which is clear from the list of symptoms below:
tingling and numbness in hands or feet
sharp, stabbing pains in hands or feet
a weak, heavy feeling in the arms and legs
regularly dropping things from your hands
thinning of the skin
a drop in blood pressure
sexual dysfunction, especially in men
What causes peripheral neuropathy?
Prolonged pressure on a nerve can cause PN. Carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects people who use their hands and wrists repetitively, such as heavy computer users, is a form of PN. Compression of the nerves in the wrist is the cause in this case. Peripheral neuropathy can also affect people who stay in the same position for long periods, such as wheelchair users, or bed-bound people. Auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause PN. Injury can, of course, cause nerve damage leading to PN. Poor diet, alcoholism, kidney, or hypothyroidism can also be the cause of it. Lyme disease, shingles and Aids also cause nerve damage.
So, as a massage therapist, what can you do that is especially beneficial for your clients with PN?Well, the first thing to say is that massage itself is useful. An effect of PN is that the capillaries are obstructed and are unable to supply surrounding tissue with nutrients and oxygen. Massage increases circulation and stimulates oxygenated blood flow.
Secondly, Arnica, a key ingredient in Pure Pro’s Peppermint Pedango Foot Cream and Arnica Relief Lotion, reduces inflammation, and is therefore a useful topical application to soothe those damaged, inflamed nerves. In that blog on treating chemotherapy-induced PN, I suggested starting with Peppermint Pedango, which has a moderate amount of arnica in it, and if you get good results, moving on to Arnica Relief Lotion.
Thirdly, the therapist has a role in prevention and early intervention. For diabetics, where particular attention needs to be paid to the feet, you can give a valuable service by inspecting them for any changes – cold or dark spots, bruises, redness, cracks, any little cuts or grazes that could develop into sores. The PN sufferer potentially won’t be getting pain messages so these things can get to an advanced stage before he or she is even aware.
With these three benefits, arnica, as mentioned above, a vital ingredient for pain relief, creates well balanced benefits for both the client and therapist, proving it an important factor when used with massage for clients with Peripheral Neuropathy.
Both Arinca Relief Lotion and Pedango Foot Cream have deeply penetrating oils that can be worked into the muscles where most needed, while still nourishing the skin. These benefits, including boosting circulation, flushing out toxins, relieving joint pain, make them a popular choice with therapists – they are the best tools for you to have in your tool box!
I hope you found this blog useful. Let me know of your experiences of treating clients with this debilitating condition and what you’ve found works well for you, and your clients.
You can order Peppermint Pedango or Arnica Relief Lotion here.