What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is damage that occurs to the nerves going from your spinal cord to your limbs. Your peripheral nervous system connects the nerves from your brain and spinal cord, or central nervous system, to the rest of your body. This includes your:
- Internal organs
These nerves control the functions of sensation, movement and motor coordination. In other words, they allow you to differentiate between hot and cold, or sharp or dull sensations. They allow the muscles to contract and move and they help with balance and coordination.
When these nerves malfunction from being damaged or destroyed, the nerves ability to effectively communicate with the brain and cells gets disrupted impairing the normal function of the nerves. For instance, the damaged nerves might send signals of pain when there’s nothing causing pain; or they might not send a pain signal, at all. The end result…peripheral neuropathy.
Commonly, the disorder can start off as nothing more than an uncomfortable feeling like a mild numbness in the early stages but, over time it can progress to a debilitating state.
All experts agree that if peripheral neuropathy is solely treated with medication or – not treated at all – cases will worsen in severity over time.
There are three types of peripheral nerves:
- Sensory nerves (which connect to your skin)
- Motor nerves (which connect to your muscles)
- Autonomic nerves (which connect to your internal organs)
Peripheral neuropathy can affect one, two or even all three of these nerve groups.
Peripheral Neuropathy Symptoms
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can vary widely from person to person. Symptoms are determined by how many nerves are affected and what type of nerves have been damaged (ie; sensory, motor, autonomic nerves or a combination).
Symptoms might include:
- Gradual onset of numbness, prickling or tingling in your feet or hands, which can spread upward into your legs and arms.
- Feeling like you’re wearing a tight glove or sock (when you’re not)
- Sharp, stabbing pains, throbbing pain
- Numbness in the hands or feet
- Burning sensation
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Weak, heavy feeling in the arms and legs, which sometimes may feel like your legs or arms lock in place
- Muscle weakness
- Regularly dropping things from your hands
- Lack of coordination and falls
- Buzzing or shocking sensation
- Thinning of the skin
- Drop in blood pressure
- Sexual dysfunction, especially in men
- Digestive difficulty
- Heat intolerance
- Excessive sweating
What Are The Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy?
There are a variety of factors that can cause this condition. For instance, diabetic nerve damage is one of the most common forms of neuropathy. This results in numbness, pain, and a loss of sensation in the feet or legs, hands or arms. Although diabetes is a common cause, it only accounts for one third of all neuropathy cases (that’s 7 million out of the 22 million cases).
The risk of neuropathy increases for anyone who suffers from the following:
- Overweight or Obesity
- High Blood Pressure
- Elevated Hemoglobin A1c levels
More than 66 percent of people with diabetes have some sort of nerve damage due to chronically elevated blood sugar levels, according to the University of Chicago’s Center for Peripheral Neuropathy (UCCPN).
Other chronic diseases that may cause nerve damage include:
- Kidney Disease or Disorders (high amounts of toxins build up in the body and damage nerve tissue)
- Hypothyroidism (can lead to fluid retention and pressure surrounding nerve tissues)
- Diseases That Cause Chronic Inflammation (IBS, GERD, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Diverticulitis and Celiac Disease)
- Deficiencies Of Vitamins E, B-1, B-6, And B-12 (essential to nerve health and functioning)
Other Known Causes Of Peripheral Neuropathy:
- Cholesterol Lowering Statin Medication
- CCB (Calcium Channel Blocker) Blood Pressure Medication (Norvasc, Amlodipine, Verapimil, Cardizem)
- Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics (Cipro, Levaquin, Avelox, Noroxin, Floxin, Factive)
Studies Show Peripheral Neuropathy Can Be Reversed
22 million people in America alone have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and the numbers continue to climb. Although this condition can start off as minor numbness that may not interfere with your ability to function immediately, with time it will progressively worsen to the point of disability and ultimately misery.
Most doctors tell their patients the only thing that can be done for their peripheral neuropathy is managing the pain with medication. In reality, the vast majority of these meds result in even more nerve damage with time. This is the largest injustice served to these patients.
The truth is…Peripheral nerves can be repaired. This has been well documented in many research studies and published in reputable journals, such as the Journal of Neurology, the Journal of Oncology, and the British Medical Journal- to name a few.
The question is…Why hasn’t your doctor told you about this treatment? Less than 1% of Physicians (including Neurologists) know how to heal damaged peripheral nerves. This is because most doctors, simply don’t have the time to keep up on the most current research. Instead, they rely on pharmaceutical representatives to update them. The reality is in the U.S. doctors are not exposed to the science of light therapy during their training, even though the benefits have been proven in over 1000 clinical studies.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), “It Takes Over 23 Years for Well-Researched Information to Get into Clinical Practice.”
Do not buy into the myth that your peripheral neuropathy can’t be repaired, simply because your doctor lacks the knowledge.
Treatments That Reverse Peripheral Neuropathy
Near Infrared Light Therapy
Research has revealed that low level laser therapy and neurotrophic nutrients have been highly successful with repairing damaged peripheral nerves.
Infrared energy has been around since the creation of the universe. In fact, you feel the infrared energy or heat daily, when you experience the warmth of the sunlight. However infrared light therapy has only been introduced into the medical community as a source of treatment since 1967 by Dr. Andre Mester.
Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) (also known as Near-Infrared light) has been well researched and backed by excellent results. As a result, it’s been used clinically for over 30 years in Eastern Europe and Asia to treat damaged nerves and a whole host of other conditions. Now it’s also gaining recognition in Canada.
There are 3 types of infrared: Far, Mid and Near. We are only interested in near infrared (~800-1000nm) because it has the deepest penetration into the body allowing it to affect nerves.
Hundreds of Clinical Studies Confirm the Efficacy of Low Level Infrared Light Therapy (LLLT). Prestigious institutions such as Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital are among many that have published research studies on the success of using LLLT to heal damaged peripheral nerves.
Near infrared light therapy (or LLLT) has been approved by the FDA since the 1990’s. Unlike medications used to treat neuropathy- like Lyrica, Cymbalta or gabapentin, LLLT does not mask the symptoms of neuropathy; it actually promotes the healing of the nerve and other tissues.
In 2006, a clinical study comprised of *2239 people (average age of 73) suffering from foot numbness caused by Diabetes were treated with infrared photo energy (LLLT). More than 1000 of these people also experienced Neuropathy pain with a pain level of 7.2 out of 10. After an average of 18 treatments, neuropathic pain was reduced by 38% to 67%, while sensation loss (numbness, tingling, pins & needles, prickling, burning) showed a 77% improvement.
The study concluded:
“MIRE (Monochromatic Infrared Photo Energy) appears to be associated with significant clinical improvement in foot sensation and, simultaneously, a reduction in neuropathic pain in a large cohort of primarily Medicare aged patients, initially diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy.” Patients in these two outcomes reported a significant improvement in their quality of life.
Not all lasers are created equally, meaning there are specific requirements necessary for healing peripheral nerves.
Here are some basic requirements to look for when shopping for a laser:
- Infrared Wavelength – 810 Nm – 1000 Nm
- FDA Cleared
- Covers Large Areas (legs/arms/hands etc.)
- Has A Large Amount Of LED Bulbs (more powerful)
Patients who developed neuropathy from the following causes typically have remarkable results with LLLT:
- Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (DPN)
- Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN)
- Statin Induced Neuropathy
- Medication induced (including fluoroquinolone antibiotics) Neuropathy
- Auto-Immune diseases (Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimotos)
- Surgery and injuries
- Alcohol induced neuropathy
- Toxin induced neuropathy
Neurotrophic nutrition or nutrients are biomolecules of vitamins, antioxidants and/or minerals that support the growth, survival, and development of new healthy nerve fibers.
Following nerve injury or damage, the nerve will try to repair itself by regenerating nerve cells or sprouting new branches of peripheral nerves. These branches will attempt to grow until it is able to make a connection with muscle and/or skin. We call this reinnervation. If the nerve can make a complete connection, then recovery of muscle function or skin sensation will occur. This means that muscles can be re-strengthened, balance regained and cessation of abnormal feelings of numbness, burning, tingling, pins & needles, itchy, or crawling sensations.
For nerve reinnervation to occur, the nerve must first have appropriate building blocks which aid in the repair and regeneration process. These building blocks are neurotrophic nutrients such as:
- Benfotiamine (fat soluble form of vit. B1)
- Methylated Folic Acid/Folate (5-MTHF or Quatrefolic)
- Pyridoxal 5 Phosphate (bioavailable form of vit. B6)
- Methylcobalamin (bioavailable form of vit. B6)
- R-Alpha Lipoic Acid, stabilized (bioavailable antioxidant)
The scientific literature showed that complexing critical B vitamins, such as Benfotiamine, Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate, Methylcobalamin and Folic acid in conjunction with R-Alpha Lipoic Acid (a powerful antioxidant ) had proven capabilities to repair the damage of peripheral nerves. They also had the ability to protect the nerves from future damage and support proper communication.
Over 100 clinical studies have been published in Medical journals proving that the combination of B1, B6, B12, Folic Acid and R-Alpha Lipoic Acid can assist with repairing damaged peripheral nerves and decrease symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
One bonus is that Alpha lipoic acid is a major player with reversing nerve damage. Alpha lipoic acid can decrease elevated glucose levels (blood sugar) and can improve insulin sensitivity (decrease Hemoglobin A1c).
These specific B vitamins along with R-Alpha Lipoic Acid (R-ALA) have been shown to have a positive effect on nerve conduction and reduced neuropathic (nerve) pain. A study published in 2017 identified that B vitamins can speed up nerve tissue regeneration and improve nerve function, and R-ALA was useful in protecting the nerves against oxidative damage from diabetes.
Peripheral neuropathy is no longer a life sentence. After helping my mom reverse her debilitating neuropathy, we’ve gone on to help hundreds upon hundreds of people recover from their neuropathy, too and reclaim their lives. In order to do this having, the RIGHT TOOLS in the correct form is imperative for neuropathy recovery.
For instance, Alpha Lipoic Acid can be taken in 2 forms: S-Alpha Lipoic Acid or R-Alpha Lipoic Acid (stabilized). Only R-Alpha lipoic acid (stabilized) is effective for decreasing insulin resistance and repairing peripheral nerves. When looking at the ingredient label of a bottle if you see the name Alpha Lipoic Acid without the -R- in front of it, this means it’s S-Alpha Lipoic Acid (a much cheaper, inferior and ineffective form of ALA).
Vitamin B1 must be in the form of Benfotiamine and not Thiamine. Both are B1, however, only benfotiamine will assist in healing damaged peripheral nerves.
Vitamin B6 should always be in the form of Pyridoxal 5 Phosphate (P-5-P) and not Pyridoxine HCL. Pyridoxine HCL can be toxic to the nerves in high doses, whereas, P-5-P can be taken in very high doses without any toxicity and is extremely bioavailable for nerve use and function.
Vitamin B12 should only be taken in the form of Methylcobalamin and not Cyanocobalamin. Methylcobalamin is the most active form of B12 and is better absorbed and retained in our tissues in higher amounts than the synthetic cyanocobalamin. Methylcobalamin is used much more efficiently by the nervous system, liver, and brain.
Vitamin B9 (Folic acid/Folate) should always be in the form of 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate). This is the active form that folic acid must be broken down into before being absorbed by cells. Anywhere from 15% to 50% of the population (depending on ethnicity) have a genetic defect (MTHFR) where they don’t have the ability to make this conversion. Taking 5-MTHF (also known as Quatrefolic®) bypasses this step allowing immediate absorption into cells, especially nerve cells.
This blog has been provided by Dr. John Coppola, D.C. and Dr. Valerie Monteiro, D.C. Dr. Coppola and Dr. Monteiro are the founders of the San Antonio Neuropathy Center, and Precision Sport & Spine. They are the leading experts in the field of neuropathy and specifically drug free nerve repair. They are the authors of the critically acclaimed book “Defeat Neuropathy Now …. In Spite of Your Doctor. The doctors have over 25 years of clinical experience.
If you would like to reach the doctors regarding a specific health problem, you may email them at [email protected].
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