REVIVING DYING NERVES
Let us all take a moment and appreciate what our nerves do for us. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do anything: walk talk, sense, breathe, or survive. Unfortunately, there are people in this world whose nerves don’t allow them too to do some of the actions that we previously listed. In this week’s blog, we will be discussing nerve degeneration, how it can be diagnosed and what can be done to manage it.
What is Nerve Degeneration?
Nerve degeneration is when one or more nerves begin to fail causing muscle weakness, loss of sensation, loss of reflexes, and/or organ malfunction/failure. Nerve degeneration can happen for many reasons, but some common ones include vertebral subluxation, trauma, diabetes, toxins, diet insufficiency, etc. In order to understand the different types of nerve disease, how to differentiate them, and how to treat, we need to be able to determine in what nerve category they belong in.
Myelopathy is a condition caused by compression of the spinal cord, resulting in pain, loss of sensation, or loss of control of certain body parts such as bodily functions or walking. Anyone can develop it, but it’s more commonly diagnosed in people who are older than 55 because it’s often related to the wear and tear the body endures over time. It can affect the cervical, thoracic and/or lumbar regions.
The most common triggers are a piece of bone (a bone spur) or part of a disc (a herniated disc) sticking out from the spine. These press on the nerves in the spinal column, causing pain or decreased ability to use certain parts of the body. The problem can be acute, which means it starts suddenly, or chronic, which means the pressure grows gradually over time. Acute myelopathy can be caused by trauma to the spine or an infection in or around the spinal cord. Chronic myelopathy can be caused by a tumor on or near the spinal cord, spinal stenosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or neurogenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Parkinson’s disease.
Like myelopathy, radiculopathy causes compression resulting in pain, loss of sensation, or loss of control of certain body parts such as bodily functions or walking. The biggest difference is that myelopathy is compression of the spinal cord where radiculopathy is compression on a spinal nerve root(s).
Radiculopathy has similar common triggers as myelopathy due to bone spurs and herniated disc, but perhaps the biggest cause of radiculopathy is vertebral subluxations. A vertebral subluxation is a fancy term for misaligned vertebra that applies pathological pressure to a nerve root(s). Unlike myelopathy, radiculopathy typically isn’t quite as severe and is usually easier to manage with something as simple as routine chiropractic care. However, radiculopathy can be more severe due to disc injuries requiring more extensive treatment like spinal decompression.
Neuropathy is a nerve disease that causes damage to nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord such as the median nerve causing carpal tunnel syndrome. The most common symptoms of neuropathy include loss of feeling in the arms/legs, muscle weakness, sharp pains all over, loss of coordination, heat intolerance, bowel/bladder incontinence, digestive problems, irregular heart rate and blood pressure fluctuations.
There are over 200 different causes of neuropathy with the most common cause being idiopathic neuropathy which means “no known cause.” Some other common causes of neuropathy include exposure to toxins such as drugs, alcoholism or chemotherapy treatments, metabolic deficiencies due to lack of vitamins, or the ever-popular diabetes.
How Are Nerve Degenerated Diseases Diagnosed?
You may have noticed that myelopathy, radiculopathy, and neuropathy all have something in common: their symptoms are very similar, and it may be hard to distinguish the difference between the three, right? This is where our topic becomes redundant as we have discussed this in many past blogs at this point. If you haven’t guessed it by now, know that a thorough case history and proper examination is in place. In less severe cases, x-rays and orthopedic testing may be all that is required to confirm a diagnosis, but in more severe cases, more extensive test such as MRI, CT, EMG and/or NCV may be necessary.
How Are Nerve Degenerated Diseases Managed?
It doesn’t matter if someone has a myelopathy, radiculopathy, or neuropathy. A doctor will do the same thing no matter which a patient has: treat the patient. Most doctors are going to give patients medication to help with pain and other symptoms in a mild case. Just like any drug used for pain, it’s only numbing the pain, not fixing the problem. Patients with nerve damage can also get injections of steroids or nerve blocks to help with pain, but again, it’s only numbing the pain, not fixing the problem. In addition to prescription drugs and injections, doctors may also give information on regular exercise and dietary recommendations which is something we absolutely recommend. In more severe cases, patients may undergo surgery, that could have been managed less invasively. Now looking at all this, is there a better way to manage neuropathy?
As we’ve previously mentioned, our facility specializes in chiropractic, decompression, and neuropathy management services. These treatments are employed on a case by case basis. We recognize that extreme cases can be life threatening and are beyond our scope of practice, hence why we conduct a thorough examination. Now, just because a patient has nerve damage, that doesn’t mean the person is a neuropathy management candidate. Why give a patient more than they needed? Nerve pain could be coming from something as simple as a vertebral subluxation that is easily treatable with chiropractic manipulation. However, in more severe cases, we recognize that chiropractic might not be enough, and decompression or neuropathy services may be necessary.
So, we covered a lot of ground in such a short period of time. We hope that you learned something about nerve degeneration. If there is one thing we want you to remember about this week’s blog, don’t take nerve damage lightly and get it managed before it gets progressively worse. Realize that there is an alternative solution to drugs and injections. We are the only facility in the Pittsburgh tri-state area that has equipment like this for nerve damage. If you have any questions about nerve damage and treatment options, please call us at (724) 547-3377 and checkout our website at www.drlarrywilkinsspinalcare.com for more content on nerve damage.
Yours In Health,
Larry E. Wilkins, DC
Brian M. Steinert, DC