Neuropathy is a term used to describe a condition that affects the peripheral nerves (the nerves outside the central nervous system) and causes sensations like pain, aching, numbness, or tingling sensations, sometimes accompanied by feelings of fatigue or weakness in the affected area. Symptoms can be local or diffuse, spreading along the entire nerve pathway. Neuropathies often occur as a result of overuse or repetitive use injuries, chronic stress resulting in muscle strain and tightening, or from a traumatic injury like a slip-and-fall accident or a car accident. In fact, whiplash is a very common type of neuropathy that often develops following an injury that causes an impact to the neck, back or head. Diseases like multiple sclerosis and diabetes, exposure to toxic substances, and some medications can also cause neuropathies.
*Individual Results May Vary
Diagnosis begins with a comprehensive medical exam, usually followed by lab tests, diagnostic imaging, and nerve conduction studies to help pinpoint the genesis of symptoms and the underlying cause. A thorough review of symptoms and a complete personal and family medical history are also important.
The treatment used for a neuropathy can vary based on the cause. For instance, if a disease like diabetes is causing nerve symptoms, treatment will initially focus on managing the disease to reduce or eliminate symptoms. For other types of neuropathy caused by nerve or soft tissue injury, injections are a mainstay of treatment. These injections are used to both reduce inflammation that can contribute to nerve impingement and relieve pain and other symptoms by blocking nerve signals. Sciatica and cervical radiculopathy are two common types of neuropathy that can be managed with injections of pain medications and corticosteroids to help reduce irritation and inflammation caused by herniated or bulging discs in the lower back or neck. Physical therapy or gentle stretching exercises may also be used to promote healing and prevent recurrence. Less commonly, minimally-invasive surgery may be needed to address nerve compressions causing pain and other symptoms.