By Dr. Donald Liebell
If you’ve been looking for answers for peripheral neuropathy (PN), you’ve no doubt been frustrated. “Conventional” American medical doctors admirably attempt to treat the symptoms with limited results. They utilize the resources to which they’ve been exposed: powerful drugs that are designed to numb your brain… to numb the pain. It seems that most peripheral neuropathy victims, as well as their caring physicians, assume that they have no other choice but to resort to drugs to deal with the debilitating pain, tingling, burning, numbness and other symptoms.
The myth is that peripheral neuropathy is a medical mystery. To many enlightened physicians and researchers around the world, it simply is not.
Why doesn’t my doctor know this?
In my opinion, the problem is “conventional” medicine’s focus on symptoms… and drugs to suppress them, as the solution. Nearly all the efforts and resources of American medical scientists are allocated towards developing drugs that BLOCK brain chemicals that generate pain signals. There is almost no focus on correction, rehabilitation and prevention of the physical and chemical imbalances and dysfunction that create peripheral neuropathies in the first place.
In this article you will get the facts about PN… and discover that there is indeed help for it. There are doctors who have the skills, knowledge and technology to effectively treat it… without drugs or surgery.
Many of these approaches are common practice in nations outside the United States; countries that can boast superior health and health care statistics, as reported by the World Health Organization.
Part of the problem is that the mere diagnosis of "peripheral neuropathy" is way too general, weak and vague. An estimated 20 million Americans suffer PN. 50-60% of diabetics develop a neuropathy. Countless millions more suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, restless leg syndrome, sciatica, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, radiculopathies, and stroke.
Peripheral neuropathies are commonly caused by chronic infections, such as Lyme disease (a major cause I've seen in my practice), as well as medications for other conditions. Cancer chemotherapy is an example, as well as statin drugs for lowering cholesterol. It’s no wonder PN is so troublesome! Diabetics are hardly the only sufferers of PN.
Let’s take a closer look at peripheral neuropathy:
The term “peripheral” refers to the side—the periphery… the nerves that branch away from the spinal cord through openings of the spine, out to the rest of the body.
The peripheral nervous system is an extension of the central nervous system, which includes the brain, brain stem and spinal cord.
The word “neuropathy” means NERVE DISEASE.
“Neuro” means Nerve…
“Pathy” means disease.
In most cases of peripheral neuropathy, we're talking about the nerve pathways from your neck to your hands and/or your lower back to your toes.
Peripheral neuropathies all involve damage to nerve cells. The part of the nerve cell that gets typically damaged is called the axon. Axons transmit electro-chemical signals from nerve cell (neuron) to nerve cell or muscle.
More simply described, peripheral neuropathy is the result of poorly connected nerves, sort of like “broken circuits” in your wires that connect to your skin. Your nerves can’t transmit certain signals normally back and forth to your brain.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy:
There are 2 types of PN symptoms: negative and positive.
Negative symptoms, which typically show up first, include: a loss of function, such as decreased reflexes, strength and numbness. These may not be particularly noticeable at first, since your brain can compensate for them.
Positive symptoms, which can take years to develop, include: tingling (pins & needles), burning, stabbing or shooting pain, and electric shock sensations.
These symptoms are often described in a wide variety of ways by patients. This can confuse doctors and lead to an inaccurate or incomplete diagnosis. Some people experience both negative and positive symptoms. Numbness and pain are an example where there’s both too little stimulation and too much stimulation of the nerves.
The bottom line is that nerves become damaged as a result of decreased oxygen. This is the case whether it’s PN caused by spinal nerve compression, diabetes or chemical poisoning. Nerves that are lacking oxygen do not function properly—their electrical impulses cannot flow freely.
Types of Peripheral Neuropathy:
Different types of nerves can be damaged, resulting in different symptoms. Motor Nerve neuropathy is when your brain can’t communicate well with your muscles (your motors) and tell them what to do. It’s NOT a brain problem (as in a stroke).
It’s about “broken circuits” in the nerves—signal malfunction. This can cause muscle weakness, shrinking (atrophy) or balance difficulties. The nerve damage creates problems with your muscles contracting and relaxing.
Sensory Nerve neuropathy is when your sense of touch, heat and pain are affected. It boils down to the same principle of “broken circuits.” The most common nerves to be affected by both motor and sensory neuropathy are the longest nerves; the ones that reach your toes or fingers.
More Peripheral Neuropathy Facts:
It has been estimated that 86,000 Americans require amputations each year, due to uncontrollable diabetic peripheral neuropathy. This is a hideous side of diabetes that many don’t realize exists. But PN has so many common causes. In some cases there are multiple causes for the same symptoms in one individual.
Here are the most common causes of peripheral neuropathies:
Trauma to the neck, back and other joints: Accidents, injuries, repetitive motions, sitting in unnatural positions (desk work) etc. can cause joint injuries that result in nerve compression.
PN can be caused by spinal misalignment, bulging discs, and degenerative spinal arthritis (bone spurs pressing on a nerve). These are all mechanical causes of peripheral neuropathy. Joint problems create “broken circuits” in the nerves, which result in PN conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, restless leg syndrome and sciatica.
PN can be caused by nutrient malabsorption problems - such as your body's inability to absorb vitamins—particularly B-vitamins, which are critical for nerve health. This is commonly caused by chronic systemic infection, which goes unnoticed or never explored for, through conventional medical diagnosis.
Alcoholism, which often goes hand in hand with bad diet and vitamin deficiencies is another cause.
Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Guillain-Barre Syndrome can result in PN.
Thyroid, liver and kidney disease can cause peripheral neuropathies.
Inherited or genetic disease can cause PN: Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, amyloid polyneuropathy, Friedrich’s Ataxia
Exposure to poisons, heavy metals, as well as many medications can result in PN. Chemotherapy can kill peripheral nerve cells in addition to the cancer cells.
Infectious diseases can also cause PN: Hepatitis, Lyme Disease, AIDS
Medically prescribed drugs are the typical treatment for peripheral neuropathy, regardless of the cause.
How do drugs work?
the simplest explanation is that the drugs chemically numb the roots of the nerves (blue part of the diagram) where they branch out of the spine, to block pain-causing nerve signals from getting through to the spinal cord and up to the brain, so pain is not perceived.
You’ll may be shocked to discover that the most popular PN medications prescribed were designed for radically different conditions. Commonly prescribed drugs like Lyrica, Neurontin, Topamax, Dilantin and Tegretol are actually anti-seizure medications developed to treat epilepsy.
Cymbalta, Elavil (Amitriptyline) and Tofranil are powerful anti-depressant drugs! Some PN sufferers are so bad off that they require drugs like Valium, Oxycontin or Percocet just to make it through the day sleeping.
This is not to say that these drugs don’t help alleviate the symptoms for some people. The point is that they do not address the true underlying cause, which is nerve damage due to oxygen starvation.
Long term improvement and healing comes only from methods that help re-connect the “broken circuits,” restore oxygen and eliminate nerve compression.
But Don’t Blame Your Doctor!
Remember, your doctor prescribes medications based upon the resources he/she has available. In America, traditional medical doctors are dependent upon pharmaceutical companies. They are the problem. They will never tell you or your doctor that they don’t have any real answers for peripheral neuropathy. Nor will they tell you or your doctor about successful drugless treatment approaches.
What CAN Be Done Other Than Drugs?
The first part of the equation is getting an accurate and complete diagnosis. Too many PN sufferers seek out the advice of one physician, get a quick consultation, exam and a prescription and that’s it. In my opinion, this is pitifully unacceptable.
With so many causes of peripheral neuropathy, doesn’t it make sense to be evaluated by a professional who successfully treats PN patients, and is eager and willing to spend a solid amount of time “digging deep” to solve the mystery of the causes of your symptoms, rather than merely treating them?
You must first spend time with a doctor who understands principles of energy medicine - scientific principles which have withstood the test of time, and are now blossoming with new and exciting discoveries. These are doctors who open their minds to medical concepts beyond those of the “conventional” American drugs-and-surgery approach… doctors who possess the skills, knowledge and technology to stimulate normal nerve and brain function and reset “broken circuits” without drugs and their side effects.
In my practice, for example, I help sufferers of peripheral neuropathies with the following approaches, which combine elements of international research and technology:
(1) Homeopathic Detoxification, Immune System Boosting, and Nerve Stimuli. The majority of my patients who've suffered various types of peripheral neuropathy, have multiple levels of toxicity, chronic infection, and a depressed immune system. These energy medicine approaches have been very successful for many people who were given the generic PN diagnosis by another doctor, but no explanation of cause factors.
(2) Upper Cervical Spinal Correction: the Atlas Orthogonal procedure, which has been recently featured on the hit TV show, “The Doctors” has been published in medical journals due to its remarkable success with reducing nerve compression without surgery.
(3) Needle-free Ear Acupuncture: Developed in the 1950’s by French neurologist, Dr. Paul Nogier, this fascinating form of needle-free acupuncture performed exclusively on the ear, has been remarkably helpful in repairing “broken circuits” of nerve energy and alleviating pain… without drugs
(4) Manual Therapies: to increase joint mobility, relieve nerve stress and promote blood flow.
(1) Cold Laser Therapy:
one of the most important medical technological developments, low level
laser light stimulates nerve cell repair. The Erchonia Laser also
serves as an incredible, non-invasive diagnostic instrument for
(7) Rebounding Exercise: stimulation of oxygen to nerve tissues and lymphatic system circulation is massively important
(8) Teamwork: integrated health care is acknowledging the need for various medical disciplines for the benefit of the patient—knowing when, to whom and where to refer patients to get a complete and accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
In my opinion, it is unacceptable for sufferers of peripheral neuropathy to be "brushed off" or completely ignored as "hopeless" cases. It is equally abominable for diabetics, who suffer neuropathies in the arms or legs to be treated with the assumption that the pain is caused by the diabetes. I have personally helped many diabetics whose pain was actually spine related (and easily treated), and not from the diabetes at all. Symptoms and their causes can overlap. Laziness in diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy can lead to incorrect and ineffective treatment.
Fortunately, help is available... if you first know to even look for it (beyond simply taking the latest prescription drug).
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