Neuropathic pain is the worst kind of pain.
Think of migraines; blood vessels dilate and press against nerves in your head; shingles where a virus attacks the nerves directly; a toothache when the infection behind or under a tooth invades the nearby nerves; neuropathy in any part of the body – usually associated with other diseases like Diabetes but common in chronic Lyme…
Allan Basbaum, PhD, chair of the anatomy department at University of California, San Francisco, and former editor of PAIN, the Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain agrees. He says, “In general, neuropathic pain — pain produced by damage to nerves rather than tissue — produces the most excruciating pain.”
“And because many of these conditions come and go, patients often live in trepidation of their next attack. The unknown is terrifying,” Basbaum said.
Nowhere is that more true than with chronic Lyme once it has invaded the central nervous system. Not only can it cause severe nervous behavior such as anxiety, phobias, rage and/or PTSD, but can and will mimic an unlimited number of neural disorders.
While a definitive ranking is impossible, here’s a look at a few of the most debilitating maladies, the kind Basbaum says patients rank as a 15 on a scale of 1-10. Some of the worst he says:
Trigenanal neuralgia: If you’ve heard of this nervous system disorder (and that’s a big if), you’ve probably heard it described as the world’s worst pain.
This condition affects a nerve that sends sensory information from your face to your brain, resulting in stabbing pain to the face. Patients always remember where they were and what they were doing the first time they’re afflicted with the excruciating pain.” Dr. Basbaum says.
Cluster Headaches: People who suffer from cluster headaches describe them as worse than childbirth without anesthetics, worse than gunshot wounds, head injuries, or a burned hand. “They’ll find the worst thing they can think of and tell you it’s worse,” said neurologist Dr. Peter Goadsby, director of UCSF’s Headache Center. “It always causes me to stop and draw a breath.”
Burns: Burns cause ongoing pain that worsens when skin is stretched or just lightly touched, due to the damaged nerves underneath the burned skin. Plus, the regular cleansings required usually involves additional pain.
Chronic Lyme creates phantom burn pain in specific yet random spots or areas. Some compare it to how you would imagine it would feel if someone put a cigarette out on your skin.
Neuropathy: Three to eight percent of people suffer with neuropathy due to damaged nerves in their feet or hands. Most often this is related to diabetes, but is also seen with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Lyme disease, hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, shingles, and HIV. It can also be seen with deficiencies of vitamins B1, B12, A and E, and from toxins such as excess alcohol, statin (cholesterol lowering) drugs, and heavy metals.
Damage to sensory nerves causes tingling, numbness, burning, electrical pains and extreme sensitivity to touch or pressure, while motor nerve damage can result in muscle weakness, cramps, spasms, and loss of balance and coordination.
Understanding the underlying cellular processes and causes of peripheral neuropathy enables the doctor to determine the best treatment(s) for the patient. Rather than just masking the disease with ever stronger pain-killers and antidepressants, the underlying causes can be successfully addressed. Dr. Moellendorf has found benefit in using the following natural alternatives for peripheral neuropathy patients seeking a return to health.
How do we manage this disabling pain or at least take the edge off it?
Prescription drugs are preferred for the most severe pain and if used properly can be tremendously helpful. They range from opiate based to anti-inflammatory, and when recovery is successful the need for the pharmaceuticals goes away.
Many fear addiction with strong pain medications, and with good cause, especially if you are predisposed to having an addictive personality. However, people who have been in extreme pain for years and kept from living the full life they once enjoyed, chronic neurological Lyme patients are thrilled to get off pain meds – even the most potent.
Alternative Natural Treatments are becoming more desirable as months turn into years for extended illness, especially if the symptoms are not too severe.
Also, over the last five years technology and science have come together to deliver some amazing treatments that have shown to be extremely effective for certain people. (Not every treatment works the same for every person even when the symptoms appear identical.)
Oxygen treatment can be used for pain relief and also detoxification. A blog post will be coming soon on this specific treatment as there is so much exciting new research regarding the many different delivery systems. vitamin and mineral injections, herbal infusions (delivered as drops under the tongue or mixed in water on an empty stomach, capsules, and/or nasal sprays.
According to Dr. J G Moellendorf, DC, ND, LCP., fresh fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are the first priority in getting oxygen, nutrients, and anti-oxidants to stimulate healing in the damaged nerves. This should be supplemented with vitamins B1 and B12, along with alpha lipoic acid.
The use of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) has been shown to provide relief, at least temporarily. The research team led by Dong-Mei Jin published their results in using TENS in the paper Effect of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation on Symptomatic Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy. They found some improvement in pain at 4 and 6 weeks of TENS usage, but not at 12 weeks. Publishing Electrotherapy for the Treatment of Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy, Karin Pieber’s research team found significant pain improvement, up to 38% pain-free, while using TENS. However, the original pain intensity returned within a month of stopping treatment.
Also, Low Level Laser Therapy (Cold Laser) has been a major breakthrough in controlling pain for many neuropathy patients. Cold Laser received FDA market clearance for the treatment of chronic pain in 2001, along with treatment clearance for healing wounds in 2011.
Dr. Moellendorf notes, “The clinical results we sometimes see from using Cold Lasers with peripheral neuropathy almost seem miraculous. Not only do we see dramatic reductions and even total elimination of chronic pain, we are seeing increased circulation in the extremities. Where the skin had been cold and dark blue or purple, we’re seeing healthy pink, warm, and supple skin.
Some patients could not walk because of the agonizing pain of each step, and are now walking with no pain. Patients who have suffered with the problems of peripheral neuropathy for years are often regaining pain-free lives while eliminating their medications. For many patients, Low Level Laser Therapy has been the turning point for healing after everything else has failed.”
Abeer Yamany and Hayam Sayed published their results titled: Effect of Low Level Laser Therapy on Neurovascular Function of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy. Compared to a control group, they found that using Laser Therapy for four weeks increased blood circulation in the feet by 35.8%, along with a 26.4% decrease in pain intensity.
While further research needs to be done to understand these results, they believe that Cold Laser stimulates the mitochondria to produce more ATP to supply the energy for healing and increased cellular proliferation, along with increasing cellular oxygen consumption, increasing serotonin and endorphins for pain control, increasing anti-inflammatory activity, and improving blood circulation.
Laser Therapy has the ability to heal the underlying causes of peripheral neuropathy, rather than just masking the symptoms.
There is still much to be learned in preventing and treating peripheral neuropathy, but there have been very encouraging results in those patients who have tried the above natural alternatives.
Using the latest research findings, Moellendorf Chiropractic Office, Ltd. uses a comprehensive package of Chiropractic care, decompression traction therapy, active therapeutic movement training, cold laser therapy, and nutrition for the natural treatment of neurological conditions, neck and back pain, and other health conditions without drugs or surgery.
Additional information about Chiropractic, Naturopathy, and other forms of natural health care has been provided by Moellendorf Chiropractic Office, Ltd. at http://www.all-about-wellness.com.