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Peripheral Neuropathy

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Peripheral Neuropathy

A Little Extra Hope

Chances are you've seen this scene: a spunky boy racing around the park, climbing slides and playing in a sandbox. His grandmother sits on a park bench longing to join in. Sitting still is not her choice. Painful neuropathy forced her to the sidelines.

A chronic condition affecting 20 million Americans, neuropathy, a result of nerve damage, causes pain, burning, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet. The pain decreases sensation in the feet, potentially creating balance and coordination trouble and forcing once active people to limit their movement. The pain can really be debilitating. Although neuropathy can affect any age, the condition is common among seniors.

Infections, injuries or tumors can cause neuropathy. Diabetics make up 30 percent of neuropathy cases. Neuropathy adds medical problems to diabetics suffering through the condition due to peripheral nervous system damage, severed sensory nerves from amputations or infections caused by non-healing wounds.

Neuropathy patients, plagued by constant pain, soon learn to adjust their lives for less mobility and continual discomfort. Symptoms typically include decreased sensation in feet and hands, balance loss and a burning or freezing feeling, which can climb up the legs.

Many patients go through life without being diagnosed because the symptoms seem so odd they are either afraid to tell their doctor or brush it off to deal with more pressing medical needs. It's impossible to seek treatment without first addressing the problem with a primary care doctor.

Neuropathy patients often feel little hope of getting better. The most common treatments involve medication for pain management. While medications help, patients still feel symptoms and many also suffer through sleepless and uncomfortable nights. People want to get better and they want their lives back.

In June of 2013, Centra began offering Rebuilder, a cutting-edge rehabilitation treatment designed to stimulate the nerves and muscles and bring sensation back to the feet and hands. For neuropathy patients, the treatment offers a new lease on life.

With the Rebuilder, neuropathy patients place their feet or hands in a warm bath for 30 minutes. Two electrodes are placed in the water with a light electrical current. The low-frequency current, which is safe and painless, reverses the polarity of long-damaged nerves.

Most patients have three 30-minute sessions a week before receiving a home unit after several weeks of positive results. The Rebuilder program typically brings success within five to six treatments, but many patients report feeling in their extremities after one or two sessions.

For patients battling balance and coordination control, an individual physical therapy treatment can follow the 30-minute Rebuilder treatments. Considering many neuropathy patients are resolved to live a less mobile life, the Rebuilder program is really reshaping lives.

While Rebuilder does not cure neuropathy, eight of 10 patients have experienced positive results from the treatment. Nearly everyone sees some change. Many diabetic patients are feeling finger pricks for the first time during blood sugar checks. Patients are able to stop taking pain medications and live a much higher quality of life. Neuropathy seems hopeless, but the Rebuilder program offers drastic changes to many patients.

Particularly for aging residents, feeling in the feet is pivotal for balance. Grandparents have spent years looking forward to retirement and a slower pace. They value filling their busy working lives with casual dining and more time with grandchildren. If left untreated, neuropathy can throw a wrench in those plans, robbing people of mobility and freedom to enjoy life.

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