In October 2019, the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association announced a series of strategic hiring moves as the team prepared to claim a leading spot in the highly competitive Western Conference. The person that the Kings appointed as Head of Performance is a former Canadian athlete who holds degrees in both chiropractic care and kinesiology, and who previously worked with the Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League as a strength and conditioning coach.
Chiropractors have a long history of working with NBA teams. When retired Hall of Fame player John Stockton turned 40 years old in 2002, he was still active with the Utah Jazz, and he attributed some of his longevity as a professional athlete to his chiropractic sessions, which helped him stay balanced and adjusted in terms of muscle and skeletal health.
Aside from helping elite basketball players with their physical development as professional athletes, chiropractors also treat conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, which is the main cause of the condition commonly known as “nerve pain.” Peripheral neuropathy refers to the injury, damage, obstruction, or other anomalous conditions of the peripheral nervous system, which transmits information to the central nervous systems and eventually to the brain.
How Our Peripheral Nervous System Works
Our vital organs and extremities are connected to the central nervous system by a periphery of sensory, autonomic, and motor, nerves. Respectively, these nerves communicate the following information to our central nervous system, our brains, and our senses:
- Touch, temperature, and pain.
- Vital functions such as blood pressure and digestion.
- Motion and muscle functionality.
When a peripheral neuropathy is present, injured or constrained nerves will not function adequately, thereby causing abnormal or adverse symptoms.
Types of Peripheral Neuropathy
There are dozens of specific neuropathy conditions that can be classified into two main categories. One deals with the functions affected while the other is related to when and how long the symptoms are felt. Mononeuropathic conditions affect a single nerve while polyneuropathic cases will impact more than one nerve. Furthermore, patients who live with neuropathy may exhibit a range of symptoms such as:
- Non-arthritis inflammation of the lower extremities, particularly around the joints.
- Compromised range of motion.
- Numbness and tingling.
- Pain around the joints.
- Strange feelings of stiffness.
- Trembling and weakness during certain motions.
- Severe headaches and migraines.
- Chronic fatigue.
We often tend to think about neuropathy about being a condition in which nerves are damaged; this is not always the case because there are times when nerves may actually be constrained by certain factors. For many patients, onset nerve pain will be idiopathic, meaning that the underlying cause cannot be determined. In cases of traumatic injury, the diagnosis tends to be easier because there is clarity with regard to the cause and the affected anatomy.
When Nerve Damage is Less Conspicuous
Absent an injury or a situation in which improper posture can be ruled out, diagnosing neuropathy may lead healthcare professionals to consider the following causes:
- Elevated blood sugar levels and type B diabetes.
- Metabolic issues.
- Skeletal misalignment with the surrounding tissue.
- Nutritional imbalances.
- Alcoholism or substance abuse.
- Side effects from chronic disease.
Chiropractors consider all factors when patients seem to be affected by neuropathy. When pain is felt suddenly and without explanation, there is nothing to worry about as long as it does not last long and it does not return; although this could be a temporary neuropathy, our bodies have ways to readjust themselves. The problem is when nerve pain is persistent and without a seemingly clear cause. If we walk barefoot around the house and hit our toes against furniture, we will immediately feel pain and will know why; eventually, the pain will subside, and this will let us determine that it is not a neuropathy. When our shoulders feel swollen even though they look normal, and when they emanate pain that does not feel familiar, this is a situation that is more closely related to neuropathy.
Chiropractic Diagnosis of Nerve Pain
Depending on the subjective complaints of the patient, a chiropractor may use various diagnostic tools to determine the presence and type of neuropathy. If high blood sugar levels are implied, for example, outside laboratory tests may be ordered, and the patient may also have to schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist or general medicine physician. Diabetes is a condition known to reduce the integrity of nerves; the neuropathy can be treated symptomatically for the purpose of pain relief and to increase the quality of life, but the glucose and insulin balance must be addressed as well.
Pinched nerves are common neuropathy conditions that may be caused by issues related to posture, activity, or inactivity; chiropractors can often determine if nerves are constrained with a physical examination. Another neuropathy that can be detected in the course of a physical exam is sciatica, a condition that can bring about excruciating lower back pain. Conclusive diagnoses may require x-ray imaging or ultrasound testing before a treatment plan can be formulated.
Chiropractic Treatment of Nerve Pain
One of the worst complications of peripheral neuropathy occurs when it is left untreated. A pinched nerve, for example, will not only result in chronic pain but will also increase the potential of the nerve becoming irretrievably damaged unless it is released from its constraints. Nerves have a great propensity towards healing at any age, but they also have their limits.
The treatment plans administered by chiropractors will vary according to the diagnosed neuropathy. In cases of sciatica, spinal alignment therapy by means of manipulation and adjustment can go a long way in relieving pain. It should be noted that many of the treatments conducted by chiropractors have a holistic goal in mind, which means that they create optimal situations for our bodies to heal themselves. To this effect, chiropractic care may go beyond manipulation and adjustment sessions at the clinic; you can also expect discussions about lifestyle habits, particularly with regard to nutrition, posture, and physical activity.
Physicians who treat patients with diabetes are known to recommend chiropractic consultations when they observe neuropathy symptoms; when this happens, patients should keep in mind that regulating their blood sugar levels is only one part of their treatment. If diabetes has progressed to the point of damaging nerve endings, chiropractic care is highly recommended. Chiropractors can do more than just bring relief to your nerve pain; just like the NBA players who trust in their chiropractors to keep them healthy throughout the regular season, the playoffs, and hopefully the finals, you can also seek chiropractic care as a healthy choice in your life.