Aug20MonNumbness is a condition that so many people suffer from. August 20, 2018
Numbness is a condition that so many people suffer from. And the frustrating part of this particular problem is that even though various health care professionals may check the spine and find the root cause on CT scan, MRI and x-ray imaging, the approach to correcting and treating the problem is often varied based on the type of doctor seen and thus the outcomes are ineffective and people continue to suffer. My hope is that as you read through this article it will help you feel that you’re not alone and that there is a solution that could be helpful to you.
Why do you need to pay attention to your numbness symtpoms?
If numbness is left untreated or treated improperly there are many serious complications that can result and these include muscle weakness and loss of function or paralysis, peripheral neuropathy and joint degeneration (from lack of sufficient neurological feedback), accidents and clumsiness (from lack of neurological sensation), tissue cell death, amputation, visceral dysfunction (organs not working properly). Numbness and all of these problems that can and often result from it affect activities of daily living such as sports, family life, enjoying hobbies, and even the ability to work and make a living. Clinically I see people who suffer from depression and decline of mental health from the problem becoming chronic. So not only is numbness a problem for a person’s state of health and wellbeing, if left untreated can also become a major problem for their financial situation as well.
You are not alone.
Some recent US studies were conducted to figure out the statistics of who and how many people suffer from various health conditions. How these statistics relate to Canadians suffering is that the Canadian and American populations are very similar when it comes to status of our national health, it’s just that Canada has not (yet) conducted a national health survey in the same way that the US has.
In an effort to understand the burden of pain that Americans suffer and offer their customers pharmaceutical solutions, the company Pfizer compiled and summarized data from these national health surveys - the National Health Interview Survey, the National Health Care Survey and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The results of these surveys are astounding, yet not surprising to people who fall in the category of suffering from pain and painful conditions.
“Over 100 million adults in the United States—51% of the estimated 215 million population aged 20 years and older—report pain at one or more body sites including the joints, low back, neck, face/jaw, or experience dental pain or headaches/migraines. Over one-quarter of adults aged 40 years and older report low back pain in the past 3 months. One-quarter of women aged 20–39 years report having severe headaches or migraines in the past 3 months.”
Results of the survey showed specifically that 14% of the adult participants aged 40 or over have peripheral neuropathy. 75% of the14% was actually asymptomatic, meaning that the objective tests that are used to diagnose peripheral neuropathy show that people have nerve damage and don’t even know it yet. The results showed that the numbers doubled with people who have diabetes.
A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health in 2014 found that 2.3% of US working population suffer from actual CTS (carpal tunnel syndrome) which is a specific form of numbness occurring in the hands and fingers.
What causes numbness?
Clinically, the challenge in helping people who suffer from numbness is not in the diagnosis or realisation of the problem, but in actually determining a strategy to reduce and/or eliminate the numbness altogether so that they can once again function and live their lives the way they want to.
Because some causes of numbness are due to the effects of medications that treat certain health conditions it can be harder to make effective change because of the constant toxic stress on a person’s body from the chemicals in the medications. Very often though, the cause of numbness is the result of a compression or tensile stress on the delicate nervous system, the spinal cord and nerves. Because of this underlying, often overlooked, problem, a person may have this nervous system stress without realising it until added stresses from poor posture, local joint injury/degeneration or even toxic stresses are added. What’s important to remember is that the numbness is an outward sign to signal you that there is a problem and to do something about it. Like any kind of problem, it’s your innate alarm system warning you.
The different causes of nerve compression or tension can be caused by a direct nerve root impingement, tensile stress in dura mater, misalignments of spinal bones (vertebrae), tension in neck, shoulder and arm muscles, thoracic outlet syndrome, peripheral nerve impingements due to distal joint misalignments and associated muscle tension, toxic ‘side’ effects of medication, hypertension (leading to ‘swollen’ blood vessels in spinal canal and throughout body – leading to an internal compression of nerves).
What really doesn’t help.
Have you ever tried to ‘shake’ the numbness out of your arms and hands or legs and feet? This is a common response that many people use to relieve the annoying, frustrating and painful feeling of numbness. Unfortunately, although it might work momentarily the numb feelings often return, only to have to ‘shake’ it away again. Other ineffective strategies for dealing with numbness include using ice/heat, rubbing on creams or lotions, tens machines, changing positions for sleeping, sitting, driving and working, stopping the aggravating activity which often means stopping something you love to do, even wearing special cumbersome devices such as splints, braces and special socks. Too many people ignore the problem and do nothing and this can be dangerous, especially because allowing the problem to persist for too long without effective investigation and treatment can lead to surgery.
Why you need to get your spine checked.
One of the biggest differences in the approach we take with our patients is that our central and main focus is on the care of the spine with the intention of helping our patients to have the healthiest spines for life. The reason for this is that the spine is the “house” for the central nervous system – the place where all of the communication happens to run a healthy and efficient body. Without a healthy spine, a person doesn’t have the best chance of being healthy for life.
The first step we take with everyone who comes to us for help is the analysis of their spine through a thorough examination process where we test the function of the joints and look for areas of tension and tightness. We also test the temperature of the skin around the spine with special equipment and one of our favourite tests is the use of x-ray imaging to actually see inside the spine for any obvious specific joint or gross spinal misalignments and damage. After checking the spine, it’s also common that we check the area of numbness itself because it could be a local joint or muscle that is compressing a peripheral nerve as is often the case with ulnar nerve compression or carpal tunnel syndrome.
After determining that the cause of the numbness originates in the spine or other joints, we can perform specific chiropractic adjustments (joint releases) to the vertebrae (spinal joints) and even peripheral joints if needed. These adjustments help to free up the nerves that are causing the pain.
Have a look at these case studies:
As part of our unique approach we prescribe certain exercises and/or stretches to maximise the effectiveness of the adjustments and help keep the joint(s) in the proper positions.
It takes time for joints (bones, muscles, ligaments, and other supporting structures) to re-grow (regenerate) and so the treatment approach takes time with a longer term positive outcome. We provide ongoing progress exams, reports and education to ensure that we are seeing results and are working together with patients to help facilitate the desired changes and outcomes.
The difference of our approach is that we don’t always focus on treating the symptom but rather look for the reason why the symptom is there. A symptom such as numbness and tingling is a pretty clear sign or indication that there is a problem in the nervous system. Because we focus on the nervous system through the care of the spine – we often see great results with our patients because of our thorough approach and follow through working together with our patients on a consistent basis.
One of the physiological (cellular health) results of an adjustment to the spine is the setting off of a cascade of events that ultimately reduces blood cortisol – this reduction of physiological stress results in a slowing of the heart rate, reducing blood pressure and increasing the healing ability of the body to repair damaged tissues – reducing blood pressure and heart rate can result in a ‘decompression’ of sorts within the body putting less stress on the nerves and other tissues alleviating that pressure that is often felt with numbness and tingling.
What can you do to start helping yourself?
I would say the first step is to become aware of when symptoms are happening and to see if there is anything specific that may be contributing to the numbness. It could be related to posture or position or the result of a repetitive task or motion. It could be brought on or aggravated by diet (foods or beverages), medications, stressful situations/environments, sitting/standing/sleeping positions while at home or at work or doing a certain activity (ie. typing, playing sports, driving, sleeping). A very common question I get asked all the time is what kind of pillow should be used. This is a hard question to answer because everyone is different. Before you go spend hundreds of dollars trying out new pillows to alleviate your nighttime numbness it’s very important to recognise that although things such as pillows or anything else mentioned may appear to be causing your problem, they may simply be aggravating factors that enhance or worsen an underlying condition.
Secondly, watch and see if there is a change to your symptoms that happen as a result of changing anything that you are doing that apparently cause the problem.
If there is a change then that could be an easy fix for you. I caution against ignoring an underlying problem. Just because you can’t feel something doesn’t mean there’s still not an underlying problem (think about blood pressure or a cavity in your tooth). Again its important to remember that it could be that a certain activity or position is just aggravating an underlying ‘silent’ structural problem.
If changing activity doesn’t result in a change of symptoms then it’s definitely worth getting it checked by a professional. A spinal health expert (ie. Doctor of Chiropractic) is a good place to start because the spine and it’s parts (spinal cord and nerves) is a Chiropractor’s area of expertise.
There are some good home health practices to establish as a part of regular routine such as deep breathing for relaxation and stretching to release tight muscles which in the long term will only benefit everyone who does them often and regularly. A medication or an external cream or lotion may help short term but long term the problem will persist if it’s not properly taken care of. Medications can have ill-effects beyond the reason they are being used for and the less toxic load you can put on your body the better off you will be.
As a result of our approach we see amazing results. Our elderly patient population are especially thankful that we take great care and work with them because they want to continue to live rich and full lives. What we want people to know is that the sooner you can figure out the cause of your problem, the sooner it has the best chance of being corrected.