5 Things that help with polyneuropathy
It is very common to hear that there is nothing you can do about polyneuropathy. That is why every patient wonders
"is there really nothing I do about this?".
In fact, the treatment is very difficult and must be different for each and every individual. In social networks and from many companies you can find reports about different remedies that can supposedly help. Mostly these are only individual experiences and not reliable sources. However, there are things that often help and for who's effectiveness there is also scientific evidence. I will introduce five of these things in this article.
1. Balance Exercise helps with polyneuropathy
THe right type of exercise can help with polyneuropathy
The nervous system can be specifically trained and this can help with polyneuropathy.
However, it must be very specific exercise. Many people have tried to achieve something themselves through endurance or strength training. Therapists and scientists have also tried this.
Unfortunately the effects are relatively small. Although such training is very helpful for general health, it does not help much against polyneuropathy (except if for some special forms of polyneuropathy, such as diabetic polyneuropathy).
The same is true for stretching exercises. If you train your muscles, this will only have a minor effect on your nerves.
The nervous system is your most trainable organ
The nervous system is best trained with balance exercises. This involves constantly sensing and adjusting the posture, muscle tension and movement of the body. This improves your perception of your own body and the precision with which movements can be controlled.
This is hard work for your nervous system because it has to sense many things at the same time and respond to them very precisely.
Training this improves the perception of your own body and the precision with which movements can be controlled. Consequently you specifically adress the problems that are caused by polyneuropathy.
Physical exertion is not necessary here. It is actually better to exercise when you are rested because it is important to stay mentally concentrated on the exercises.
Another upside to this training is that the effects can be seen much faster than in classical fitness training because the nervous system adapts extremely quickly! You don't have to wait for weeks before you see an improvement, as you would with strength or endurance training. You can improve your balance within a matter of minutes if you train in the right way.
IMPROVEMENT OF PAIN AND SYMPTOMS
These improvements in the nervous system help against the pain and discomfort associated with polyneuropathy. Many studies have also shown that they improve mobility and balance.
In addition, patients who do these exercises also report less pain and discomfort from polyneuropathy. The nervous system therefore learns to compensate for the nerve damage through such training.
You can find an example study here:
Exercise for polyneuropathy
GREAT NEWS: YOU CAN DO IT YOURSELF!
You don't need a gym or a physiotherapist for balance training - if you know how to do it.
That is why I wrote the book exercise for polyneuropathy. It contains detailed information for balance training at home if you suffer from polyneuropathy.
2.Vibration training and polyneuropathy
Balance training is not the only form of training that helps with polyneuropathy. Vibration training has also been shown to help.
Vibration training involves standing on a special plate that vibrates. The vibrations trigger reflexes in the nerves, which also cause an adaptive response in the nervous system. It is often claimed that these vibrations have a huge training effect. This is often exaggerated, at least as far as healthy people are concerned. But people with nervous disorders seem to react fairly positively.
A lot of patients report less pain and other symptoms of polyneuropathy after such training.
CONSULT WITH EXPERTS BEFOREHAND
If you decide to do vibration training, you should definitely talk to a specialist beforehand as there are major differences between the vibration devices.
The effects on polyneuropathy reported in scientific studies also vary greatly.
There are different systems of vibration plates. Some plates vibrate alternately, i.e. they bounce from side to side. In others the whole plate moves up and down. There are also so-called 3D plates that move in all directions and rotating plates that make the body vibrate. Which system is most effective for polyneuropathy has not yet been clarified. Based on my personal experience and the assumed effect on the nervous system, I believe that side alternating systems are most promising. However, there is no scientific evidence on which system has the best effects yet.
In addition, there is the danger of straining your body too much during vibration training, because one hardly notices the intense effects at first. Muscle tightening also often occurs after training. That is why you should only train for a very short time at the beginning and increase the training duration slowly.
VIBRATION TRAINING AND BALANCE TRAINING WORK BEST TOGETHER
Balance training and vibration training affect the nervous system in different ways. In a study with patients who developed polyneuropathy as a result of chemotherapy, it was shown that the two training methods have different effects. Vibration training seems to help more with the symptoms like pain and numbness, whereas Balance Training helps more with walking and standing stable (You can read the study here: Streckmann et al 2018).
As a result, if you do vibration training, you should definitely add balance exercises aswell, as they provide a great additional benefit with little effort and hardly any cost.
3. Alpha Lipoic Acid helps in polyneuropathy
ALPHA LIPOIC ACID HAS BEEN PROVEN TO HELP - IF USED CORRECTLY
Alpha Lipoic Acid has been tested in various studies. These trials showed that it actually reduces the symptoms of polyneuropathy.
However, this has only been proven in diabetic polyneuropathy and the only really noticeable improvement is when alpha lipoic acid is given as an infusion. I still think it makes sense to consider alpha-lipoic acid in tablet form as well, as it might at least slow down the deterioration.
If you do not suffer from diabetic polyneuropathy but from another form, the effect of alpha-lipoic acid has not yet been proven, but it has not been disproved either. There have simply not been enough studies done on this. This is why I recommend consulting your doctor and see if alpha lipoic acid is a potential treatment for you.
IT IS ESSENTIAL TO CLARIFY RISKS IN ADVANCE
If you would like to try alpha lipoic acid, it is important that you consult your doctor first. Alpha lipoic acid can interact with drugs and reduce the effect of certain chemotherapies, for example.
So again, first talk to an expert before taking this drug.
4. Electrotherapy can help in polyneuropathy
There are many different kinds of electrotherapy. The two most relevant for polyneuropathy are the so-called 'TENS' and 'High-Tone Therapy'.
TENS: SHORT-TERM PAIN RELIEF
TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is often used in polyneuropathy.
Many patients report pain relief after such a treatment. Unfortunately, this only lasts for a very short time. After a few hours everything is back to the way it was before.
TENS is therefore not causing permanent results. However, it does have the advantage that you can get a TENS-machine to use at home for very little money and then get at least short-term relief on a regular basis.
HIGH-TONE THERAPy LOOKS PROMISING
The second method, high tone therapy, seems to be more helpful.
Some trials have reported positive effects with a longer duration. It is even thought that it can trigger regeneration of the nerves.
You can find an example study here.
This treatment is very time-consuming, as one session lasts about an hour and you need at least three sessions a week. Lately, some companies started offering devices for self-treatment at home, but they are quite expensive. Some doctors offer this treatment as a special service.
5. Omega 3 Fatty Acids and polyneuropathy
Omega-3 fatty acids were tested in a study (Goreishi et al. 2012) on breast cancer patients who were given a form of chemotherapy that often causes polyneuropathy (paclitaxel).
The patients who took fatty acids were less likely to develop symptoms of polyneuropathy than those who did not.
Animal experiments with diabetic mice also showed a protective effect on the nerves.
ONLY POSITIVE SIDE EFFECTS TO BE EXPECTED
There are currently too few scientific studies to be able to make a reliable statement about the effect and dosage of omega-3 fatty acids. However, almost exclusively positive side effects are to be expected from them. For example, they help keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. This means that you can try omega-3 fatty acids easily and without too much risk. If you take other medication, you should check if omega-3 fatty acids interact with them first, though.
There are many companies that offer products containing omega-3 fatty acids. Recently, they have also started to offer products especially for patients undergoing chemotherapy. However, if you prefer the natural option, you can also simply eat fish oils that contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. These seem to be more effective than vegetable oils due to the special ingredients. However, it is unfortunately not yet clear how much one should ingest.