Chronic pain is common among patients with neurologic complications. Such complications could be a result of injuries to the central nervous system or could be due to stroke, spinal cord injuries, or multiple sclerosis. Also, in some cases the pain may begin only months or years after the injury, further obscuring recognition of its association with a past neurologic injury.
Central neuropathic pain can be extremely disabling as it not only decreases the quality of life but also impairs professional performance, and limits the social participation of patients living with excruciating pain.
Therefore, finding a successful treatment option is absolutely essential for patients suffering from central neuropathic pain. Physiotherapy is a great intervention to relieve central neuropathic pain in individuals. But before learning more in-depth about the physiotherapy benefits, let’s first understand what central neuropathic pain is and what causes it.
What Is Central Neuropathic Pain?
Central neuropathic pain or central pain syndrome (CPS) is a chronic neuropathic disorder that can be influenced by any kind of serious damage to the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, spinal nerves, and brainstem. CPS can also be a result of damaged nerve fibers or because the nerves do not function properly.
Central neuropathic pain is not only caused due to a stroke, brain injury, or spinal cord injury but may also be present in conjunction with certain diseases, such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, among many other diseases. The type of pain that neuropathic disorder causes may seem different for each patient, as it depends on the area of the nervous system that sustained damage. Patients suffering from painful neuropathy disorders have reported sharp, burning sensations that feel like pins and needles being penetrated, and in most cases, the pain is constant and unwavering.
How Does Physical Therapy Help Nerve Damage?
So, is physiotherapy a good intervention to relieve central neuropathic pain in individuals?
Yes, it is.
Physical therapy or physiotherapy techniques are widely adopted all around the globe to relieve central neuropathic pain and it works quite effectively as well.
Professional physiotherapists can help maintain your muscle strength as well as improve your coordination, balance, posture, and gait when suffering from nerve pain. For this, they introduce certain specific physical therapy exercises that can be performed to help relieve the pain and strengthen your muscles as you regain range of motion.
Before starting your physical therapy and exercise routines, specialists will initially identify the origin and cause of nerve damage through comprehensive testing and decide what your functional levels are. Physiotherapy specialists look at pain-affected areas, range of motion, muscular weakness, and balance impairments. Once the initial testing and diagnosis are complete, physiotherapists will then be able to create a customized therapy program that is suited to the specific condition and needs of each individual.
What Will The Physiotherapy Exercises Focus On?
The main emphasis of introducing physiotherapy techniques is to eliminate stress from the affected areas. Especially because damaged nerves can have a significant effect on circulation and can restrict body movements or induce tremendous pressure while performing daily functions. Physiotherapy exercises can improve blood flow as exercises can stimulate the nerves and this helps in restoring normal function while reducing pain.
Also in some cases, the surrounding muscles, spinal injuries, or a herniated spinal disc can compress the nerve root and can result in a pinched nerve. This is mainly because of poor posture, lack of proper exercise, or could even be due to the stress from repetitive work. In such instances, physiotherapists will help you with exercises that can improve posture and reduce the compression on nerve roots, hence relieving the pain.
How Physical Therapy Works To Help Alleviate Nerve Damage
Muscle stiffness due to inactivity, poor posture, or work-related injuries can result in nerve compression. It could lead to neuropathic pain in individuals and affect the proper functioning of the nervous system. Physiotherapy exercises and massage are effective methods to gain relief from muscle stiffness and eventually could loosen the pinched nerve. Once the muscle returns to its natural relaxed state, it will take some time for the nerve to completely heal. So the relief may not be instant but you can gradually feel the pain decreasing once physiotherapy is introduced.
Improves Functional And Sensory Deficits
Neuropathic pain not only causes intense pain but can also lead to a lack of sensitivity or extreme sensitivity, numbness, and tingling in affected body parts. The experts doing physiotherapy in Whitby will conduct an initial diagnosis of the peripheral nerve injury, and then begin the exercises based on it. Nerve gliding exercises, therapeutic massage to revive blood flow, and other similar exercises will be performed under the supervision of a professional therapist.
Relieves Joint Stiffness
When a person suffers from nerve damage, the joints around the nerve can become tight and stiff. Also, in some cases due to the improper functioning of nerve receptors, any damage to the joints will not be identified by the person. This could lead to more wear and tear in the joints. Physiotherapy exercises for the joints can help in relieving joint stiffness and can significantly reduce pain and help your body flourish.
Physical Therapy Techniques to Relieve Central Neuropathic Pain
There are several physiotherapy exercises and massage techniques to treat central neuropathic pain. These exercises help relieve pressure on nerves and make them more flexible, hence improving blood circulation.
Here are a few physiotherapy techniques that can reduce neuropathic pain.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS):
Physiotherapists leverage a TENS machine to stimulate different nerves in the body. This machine is connected to a series of electrodes, which are put on the affected body part to deliver a low-voltage electrical charge. These electrical pulses stimulate nerve fibers and help in reducing the pain signals that are sent to your brain. Such stimulation from an electrical charge will also influence your body to release natural hormones that play a critical function in decreasing pain levels.
Manual stretching exercises instructed by physiotherapists can increase nerve flexibility and stability.
For this, physiotherapists will often use different equipment such as body weights, harnesses, and pulleys to stretch your body and muscles. This form of decompression physiotherapy removes pressure from affected areas and enhances the healing process.
Low-impact Aerobic Exercises:
While there are a lot of general benefits obtained from aerobic and flexibility exercises, the increased blood flow and heart rate are particularly noted. These two benefits are essential for people suffering from neuropathic pain. Low-impact aerobic exercises under the guidance of a physical therapist can significantly improve blood circulation. This strengthens nerve tissues by increasing the flow of oxygen.
If left untreated, nerve damage may not only lead to excruciating pain but can result in sensory and motor function deficits or even lifelong disability. Therefore, if you are suffering from nerve pain, the best option would be to consult an expert physiotherapist and develop a treatment plan that can provide relief. Also, note that physical therapy for nerve pain does not provide instant relief. It begins with an initial evaluation by a physical therapist and the physiotherapy program may last for weeks or more, depending on the severity of your condition.
Cindy Williams is a blogger in Canada. She graduated with honors from the University of British Columbia with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing.