Can Physical Therapy Help Nerve Damage?

Georgia Hand, Shoulder, and Elbow

Have you ever hit your “funny bone”? Instantly you feel a burning, numbness, and tingling sensation all at the same time. We can feel these sensations because of our nerves. However, for those experiencing nerve damage, those sensations may intensify and last for longer periods.
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Perhaps nerve damage is something you thought would never affect you personally. This condition can be painful, and if left untreated, it could lead to severe and long-term health issues.

Our Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow specialists have offices in Atlanta and Marietta, Georgia, and specialize in treating nerve damage. When possible, our goal is to treat your nerve damage without surgery. One way we have successfully accomplished this is through physical therapy. If you feel this could be the solution you have been searching for, contact us today!

What Are Nerves?

Nerves are composed of neurons that extend from your brain to your spinal cord. Your nerves carry electrical impulses to your nervous system. Your nervous system helps you feel sensations, move your muscles, and carry out involuntary actions such as breathing.

Your Nervous System is Composed of Two Parts:

  1. Your central nervous system (CNS), which includes your brain and spinal cord.
  2. Your peripheral nervous system (PNS) connects your central nervous system to the rest of your body.

 

Your Peripheral Nervous System is Separated into 3 Subdivisions:

  1. Motor nerves — affect your muscles and movement
  2. Sensory nerves — transmit messages to and from your skin
  3. Autonomic nerves — affect your internal organs

 

Although any kind of nerve damage can have a significant impact on us, peripheral neuropathy can greatly affect our quality of life.

What Is Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is damage to one or more of your nerves outside of your central nervous system. The term peripheral neuropathy can be broken down into three parts:

  1. Peripheral — meaning beyond. In this instance, it would refer to beyond your brain and your spinal cord
  2. Neuro — meaning that it involves the nerves
  3. Pathy — meaning disease (in medical terms)

 

Simply put, peripheral neuropathy is when the nerves communicating messages to and from your brain, spinal cord, and the rest of your body have been diseased or damaged.

These messages help your body react to internal and external changes by sending signals about movement, temperature, pressure, and even pain. Once these nerves become damaged, there can be some interference in transmitting messages to our CNS.

Symptoms of Damaged Nerves

Some of the symptoms of damaged nerves include:

  • Muscle weakness, cramps, or twitching
  • Tingling in your feet or hands
  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Intense sensitivity to touch
  • Difficulty sleeping due to pain

 

These symptoms usually start gradually, affecting just your fingers and toes. However, these symptoms can progressively travel to your hands and feet. Depending on the severity of your condition, symptoms can be constant or periodic.

Causes and Risk Factors for Nerve Damage

There are several causes that contribute to nerve damage. These causes can be internal or external, including:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Progressive neurological conditions
  • Ataxia
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Stroke
  • Guillain Barre Syndrome
  • Hereditary disorders
  • Poor nutrition

 

Additional Risk Factors Include:

  • Diabetes
  • Penetrating injuries
  • Certain medications
  • Vascular or collagen disorders
  • Infections
  • Vitamin deficiency

 

How Does Physical Therapy Help Treat Nerve Damage?

Physical therapy is very beneficial when it comes to treating nerve damage. Physical therapy can help with:

  • Managing pain
  • Strengthening your muscles
  • Relieving any joint stiffness
  • Restoring your sensory and functionality

 

Your physical therapist will use a series of tests (physical and neurological) to see if you have any nerve damage. These tests will check your reflexes, reactions, any sensations you may be experiencing, and your muscle strength. We will also review and discuss your medical history to see whether trauma triggered the damage or if another condition exposed it.

There are several degrees of nerve damage. Your damage could range from carpal tunnel to complete loss of feeling. By completing these tests, your specialist will be able to inform you as to which classification you have, as well as ways to specifically treat it. This specifically tailored treatment plan aims to help eliminate the need for surgery.

Many have found that physical therapy has reduced their pain and allowed them to regain their functionality. Additionally, medication, massage, and functional exercises can be used to help with nerve damage. If these methods do not bring any relief, then surgery may be recommended as a last resort.  

Physical therapy has proven to be very effective in addressing nerve damage without the need for surgery.  If you live in the Atlanta or Marietta, GA area and are experiencing any form of nerve damage, contact us at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow today. Our occupational therapists are ready to help you feel your best again!

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Randall Alexander, MD