This is one of the most common questions I get from new massage clients. There…
If you suffer from peripheral neuropathy in the feet, you’re not alone: it’s estimated that 20 million people are affected by peripheral neuropathy, and over half of those individuals suffer from diabetic neuropathy. This condition is a source of great anguish and pain for those who have it and, if left untreated, can even lead to amputation. I have many clients who suffer from it especially in the feet, and have asked if massage therapy can treat it. The answer is yes! Regular massage therapy sessions, along with self-care tips between visits, can drastically improve neuropathy in the feet.
What is Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is a result of damage to your peripheral nerves and is most commonly described as a burning or stabbing pain in the hands or feet. Peripheral neuropathy can be classified into two categories: diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) and chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). DPN is the most common, but CIPN caused by chemotherapy, injuries or infections is also prevalent.
DPN is the most common side effect of diabetes and results in nerve damage and numbness along with pain in the feet. High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves. This leads to an increased risk of infection, poor blood circulation and and ulcers, which can all lead to amputation if left untreated. CIPN, meanwhile, affects 30-40% of people who undergo chemotherapy. In addition to the pain and numbness caused by CIPN, some people may experience fatigue, lack of sleep, and difficulty with motor functions.
Although there is no definitive research supporting massage therapy’s role in treating peripheral neuropathy, case studies with promising results do exist. In my professional experience, I have seen improvement of these symptoms in many clients.
How Massage Can Help Treat Neuropathy
The nervous system needs oxygen to function properly and survive. One of the recurring symptoms is a lack of oxygen in the nerves of the feet and hands (hence why a lot of people with the condition experience blue appendages due to poor circulation). This is where massage therapy can help.
Massage therapy boosts the flow of blood to your muscles, thus delivering oxygen to the nerves and eventually the brain. By improving local circulation in the peripheral nerves, those suffering from peripheral neuropathy should experience an improvement in their symptoms.
If you want to help yourself or someone else suffering with neuropathy of the feet, here are a few simple things to consider. Make sure you are following all of the doctor’s orders regarding diet and lifestyle. Start out with light pressure and build up the pressure over time. And stick to a schedule. Massage therapy is more effective for chronic issues if it is done on a regular basis. Commit to working on the feet at least twice a day in order to see results.