Chiropractor for Neuropathy: What to Know Before Making an Appointment
Peripheral neuropathy is a common yet complex condition for which standard treatments and painkillers often fail. Many patients find nerve pain relief in alternative solutions like massage therapy, electrical stimulation, CBD, acupuncture, etc.
One of these options is chiropractic care. If you’re wondering whether a chiropractor can help you live better with neuropathy, read on!
What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a licensed healthcare profession focusing on the patient’s neuromusculoskeletal system (the bones, nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments). The goal is to correct spinal alignment problems, ease pain, and improve the body’s healing ability.
A chiropractor primarily performs manipulation of the spine and other parts of the body (manual therapy). However, most chiropractors also use complementary treatments and therapies, such as electrical stimulation, relaxation techniques, nutritional counseling, dietary supplements, exercises, or hot and cold therapies, to name but a few.
What conditions can a chiropractor treat?
The most common problems for which people seek a chiropractor’s help are low back pain, neck pain, muscle pain, and chronic headaches.
But recent developments have shown that chiropractic is a safe and efficient therapy for other conditions like arthritis, for example, and especially osteoarthritis1 and rheumatoid arthritis2. Nerve pain caused by sciatica or cervical radiculopathy is also commonly treated by a chiropractor whose manipulations help remove pressure on the nerves.
Chiropractic may also help with posture problems, pregnancy-related discomforts, children’s health issues, menstrual problems, sinusitis, high blood pressure, and better overall body functioning.
But what about neuropathy?
Can a Chiropractor Help with Neuropathy?
While there are many forms of neuropathy, the most common one is peripheral neuropathy, affecting about 1 in every 10 American adults. It’s a type of nerve damage in the body’s extremities (feet and hands) caused mainly by diabetes (diabetic neuropathy).
Chiropractic care targets specific areas affected by peripheral neuropathy and may help decrease nerve pain and reduce the need for strong painkillers.
Peripheral neuropathy pain and symptoms
Depending on the individual and the extent of nerve damage, symptoms vary from mild to debilitating, sometimes seriously impacting one’s ability to work or even live everyday life. They may include:
- Numbness in feet, legs, or hands
- Burning sensation
- Stabbing pain
- Tingling or prickling
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Muscle weakness
- Cramps and spasms
- Dizziness and nausea
- Urinary problems
- Sexual disorders
The chronic pain caused by nerve damage can be physically and emotionally draining. Unfortunately, standard neuropathy treatments often fail to provide sufficient relief.
How does chiropractic for neuropathy work?
It’s important to understand that nerve pain is one of the most challenging chronic pains to address because it comes from the nervous system and manifests differently for everyone. That’s why some neuropathy treatments are highly effective for some patients but utterly helpless for others.
Research on the effects of chiropractic on neuropathy is still limited to a 2018 study that positively concluded that spinal manipulative therapy reduces peripheral neuropathic pain in rats3. No similar research has been conducted on humans.
Yet, many neuropathy patients have successfully resorted to a chiropractor. Here are some clues and ideas about how chiropractic can help with peripheral neuropathy:
- Relieving nerve pain. As concluded in the 2018 rat study mentioned above, spinal manipulation, the core practice of a chiropractor, may itself have a direct positive impact on nerve pain. Besides, most chiropractors use complementary therapies to treat peripheral neuropathy, such as physical therapy, exercises, massages, nutritional plan, vibrations, acupuncture, ice therapy, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation. These treatments can significantly lower nerve pain.
- Improving balance and range of motion. People with peripheral neuropathy often experience a loss of balance and coordination caused by nerve damage and muscle weakness. As a result, they face increased risks of tripping, stumbling, falling, and getting injured. A chiropractor can help improve balance, range of motion, and muscle strength, significantly improving one’s ability to regain independence and quality of life.
That said, not everyone responds the same way to chiropractic. What works for one person may not necessarily work for you. So, keep in mind that chiropractic for neuropathy is a bit of a trial and error.
Can a Chiropractor Cure Neuropathy?
No, a chiropractor cannot cure peripheral neuropathy. Unfortunately, this type of nerve damage cannot be cured or reversed. However, a chiropractor may help manage the symptoms and slow down the progression.
Is Chiropractic Safe for Neuropathy Patients?
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), chiropractic and spinal manipulation are safe when performed by licensed practitioners. Studies4 show that the practice is associated with mild to moderate adverse effects.
Peripheral neuropathy is a serious condition that can lead to severe health complications, including ulcers and foot amputation. Therefore, always ask for your doctor’s advice before initiating chiropractic therapy or any other alternative treatment for neuropathy.
What to Expect When Visiting a Chiropractor for Neuropathy?
A first visit to the chiropractor generally begins with a medical assessment. You will be asked a series of questions related to your overall health, peripheral neuropathy symptoms, medical records, nutritional diet, physical activity, and lifestyle. Then, the chiropractor will examine your posture, test your muscle strength and limb mobility, or take an x-ray.
The practitioner will then decide what treatments are best for you. These may include spinal manipulation but also complementary therapies for neuropathy such as relaxation, massages, stimulation, hot or cold treatment, diet, exercises, neuropathy footwear, or others. Note, however, that chiropractors do not prescribe pain medication.
When a chiropractor performs spinal manipulation, he may use hands or instruments (activators) to apply gentle force on the spine. Most of the time, you will lie face down on a chiropractic table. If chiropractic works for you, it may take between six to ten visits before you experience nerve pain relief.
Where to Find a Good Neuropathy Chiropractor?
Chiropractors make up the third largest group of primary healthcare professionals in the U.S., so finding a chiropractor near you should be easy. However, not all chiropractors treat neuropathy, so it’s important you ask before your first visit.
Here’s what to look for when choosing a chiropractor:
- Ask your primary care physician or neuropathy doctor for recommendations of trustworthy chiropractors in your area.
- Ensure your chiropractor is trained and licensed. The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) lists the Chiropractic Licensing Boards of each State, which provide a list of local licensed professionals.
- Avoid pre–sold treatment packages. A good chiropractor will adapt his therapy to your situation. He should also be willing to refer you to another healthcare provider in case his practice is not producing positive results.
Last, be aware that most health insurance companies won’t cover the cost of a chiropractor for neuropathy. A visit may cost between $60 and $200, and you may need several appointments before seeing results.
Please, share your experience! Have you tried chiropractic for neuropathy? Was it efficient at relieving nerve pain?
About the author: Laura Pandolfi
I’m Laura. Type 1 diabetic. Mother. Traveler. Writer. Researcher. I started this blog five years ago to investigate diabetes-related topics and share different views. You can read my partner diabetes organizations around the World here.
1 Poulsen E, Hartvigsen J, Christensen HW, Roos EM, Vach W, Overgaard S. Patient education with or without manual therapy compared to a control group in patients with osteoarthritis of the hip. A proof-of-principle three-arm parallel group randomized clinical trial. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2013 Oct;21(10):1494-503. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2013.06.009. Epub 2013 Jun 21. PMID: 23792189. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23792189/
2 Chung CL, Mior SA. Use of spinal manipulation in a rheumatoid patient presenting with acute thoracic pain: a case report. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2015 Jun;59(2):143-9. PMID: 26136606; PMCID: PMC4486984. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4486984/
3 Onifer SM, Sozio RS, DiCarlo DM, Li Q, Donahue RR, Taylor BK, Long CR. Spinal manipulative therapy reduces peripheral neuropathic pain in the rat. Neuroreport. 2018 Feb 7;29(3):191-196. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000000949. PMID: 29381653; PMCID: PMC6363337. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6363337/
4 Ernst E. Adverse effects of spinal manipulation: a systematic review. J R Soc Med. 2007 Jul;100(7):330-8.
doi: 10.1177/014107680710000716. PMID: 17606755; PMCID: PMC1905885.