Numb Hands and Feet
by Dr. Tim Fargo, Chiropractor
In clinical practice chiropractors frequently see people who report having numbness in their hands and feet. It is often the case that this numbness affects a single hand or foot, and in those instances it is more likely the case that there is some type of nerve compression occurring either where the nerve exits the spine in either the lower neck or lower back, or in more peripheral locations, like the elbow, wrist, or ankle. We have all heard of people who have sciatic pain which is an irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve as it exits the low back and goes into the leg. People with sciatic nerve irritation can experience numbness in a foot or in both feet sometimes. Sciatic pain is often the result of such things as herniated discs, and progressive degeneration and arthritis in the lower back. Similarly, lower neck issues like disc herniations and degeneration can cause numbness in a hand or hands. Carpal tunnel syndrome, wherein there is a compression of a nerve as it traverses your wrist, can also cause numbness in a hand or hands. Repeated trauma or overuse of the hands, and such things as pregnancy, can cause carpal tunnel syndrome and the resultant numbness. All of these circumstances are more mechanical in nature and many of them are easily resolved through a combination of proper exercise, ergonomics and chiropractic care. Chiropractic adjustments to the low back, neck, wrists, and elbows can resolve numbness resulting from mechanical stress.
There are other circumstances where people develop numbness in their hands and/or feet because of non mechanical causes. This condition known as “peripheral neuropathy” is very common, afflicting more than 3 million people every year in the United States. Peripheral neuropathy occurs when nerves in either the legs or arms become damaged and no longer transmit sensory information properly. This condition is most common among older Americans and results, most commonly, from diabetes in which high blood sugar levels cause damage to nerves and small blood vessels over time. Excess alcohol consumption, some drugs, such as those used for chemotherapy, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, liver disease, and some types of cancer can also cause peripheral neuropathy.
It should be obvious that numbness in the hands and feet is not a problem that results from just one cause, and therefore there is not just one solution. It is critical to identify the primary cause whenever a person has peripheral neuropathy. The doctors at Chiropractic Health and Wellness are trained to identify both the mechanical and systemic causes of numbness in the hands and feet. Solutions can include such things as chiropractic manipulation to the cervical, lumbar, or extremity joints, in combination with other more systemic therapies. If you have peripheral neuropathy, then you might be a good candidate for significant dietary change to reduce your blood sugar levels. At Chiropractic Health and Wellness we have a program called Ideal Protein which specifically seeks to reduce blood glucose that impacts prediabetic and diabetic conditions. It might also be the case that you have a need for certain vitamins and minerals. Folic acid and vitamin B12 are often essential. You might also need thyroid function tests, nerve conduction tests and a complete metabolic panel to evaluate liver, kidney and other organ functions. If such is the case, we work in close cooperation with either your medical doctor, or others trained in functional medicine.
While numbness in the hands and feet, whether of mechanical or metabolic origin, is a difficult and sometimes painful condition, there is much that can be done to both identify and treat this difficult problem. Do not hesitate to contact one of the doctors at Chiropractic Health and Wellness if you have questions about numbness in your hands and feet.