Nerve pathology, or neuropathy, is a condition in which a nerve functions improperly due to injury or disease, causing numbness, tingling or pain from mild to severe, or other health issues depending on the nerves affected.
There are many different types of neuropathy. Neuropathy can be in the peripheral nervous system, affecting the extremities, or it can be focused on any of the cranial nerves, for example optical dysfunction could be caused by a neuropathy of the optic nerve. There is also neuropathy of the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system, where nerves that control the heart and circulation, digestion, bowel and bladder function.
Neuropathy has a variety of causes including diseases, injuries, infections, and even vitamin deficiency. It is commonly caused by diabetes, but can also be caused by autoimmune disease, tumors/cancer, infections like Lyme’s disease, alcoholism, an inherited genetic disorder, toxic exposure, and even drugs and medication.
Conventional medical treatments vary by the nerves affected and their associated symptoms. Common classes of drugs used include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and of course opioid and opioid- like drugs. To increase the effectiveness of these medications, as well as to reduce their common side effects, many neuropathy patients are turning to alternative medicine.
Some common alternative treatments are acupuncture, massage, and mind/body centered practices like tai chi. Neurofeedback is also commonly used as an adjunct therapy. Last year a randomized, controlled pilot study by researchers at the University of Texas on chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) observed “clinically and statistically significant reductions in peripheral neuropathy following neurofeedback techniques”. By the end of the study, the patients in the neurofeedback group had significantly reduced BPI scores for worst pain, activity interference, numbness, and tingling.
In another experiment researchers investigated the effects of neurofeedback training on central neuropathic pain (CNP) which affects spinal cord injury patients, as well as individuals with stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Reduction in pain levels are directly visible on the EEG, which persisted for at least 1 month following neurofeedback treatment.
Much more research needs to be done. Neurofeedback may show promise for other nerve-related disorders that have been traditionally difficult to treat effectively, such as tinnitus, which is either related to the auditory nerve or the auditory cortex in the brain. Since neurofeedback enables patients to voluntarily control their brain activity, the idea is that they can unlearn typical neural activity patterns related to tinnitus. For more information, check out Neurofeedback for Tinnitus Treatment a review that summarizes current findings from neurofeedback studies for the treatment of tinnitus.
If you have more questions about neurofeedback and the treatment of neuropathy, or to schedule an EEG and and a series of neurofeedback treatments, feel free to contact us.