Is compression therapy useful for neuropathy? Yes, hypothetically. And I mean that in the technical sense of the word.
The symptoms of neuropathy can vary widely. They can include numbness or tingling, several types of pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, lack of balance or coordination, muscle weakness or paralysis, heat intolerance, excessive sweating, bowel and digestive problems, dizziness, lightheadedness, or some combination of these. This list is paraphrased from the Mayo Clinic’s informative neuropathy page.
A Symptom, Not a Disease
Neuropathy isn’t something you catch. It is a symptom of other conditions. The risk factors include alcoholism, autoimmune disorders, vitamin deficiencies, infections, toxins (including chemotherapy), genetics, and injury, particularly repetitive stress injury (carpal tunnel syndrome is a neuropathy). But one of the biggest risk factors is diabetes, which is why television commercials for medicines to deal with diabetic nerve pain are so common.
More than 20 million Americans have neuropathy, and the Mayo Clinic describes six kinds of treatment: pain relieving medications, anti-seizure medications, topical treatments, antidepressants, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), immunosuppressant procedures, physical therapy, and surgery. The Mayo Clinic doesn’t mention sequential pneumatic compression. But it should.
Compression Therapy for Neuropathy
What did I mean by the word “hypothetically” when I said compression therapy is useful for neuropathy? In 2010, Normatec, which is a brand of compression garments similar to what we offer here at Peak, proposed a study of 60 patients with diabetic neuropathy.
The goal of the study was to “assess the effectiveness of a non-invasive peristaltic pulse pneumatic compression device (PCD) in a home treatment program to improve the symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy … and the neurovascular functioning of the nerves in the legs…”
I’ve chased references all over the web. As near as I can gather, the study progressed to phase two in 2012. The head researcher was Nicholas Spirito, now the Medical Director of the Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine at Lowell General Hospital. But the study is now inactive, and I haven’t been able to find any published results.
The lack of study results doesn’t mean that pulse pneumatic compression doesn’t work for diabetic neuropathy. It means that someone thought that as a treatment for neuropathy, this kind of compression shows promise. That’s why I say it is hypothetical. It’s a hypothesis that is yet to be proved.
Why Compression Therapy Helps
We offer sequential pneumatic compression because it is useful in recovery from competitive events or hard workouts. But the same technology is also used in hospitals, to treat venous disease or for recovery from surgery. This page at the Johns Hopkins Medicine site describes pneumatic compression as a treatment.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke maintains a fact sheet on neuropathy, and it lists 11 broad causes for the condition. But one of the most common causes is poor circulation in the extremities, either as a result of diabetes or from some other condition. And improving circulation in the extremities is what sequential pneumatic compression does best. It won’t cure neuropathy (that requires identifying the condition that is causing it and fixing that condition). But it will likely relieve symptoms.
So if you’re bothered by neuropathy, see your doctor. And ask if improving your circulation with sequential pneumatic compression will help. Then book a compression therapy session here at Peak Recovery & Health Center.