PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY AND PURPLE GLOVES
When the nerves of the peripheral nervous system (ie. nerves supplying the limbs) become damaged, either permanently or temporarily, various symptoms can arise, and this is known as peripheral neuropathy. When this happens the nerves become overactive or underactive, causing poor communication between the nerves and the brain.
The peripheral nervous system is comprised of 3 parts and symptoms will vary according to where the damage is.
- SENSORY NERVOUS SYSTEM – sends messages to the brain about the sensations in the skin and joints eg. heat, pain. These nerves are most commonly affected.
- pins and needles in the hands or feet (arms and legs in more severe cases)
- numbness or burning sensation in the hands or feet (arms and legs in more severe cases)
- increased sensitivity to touch
- hyper/hypo sensitivity to very hot/cold temperatures
- unexplained sensations eg.feeling like something is in your shoe
- inability to recognise the exact position of your joints without looking at them
- fine motor movements may be difficult
- AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM - communicates with the internal organs eg. blood pressure, heart rate, the urge to urinate
- dizziness upon standing
- abdominal bloating
- urinary urgency
- male impotence
- MOTOR NERVOUS SYSTEM - transports messages from the brain to the muscles to make them move
- muscle twitches/ cramps/pains/weakness
- restless legs syndrome
CAUSES OF PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY
- SYMPTOM OF LYMPHOMA
- Some lymphomas produce chemicals called paraproteins which adhere to the nerves, causing damage. Around 50% of cases of Waldenstroms macroglobulinaemia are affected by this type of neuropathy
- lymphoma cells may compress the nerves or blood vessels supplying them
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may worsen once in remission and this is not indicative of the cancer returning.
- SIDE EFFECT OF CHEMOTHERAPY/RADIOTHERAPY/LYMPHOMA TREATMENT
- Drugs eg.vincristine, vinblastine , cisplatin, oxaliplatin, carboplatin, bortezomib, thalidomide, adcetris
- Chemotherapy tends to cause sensory neuropathy, often tingling in hands and feet or hypersensitivity, usually after a few treatment cycles
- SIDE EFFECT OF OTHER MEDICAL CONDITIONS EG. DIABETES, B12 DEFICIENCY
- drinking alcohol in excess over a long period may cause nerve damage
Nerve damage can’t be reversed, so the earlier the issue is identified, the more preventive measures that can be taken. Symptoms may gradually fade once lymphoma treatment is finished, with improvements being noted over the course of weeks or months, but they may worsen following chemotherapy. Neuropathy which is a side effect of drug treatment may recover if the drug is reduced/stopped.
PREVENTION & COPING MECHANISMS
- take vitamin supplements, particularly B12
- reduce/avoid alcohol, particularly if undergoing lymphoma treatment
- maintain healthy blood sugar levels if diabetic
- maintain a high fibre diet to ease constipation In cases of autonomic neuropathy
- consult GP regarding erectile dysfunction treatment
- gentle massage, particularly to hands and feet
- stretch fingers and toes daily
- wear think socks and gloves when temperatures drop
- use thermometer to check temperature of baths/showers
- physiotherapy/occupational therapy referrals for motor neuropathy
PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY & THE PURPLE GLOVES
The purple gloves are a multidirectional massage tool, often used for sports massages, but also have a place in oncology massage or for those with neuropathy, to enhance soft tissue mobilisation.
Treatment with the mitts can be more comfortable and more effective than just the hands .
- increased stimulation of various receptors in the body
- increased healing potential through blood and lymphatic stimulation which will promote pain-free range of movement
- may reduce muscle fatigue by working more gently on tender joints and soft tissues, helping to reduce pain and muscle imbalances and improve flexibility
- help to reset altered tension patterns in the body following trauma or repetitive movements and postural habits
- can improve nutrient uptake by the muscles, stimulating the healing process
- while the mitts can’t break down scar tissue, they can bring about improved tissue tone due to effect on the fascia, nervous and lymphatic systems, and help prevent further adhesions, relieving localised pain due to scar tissue and the surrounding tight fascia. They may even help calm the nervous system enough to be able to work gently on hypersensitive radiotherapy scarring
- increased sensory responses to a mechanical stimulus through oscillation of the nodules over the superficial fascia
- can be used daily in the shower to help prevent chronic condition from developing
These mitts should only be used with non silicone based massage oils/lotions and should not be used in cases of neuritis or directly over tumours.
To purchase some of these mitts, go to www.sportsmitt.com