Neuropathy occurs when nerves in the body are damaged. A number of situations can lead to neuropathy, including injury, complications of diabetes, and frequent excessive use of alcohol. Perhaps the most scary thing about alcoholic neuropathy is that is usually irreversible – once the nerve is damaged, it is damaged forever. The good news is that, even though alcoholic neuropathy may not be reversible, there are methods for managing the pain and discomfort that define this condition, as well as preventing further damage.
Physical therapy is a common method of dealing with neuropathy. The goal of physical therapy is to limit further damage and help the patient learn how to function with their neuropathy. This may be done utilizing strength training in the weakened muscles, balance and gait (walking or stepping) training, and range of motion stretches and exercises. Range of motion exercises for alcoholic neuropathy patients typically focus on the calves to help ensure the patient maintains proper gait and stability, but the specific target area will change on a patient to patient basis.
Occupational therapy is another common method of dealing with alcoholic neuropathy. The primary focus of occupational therapy is to help the patient continue to live a normal life, coping with the physical damage that has already occurred. Occupational therapy helps the patient learn how to perform the activities of daily living and ways to compensate for the limbs that have weakened or lost sensitivity.
In addition to these therapies, there are medications available that may help with some symptoms. Pain relievers may be used to, of course, relieve pain. Over-the-counter painkillers may be recommended or prescription strength painkillers may be prescribed. A number of anticonvulsants also show potential for reducing nerve pain, as have some antidepressants. Creams containing capsaicin, the naturally occurring substance that makes peppers hot, may be recommended with other forms of treatment, though some patients find capsaicin creams painful to use.