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How to Use Meditation for Chronic Neuropathy Treatment

Chronic neuropathy treatment can be supported with meditation—and it doesn’t have to be fancy, structured, or even spiritual in nature. Here’s a list of 5 ways to begin a meditation practice today on your own, for free.

When you think of meditation, do you picture a very serene-looking monk sitting cross-legged on a cushion? Or maybe a young man or woman in yoga gear on a cliff by the ocean? Maybe you’ve heard that there’s only one right way to meditate, and you’d need to watch a DVD or attend a class to find out how.

Well I have great news for you! The truth is that you don’t need a class, a DVD, or a perfect body to meditate. You don’t even have to sit on a cushion on the floor. Best of all, meditating is so easy, you can start today.

Here are 5 kinds of meditation that don’t require any kind of training. You can start with just 5 or 10 minutes each day.

1. Sitting meditation

Sitting doesn’t have to mean sitting on a cushion. You can sit upright in any chair that is comfortable for you. The key factor is in having appropriate posture. Think of your head as a balloon that is rising toward the ceiling on a string; let it float over your shoulders. Now think of having a strong, upright back and an open, receiving heart. Sit in this way for 5 to 10 minutes and just notice any thoughts or feelings that arise, like clouds floating by in the sky.

2. Walking meditation

This is a special way of walking that holds less danger of repetitive stress, because you won’t cover much ground in 5 minutes. It might more accurately be called balancing meditation. Simply slow down each step and notice every aspect of it: shifting your weight onto one foot, letting the other foot rise forward, contacting the ground, shifting your weight again. Then repeat on the other side. It’s just like walking, but at a glacial pace that allows you to really notice the sensations of movement and balance.

3. Meditating in bed

For those who find sitting or walking meditation too painful due to neuropathy symptoms, the wonderful thing to know about meditation is that you can do it in any position—even lying down. (The Buddha himself said so!) The key practice isn’t your body position, although it’s best to be in a posture that allows for effective breathing. Instead, the key is in noticing sensations and thoughts and simply allowing them to pass by without judgment.

4. Mindfully doing a creative act

Meditation doesn’t even have to happen in stillness. It’s possible to engage in a daily meditative practice involving any creative act, such as cooking or creating music. Again, the key to a meditative practice is in being fully aware in each moment of how you are feeling, what you’re thinking, and what judgments are arising about the situation. If you find that your attention drifts, just gently bring it back to this moment.

5. Mindfully completing any household chore

Finally, meditation works with any activity, regardless of its nature. The dullest of household chores can be a form of meditation if they are done mindfully—that is, with your attention on sensation and awareness. For example, when you are washing the dishes after dinner, spend those 10 minutes noticing how the soapy water feels on your hands and being aware of the pattern of your breathing.

Meditation of any kind can be an effective stress relief and a self-help supplement for your chronic neuropathy treatment.

For more information on coping with neuropathy, get your Free E-Book and subscribe to our newsletters at http://neuropathydr.com.

Do you have Pain, Neuropathy, and Stress?

If we already suffer from a painful condition like peripheral neuropathy, stress makes it worse.

As a reader of this column, you already understand the relationship between diet, lifestyle, and your health.

You probably already know to that inflammation and “inflammatory states”, even at microscopic level, can cause a whole host of human illnesses, ranging from arthritis to cancer and heart disease.

The more inflammation we suffer, the more pain and disease we can endure. This is also why we are continually writing about easily correctable factors such as diet, certain supplements, adequate water intake, etc.

A key component of health is stress management. Stress is something that all human beings deal with on a daily basis. Some of us are confronted with enormous periods of stress and remain healthy.

But we all have our limits. Sooner or later, our bodies experience breakdown. And if we already suffer from a painful condition like peripheral neuropathy, stress makes it worse. But why is this so?

We know that inflammatory diets, such as those high in sugar, can aggravate pain, as can our environments, physical activity, and a many other external factors.

Scientists have finally made the connection between stress and pain.

A research team at Carnegie Mellon Institute in Philadelphia discovered that stress significantly affects our body’s ability to regulate inflammation.

Not only can stress affect hormone production, but it can affect the way our immune cells and immune system response to attacks by things like viruses.

And, everybody knows, inflammation causes pain!

For example, how bad does a sunburn or deep scratch hurt? When you look at these, you notice the swelling, redness ,and sometimes extreme discoloration. These are all signs of inflammation.

If we are relatively healthy, our bodies will respond relatively quickly. Within two weeks we never knew anything happened.

But what happens if you can’t control inflammation properly?

That scratch or sunburn may worsen, or could develop a serious complication like an infection. We all know how badly they can hurt.

So, when inflammation is not regulated properly internally, our pain levels will increase; we are more predisposed to everything from the common cold to more significant illness and disease. The longer this goes on, the worse it becomes.

It’s been said that the first step to improvement is knowledge, so in our upcoming posts we’ll talk about some practical stress management techniques for those who suffer from many forms of pain and, of course, peripheral neuropathy.

For more information on coping with neuropathy, get your Free E-Book and subscribe to our newsletters at http://neuropathydr.com.

Handling The Holiday Stress

Pay particular attention to your body during the holidays, especially if you have neuropathy or chronic pain!

Healthy eating woman

Even for the healthy, the holidays can be incredibly stressful.

Some surveys have even found that people are more stressed by the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas than by asking the boss for a raise!

But when you have:

  • Diabetes
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Post-Chemotherapy neuropathy

Since you now have the stress of the holidays to deal with too, your health could take a serious beating—that will take you months to recover from.

Here are some steps you can take to make the holidays (and the months following them) a little easier to deal with:

1. Understand How Stress Affects Your Body

Stress (both mental and physical) causes the body to release hormones that prompt the liver to secrete glucose. That can wreak havoc on your blood glucose levels if you suffer from diabetes. In Type 2 diabetics, stress can also block the release of insulin from the pancreas and leave that extra insulin floating around in the bloodstream. In Type 1 diabetes, the effects are a little different. Some Type 1 diabetics say that stress drives their glucose up, while others maintain that stress drives their glucose down. Either way, your energy levels are wrecked. On a good day, that can be difficult to deal with. At the holidays, it can be pure misery.

If you are feeling stressed and your energy is especially low, you are less likely to pay attention to your glucose levels, or eat as you know you should. Pay particular attention to your body during the holidays, and Handling The Holiday “Stress-a-Thon”

2. Do What You Can To Reduce Mental Stress

Many of the things that stress us at the holidays are easy to manage or control. Make your life as easy as possible during this trying time.

If traffic really works your nerves, leave home a little earlier or try getting to work by a different route and avoid the areas that are particularly congested.

If your boss is a nightmare, plan to take vacation around the holidays if at all possible, and give yourself a mental break.

Volunteer to help with the holiday activities of a local charity. Doing something good for someone else is a wonderful way to make someone else’s life better and make you feel good at the same time.

Resolve to start a new exercise program, learn a new skill, or start a hobby as soon as the holidays are over. Enlist a friend to do it with you so you can encourage each other. Giving yourself a goal and something to look forward to after the grind of the holidays is over will do wonders for your state of mind.

3. How Do You Cope?

Everyone has a coping style. Some people are the take-charge type and take steps immediately to solve their problems. Other people just accept the problem, recognize that they can’t fix it, acknowledge that it’s probably not as bad as it could be, and go their merry way. Still, others are hand wringers and feel perpetually out of control.

The take-chargers and accepters have less problems with stress, both at the holidays and on a daily basis—as a result, their blood glucose levels don’t become elevated.

4. Relax…

One of the most useful things you will ever learn (diabetic or not) is to relax. For many, the ability to relax is not natural, but it can be learned. Some ways to help you relax are:

Breathing Exercises
Sit down or lie down without your arms or legs crossed. Inhale deeply. Push as much air as possible out of your lungs. Repeat the process but , this time, relax your muscles while you exhale. Start with this exercise for 5 minutes at a time and increase your time until you’re practicing breathing at least 20 minutes at a time, once a day.

Progressive Relaxation Therapy
Tense your muscles then relax them. Lie still and repeat the process for 5 minutes at a time, at least once a day.

Exercise
We can’t say enough about the benefits of exercise. As we’ve said before, you don’t have to run a marathon to get the stress-reducing benefits of exercise. You can walk or stretch, too.

Watch Your Mindset
When it comes to reducing stress, a lot can be said for the power of positive thinking. It’s really easy to let your mind overwhelm you this time of year…

“I’ll never get it all done…”

“What if they don’t like what I give them?”

“Oh man, I have to spend time with my brother again this year…”

Just watch your mindset and you can eliminate much of the stress of the holiday season. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Say a prayer or recite a poem or a quote that makes you feel good. Think of something that makes you happy. It may sound trite, but go to your happy place.

Choose one or more of these methods to relax and do it daily. Relaxing doesn’t come naturally to us, but we can definitely learn to do it with practice, and the health benefits are beyond measure.

Face the fact that many holiday stressors are not going away. The relative you don’t get along with, the traffic, the never-ending list of things to do will always be there.

But you can learn to manage the holiday stress. And if you can learn to manage holiday stress, just think of what you can do the rest of the year.

Talk to your local NeuropathyDR™ doctor or physical therapist to explore ways to handle the holiday stress and make it a healthier and more enjoyable experience this—and every—year, even with neuropathy or chronic pain!

Join the conversation on Facebook!

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Neuropathy and Fatigue

In neuropathy, fatigue can be the result of pain, and emotional stress.

One of the things many neuropathy patients tell us is how tired they can feel form day to day. Now, fatigue is common in many health conditions and should never be taken lightly.

For example, profound fatigue with weight loss can be a sign of several diseases, including cancer.

Diabetics often report fatigue, as do those patients with anemia and simple over work and inadequate sleep.

In neuropathy, fatigue can be the result of pain, and emotional stress.

Sometimes it’s from the diseases that may have caused your neuropathy.

But one of the things we observed a few years back on is that when treating neuropathy patients who suffer from the most common types we see (sensory, due to diabetes, metabolic syndrome and chemotherapy) is that when good neuropathy treatment begins, fatigue starts to vanish too!

And we even find patients with more serious forms of neuropathy improved as well, though more slowly and not as completely.

You see, we know that in the most common forms of neuropathy, energy production by the body in general, and the nerve cells in particular is poor. I theorized early on that therapies that can boost metabolism or how our bodies efficiently “burn” fuel will very often help neuropathy patients regain function.

These therapies include some food compounds, supplements and exercise, as well as therapies like laser and microcurrent which help individual cells produce ATP, which is the energy powerhouse behind every living cell!

And as a side benefit, we see our diabetic and obese patients losing significant weight, and some dropping their blood sugars significantly and thus need for medications.

So here is the best news of all: When patients engage in neuropathy treatment programs that handle all the key pieces they can, fatigue fades away and energy and a profound sense of wellbeing return to many neuropathy patients!

For more information visit us at NeuropathyDR.com

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Treating Chronic Pain with TLC: Why Emotional Support is SO Vital (and How to Ask for the Help You Need)

Don’t go it alone. Here’s why accepting support from family and friends is so important in treating chronic pain.Fotolia 5256891 XS 300x200 Treating Chronic Pain with TLC: Why Emotional Support is  SO Vital (and How to Ask for the Help You Need)

Although it may be a shocking idea, your personal support network may be equally as important to your health as your medical treatment team—or any kind of supplemental therapies.

Why? Because the bottom line is that a positive outlook is the best medicine for good health outcomes. If you are feeling contented and supported in your personal relationships, you’ll be much better equipped to cope with pain when it arises.

Unfortunately, many people find it hard to ask for help from their family and friends. We may have heard the message that it was weak or shameful to be dependent on others.

The truth is that when we are able to accept love and support, we’re better equipped to be as independent as possible in our daily lives.

Make a list of people in your life who have helped you in big and small ways in the past, as well as people that would probably be willing to help now if you were to ask.

Now, think about the things that are making your life the most difficult or stressful right now. This list could be anything from a leaky faucet in your kitchen to a pile of medical bills. Just get it all down on paper.

Finally, begin matching the list of stress points with the list of helpers in your life. Who could come over and fix that leaky faucet for you? Who could help you make phone calls to arrange a payment plan for those bills?

You will find that most of the people on your list are grateful for a chance to help you—they just didn’t know what to do that would be truly helpful. And when your stress level decreases (now that the leaky faucet or pile of bills is a thing of the past), your overall health will be optimized. That means chronic pain becomes less of a burden because you’re better able to cope with it.

Building your support network is just one way that you can take control of your own health and overcome chronic pain. Learn more by visiting our Facebook page.

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Neuropathy Diet and Nutrition: How to Get Started

You Know That A Healthy Neuropathy Diet Can Make All the Difference in Your Quality of Life with Peripheral Neuropathy. But Do You Know How to Implement This Change in the Best Way?

If you’re been reading for a while, you know that we discuss a healthy neuropathy diet as one of the primary ways to improve your health immediately and over time.

Unfortunately, many neuropathy patients struggle with this lifestyle change. When you are accustomed to processed foods, which typically contain lots of salt and sugar, learning to enjoy leafy green vegetables and other staples of the neuropathy diet can be a challenge.

But it’s well worth it. You’ll begin feeling better overall within a matter of days, and a neuropathy diet offers control over your symptoms which can have both physical and emotional impacts.

So many of the neuropathy patients we see in our clinics are suffering from chronic GI problems—irritable bowel, ulcers, and so on. Those things complicate neuropathic pain and certainly detract from quality of life. They can be precipitated by stress, but often a very poor diet is also to blame.

Here’s why we advocate whole foods for a neuropathy diet. Whole foods simply contain more things that your body needs to heal from neuropathy: vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and water.

Ideally, your neuropathy diet will contain local fresh farmer’s market produce whenever possible. You’ll also want to learn how to flavor and season your food primarily with spices rather than salt.

As with any significant change in your health regimen, talk with your neuropathy specialist about how to begin incorporating a healthy neuropathy diet into your lifestyle in a gradual way.

Looking for a neuropathy specialist who is highly trained in all aspects of treating and managing neuropathy, including a healthy neuropathy diet? Click here to find a neuropathy expert near you.

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Neuropathy and Sleep Problems

Sleep Problems are Common among Neuropathy Patients. Here’s What You Can Do to Make It Better.

Sleep disturbances aren’t unusual for most people during times of stress or illness. But people with neuropathy tend to experience sleep problems more often, and in a more severe way, than the general population.

You may have already experienced how a lack of sufficient restful sleep can negatively impact your daily function. It can also be detrimental to your long-term health and quality of life.

If you’re not getting enough restful sleep, your body’s major systems just aren’t able to recharge like they need to in order to combat neuropathy symptoms. You’ll be noticing more and more weight gain, fatigue, depression, and chronic pain over time as you continue losing sleep.

It’s so important to share information about your sleep problems with your neuropathy specialist, who can build sleep adjustment into your overall treatment plan.

You can also make lifestyle changes starting right away to help improve your sleep quality and reduce neuropathy symptoms. Daily movement or exercise, preferably outdoors for the addition of vitamin D from sunlight, is very important for neuropathy sufferers with insomnia. Stress reduction is another key to healthy sleep to supplement your neuropathy treatment. Make sure to also get enough water and eat foods from a healthy neuropathy diet. Some patients (those without kidney disease) may want to ask their doctors about magnesium supplements.

Another option is the daily use of our home care kit featuring an FDA-approved electrotherapy neurostimulator. By reducing tingling and other symptoms that can distract you from sleep, this daily care program can get help you get more Z’s on a regular basis. The NDGen Home Care Kit also offers automatic shut-off and a timer so that you can safely use it while drifting off to sleep. Take a look at our NDGen neuropathy home care kit.

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4 Gentle Exercises for Reducing Neuropathy Symptoms

You Can Reduce Neuropathy Symptoms Through Appropriate Movement, Even If Exercise Usually Tends to Be Painful.

Even if your neuropathy symptoms leave you feeling like it’s impossible to exercise…

There ARE ways to get moving and stay active while supporting your neuropathy treatment needs.

Your doctor will tell you that gentle, appropriate exercise will help you maintain a healthier weight, improve your cardiovascular health, strengthen your bones, manage your blood sugar levels, and even help to ward off depression and anxiety.

The best exercise for reducing neuropathy symptoms is focused on gentle, fluid movement that isn’t jarring or overly taxing. Here are a few types of gentle exercise that you may want to consider as part of an overall treatment plan for neuropathy symptoms.

  • Stretching is a basic but essential way to keep your body limber despite neuropathy symptoms. Try to develop a self-directed program of stretches that you do each day before getting out of bed as well as a few stretches to help you unwind before bed.
  • Tai Chi is a type of martial art that involves very slowly and deliberately working each of the muscle groups in your body. It is considered a very gentle form of exercise that can also improve your circulation and improve mood.
  • Some types of yoga are appropriate for people with neuropathy symptoms. Look for a class or video that is called “gentle” or “restorative” yoga. You don’t need to be particularly flexible or limber to participate in yoga and can move at your own pace.
  • Swimming or a gentle version of water aerobics are both great movement choices for anyone who has difficulty or pain from walking. The support of warm water can help to loosen up your body and support your joints, as well as reducing pressure on your feet.

Be sure to talk with your doctor before undergoing any change in your activity level.

For more tips on reducing neuropathy symptoms, see our neuropathy owners manual: I Beat Neuropathy!

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Neuropathy Treatment Includes Treating Anxiety and Depression

Does Your Neuropathy Treatment Plan Address Underlying Anxiety and Depression?

Most patients in neuropathy treatment are dealing with more than just physical symptoms. Depression and anxiety are extremely common among those struggling with the various forms of neuropathy. That’s because neuropathy is a global condition that affects your nervous system in addition to the emotional stress brought on by any major medical condition.

Whether you are newly diagnosed and not sure where to turn, or already in the care of a highly trained neuropathy treatment clinician, it’s not unusual for anxiety or depression to be a daily part of your life.

But there is help. In addition to talking honestly with your doctor about these difficulties, you can take action right away to help yourself heal from the anxiety and depression that comes with neuropathy treatment.

The first step is to identify what you can’t control in the course of your neuropathy treatment, as well as what you CAN control. Make an effort to let go of those things that are out of your reach and trust your neuropathy doctor to competently follow the neuropathy treatment plan you have outlined together.

Make a list of the things you do have control over. Most likely this includes all the things you can do at home:

  • Nutrition
  • Movement and appropriate exercise
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Reducing stress in your environment
  • Spiritual practices such as meditation or prayer
  • Bringing joy into your life through family and friend relationships, pets, new hobbies, etc.
  • Prioritizing your physical and emotional needs first, especially if you are in a caregiver role

Although self care at home for anxiety and depression is a vital part of neuropathy treatment, make sure you aren’t trying to go it alone. Talk with your doctor today about getting the support you need for depression or anxiety symptoms.

If your current doctor is not trained in current approaches to neuropathy treatment including complementary therapies, click here to locate a NeuropathyDR® specialist near you.

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What To Do When Sleep Problems Make Your Neuropathy Symptoms Even Worse

Sleep Disturbances Are Common, But They Are Especially Disruptive to Your Health When You’re Struggling With Neuropathy Symptoms.

Most people experience sleep problems at some point in their lives. While there are those with chronic insomnia or other disturbances, sleep issues are brief and mild for many of us.

However, when neuropathy symptoms come into the picture, sleep problems become more than an annoyance. Insufficient sleep is a global health concern for those with peripheral neuropathy.

You already know that sleep is a required period of rest for your body’s systems. Without sufficient and regular sleep, we just can’t function on a normal, healthy level.

When your sleep is disturbed, your body simply isn’t getting a chance to recharge its key systems. Neuropathy symptoms can contribute to that lost sleep, and lost sleep means that your neuropathy symptoms will be intensified—both right now and over time. It’s a vicious cycle leading to fatigue, weight gain, pains or muscle aches, and possibly depression, in addition to the neuropathy symptoms you’re already experiencing.

So what can you do if your sleep problems are making your peripheral neuropathy symptoms even worse?

My first suggestion is a visit to your local NeuropathyDR® clinician or another trained physician who is well versed in dealing with neuropathy symptoms. You need to address any global health issues aside from neuropathy and accurately diagnose what is interrupting your sleep cycle. If medication or other neuropathy treatments are appropriate for you, those will aid you in better sleep, as well.

Next, make adjustments in your day-to-day lifestyle that will help encourage a healthy pattern of sleep. Daily exercise, as approved by your doctor based on your body’s needs, is very important. When you can exercise outdoors in the sun, that’s even better. Avoid dehydration, follow an effective neuropathy diet, and reduce stress wherever you can.

Some patients also respond well to supplementing with magnesium throughout the day, but this should only be done under your doctor’s supervision and is not appropriate for anyone with kidney disease.

Finally, consider the use of our home care kits, featuring an easy-to-use electrotherapy neurostimulator approved by the FDA. This simple but effective device can improve your sleep significantly by reducing neuropathy symptoms like pain and tingling. Best of all, you can use it while falling asleep, thanks to the built-in timer and automatic shut-off. Read more about the NDGen Home Care Kit.

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Neuropathy Self Care is Vital During the Holidays

Don’t Take a Vacation from Neuropathy Self Care During the Holidays!

The holiday season can be a stressful time for anyone, whether it’s the positive stress of gathering with loved ones or a more negative experience due to personal hardships. Of course, most of us have a mixed experience of both positive and negative stressors during the holidays.

When you are suffering from the discomfort of neuropathic pain, holiday stress can take an even bigger toll—not just emotional but physical. You’re likely to be feeling more fatigue or a chronic pain flare-up during this time.

It may seem that neuropathy self care is just another stressor during the holidays. Sticking to your at-home treatment protocol of a healthy diet, nutritional supplements, light exercise, and mindfulness practice may seem like an imposition or even just another thing on your rapidly growing to-do list!

But the truth is, the most positive step you can take to reduce neuropathy symptoms during the holidays is to prioritize your neuropathy self care above all else.

If you’ve already fallen off the wagon in terms of your neuropathy self care plan, then it’s important to realize that you don’t have to wait for a New Year’s resolution to get back on. You can start right now.

And if that feels too overwhelming, then remember that you can add in healthy habits just one at a time. Every small improvement will have a cumulative effect on your well-being and help reduce neuropathy symptoms.

Need a refresher about the basics of good neuropathy self care? Here are a few key elements of your at-home care to reduce neuropathy symptoms and holiday stress:

  • A diet focused on protein and vegetables, with fewer carbs and unhealthy fats
  • Good hydration with plenty of water
  • Light exercise as prescribed by your medical team or NeuropathyDR® clinician, possibly including stretching, yoga, or other low-impact activities
  • Relaxation exercises or meditation

Above all, try to maintain focus on the joys and pleasures of the holiday season and let go of any preconceptions about how things should go.

To read more about at-home neuropathy self care, take a look at our neuropathy “owner’s manual”: I Beat Neuropathy!

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Are You Incorporating LED As Part of Your Neuropathy Treatment?

LED Use is Growing as a Neuropathy Treatment—Here’s Why.

LED stands for “light emitting diodes,” and it’s a modality that has been around for many years now. We have evolved from treating wounds and diseases with simple exposure to sunlight beginning centuries ago, to providing targeted light energy to heal specific types of pain and illness by penetrating the body’s tissues with light particles.

In terms of neuropathy treatment, LED technology is capable of stimulating greater efficiency of the body’s processes at a cellular level. In short, this means improving metabolism.

Our main focus from 2008 has been treating peripheral neuropathy through metabolic stimulation. We’ve used electrotherapy and LED therapy to accomplish this.

The NeuropathyDR approach combines many different neuropathy treatment modalities that have been shown to be effective in reducing or eliminating neuropathic pain and discomfort, particularly for those who suffer from complications of wound healing due to diabetes.

Your NeuropathyDR clinician will tailor your neuropathy treatment for your specific health challenges, due to the unique nature of neuropathic pain for each individual. Some of the key components of NeuropathyDR treatment often include:

  • Nutrition and supplementation
  • Exercise and physical therapy
  • LED therapy
  • Hands-on, injection-free therapy modalities
  • Neurostimulation techniques
  • Relaxation and stress management

Your NeuropathyDR clinician will create a custom treatment plan just for you, based on your medical history and symptoms as well as a thorough physical examination to provide additional data about your health condition.

It’s so important in neuropathy treatment to follow a strategic, detailed wellness plan based on your individual needs. With trained NeuropathyDR clinicians throughout the U.S. and beyond, you are likely to find a clinician near you who can provide this hands-on, injection-free care. You can also take a look at our NDGen kit for at-home neuropathy treatment.

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Neuropathy and the Holidays: Ways to Reduce Damaging Holiday Stress

Holiday stress can contribute to worsening of neuropathy symptoms. Keep reading to learn more about how to effectively cope at this time of year.

Hands down, the holidays are one of the most stressful events we encounter in our lives… and they come every year, just like clockwork!

That’s true for anyone, but it’s also true that people with neuropathy related to diabetes or chemotherapy cancer treatment may have higher stress levels than most. In this situation, without a strategic self-care in place, you may be feeling far from thankful or joyful. Holiday stress can add a physical burden to your already overburdened body.

But there’s good news. Holiday stress can be significantly reduced with just a little advance planning. Here’s how you can reduce the impact of the holidays on your neuropathy symptoms.

First, begin by understanding the physical toll that stress takes on your body’s systems. Whether it’s mentally or physically based, stress activates the release of hormones that tell your liver to create glucose, which can wreck your blood sugar levels if you’re diabetic. What’s more, people who are stressed and tired are more likely to ignore their glucose levels or stick to a diabetes-friendly diet.

The second strategy for reducing neuropathy aggravating stress during the holidays is to know yourself and what is most stressful for you. Do what you can to control and minimize your exposure to stressful situations. For example, if driving during rush hour frays your nerves, try to vary your route to work to avoid some of that traffic or leave home at a different time than usual. Or consider alternatives, such as public transportation or carpooling. If you hate to cook but feel obligated to provide a lavish Thanksgiving meal, think of a different way to accomplish the same goal, such as ordering an already prepared turkey or asking a family member to share the cooking responsibilities this year.

Third, it’s a great idea from a neuropathy treatment standpoint to teach yourself a couple of simple relaxation exercises now so that they are easily accessed in your memory when you really need them. Start by reconnecting with your breathing—not by trying to change the pattern of your breath, but simple noticing how it feels to breathe. Spend at least twenty seconds relaxing into your breathing pattern. Progressive relaxation, in which you tense the muscles of each part of your body and then relax them, can also be an effective way to deal with holiday stress.

Be sure to talk with your NeuropathyDR® clinician about the best ways for you personally to minimize holiday stress. He or she will be able to prescribe specific types of exercise, supplements, and healthy eating that can support you best during the stress of the holiday season.

If you need help connecting with a NeuropathyDR® clinician in your area who can effectively monitor and treat your neuropathy, click here.

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Lifestyle Change for Chronic Pain: How Do You Do It?

Knowing the Benefits Isn’t Enough to Elicit Lifestyle Change for Chronic Pain… So What Is?

By Carol Jeffrey

The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined “health” as not merely the absence of disease but as a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being.” That’s a rather rigid utopian view, however; an increasing amount of research is showing that patients fare much better when a multifactorial treatment approach is used to combat disease. In sharing my experience, I will expound on the physical, mental and social factors associated with making a healthy lifestyle change for chronic pain in our mindset and diets.

REFRAMING

Whenever I heard the word “diet” my thoughts went directly to lack of comfort food, deprivation and fear of failure, but these were misguided thoughts. This reminded me of a study which showed that one’s mindset could alter a person’s visual acuity. “Because the letters get progressively smaller on successive lines, participants expected only to be able to read the first few lines on a traditional eye chart. When the participants viewed a shifted and reversed chart, they were able to see letters in which they previously couldn’t identify. This showed that mindset manipulation can counteract physiological limits imposed on vision.” (Believing Is Seeing…, Langer E, Dept. of Psych, Harvard.) Shifting my view allowed me to see not only the gains of feeling better from eating a well balanced diet, but the losses that I had incurred from making poor nutritional choices. I used this information to reframe the word “diet” into new thoughts of nutrition, health, and well-being. The success of healthy eating depends not only on our mindset, but understanding how the mind-body connection affects our eating habits.

MIND-BODY CONNECTION

Let me briefly explain what the mind-body connection is about. It’s important to “be present to one’s self” in a way that fosters self-awareness and acceptance…this allows us to change. I used to work in a physician’s office, and I usually scarfed down my lunch between patients and phone calls. This ended up being a mindless task of squelching my hunger pains with food devoid of nutritional value, leaving me lethargic by the end of the day. Often, after the long commute home I would be too tired to cook, so I’d stop for fast food, only to ingest more food devoid of nourishment. My mindlessness carried on into the late evening when I would find myself absentmindedly munching on snacks as I relaxed. My poor eating habitsextended Into my weekend, not due to lack of time but due to the social pressures of eating out with friends…where healthy food choices were limited. I was not psychologically present while eating nor mindful of my food choices.

BEING MINDFUL

Unfortunately, prolonged psychological stress, years of detrimental lifestyle, and poor eating habits had greatly contributed to my poor health. This eventually led to physical disability, unemployment, and the inability to do many of the things that I once loved. I was finally ready to break this cycle, and needed to become aware of the circumstances which led to my poor lifestyle choices and eating habits. I began paying attention to my internal dialogue (i.e., I don’t want to let them down, I’m expected to “…” I know I should choose the salad but I’ve had a difficult day so I deserve to eat what I want. I’m feeling anxious…Ice cream is always soothing. I’m not overweight so it isn’t like I’m pigging out). When I quit accepting my excuses, I became more mindful of my thoughts and choices, and discovered that I had much more control over my health than I had previously realized.

MISGUIDED DEPENDENCE

By this time I had reframed my thoughts about diet, understood the mind-body connection, was mindful of my choices, realized I had control over many aspects of my health. Yet, I was still depending upon my physician to heal me, or at least make me feel better with pharmaceuticals. Which leads me to the next issue I needed to address.

ENCULTURED

I had been encultured into believing that it was my physician’s job to heal, and the pharmaceutical company’s job to relieve my pain. If I failed to get better, it wasn’t my fault, or was it? “In 2012, the pharmaceutical industry spent more than $24 billion on marketing to influence physicians, and over $3 billion in advertising to consumers.” (Cegedim Strategic Data) Traditionally, very few non-M.D. or non-D.O. practitioner appointments or treatments have been covered by insurance. These practices enculture and direct us into accepting the limitations that Western medicine on its own has to offer. It also moves us further away from more natural treatments and the means of self-healing. The strategies used by insurance and BigPharm are contrary to obtaining optimal health, since integrative medicine has shown to be most effective in managing disease. Now that I understood why I was so dependent on my physician, what could I do about it?

SELF-HEALING BEHAVIOR

Fabrega Horacio, Jr. wrote an interesting article (Sickness and Healing and the Evolutionary Foundations of Mind and Minding) which shows how non-human primates (i.e., chimpanzees) are reliant on self-healing behaviors that not only remedy illness but prevent many illnesses, through social functions and diet. I had been relying on my doctors to heal me and a pill to ease my pain, instead of taking personal responsibility, and using preventive and self-healing behaviors…like the chimps. I understood that eating a healthy diet along with living a well balanced life was essential for pain reduction, but I still wasn’t motivated to change.

MOTIVATION

Pain is fundamentally unpleasant, and is designed to protect by promoting motivation and learning. I was now enlightened to the fact that my lifestyle and poor diet were fueling the raging fire within my damaged nerves. However, like many others, I have an aversion to change and even though the reward of pain relief should have provided enough motivation to elicit change…it wasn’t. It is said that most people are motivated by one of two things, “inspiration” or (in my situation) “desperation.” My chronic pain was extremely difficult to handle, but it was the lack of being able to engage in life that made me desperate enough to make changes. My attitude and desire toward change had evolved from I wish, I want, to I must. My reason to change had now been clarified and my need for change had transformed from I should, I intend, to “I am” making a lifestyle change for chronic pain. However, what would keep me motivated? This is where goal setting came into play.

GOAL SETTING

“Remember the word ‘SMART.’ Successful goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.” This is based on research conducted by Dr. Edwin A. Lock of the University of Maryland.

  • Specific: I asked myself what my life was currently missing and what I wanted in my life. Connecting life goals to specific health-related goals clarified the reason I wished to be well and what I would do once my health improved. Thereby answering the questions what, where and why.
  • Measurable: I then determined how I would accomplish and measure my success. (i.e. Add three new organic, non processed foods to my grocery cart each week. Actively work with my doctor on natural pain relief techniques at each visit. Exercise as tolerated but do it two times a week. Do one thing each day to prepare me for a less stressful career.)
  • Achievable: I then asked myself if I had the skill, tools, and resources needed. (i.e. I researched YouTube, and I borrowed books from the library to learn about natural pain relief techniques, meditation, healthy diet, etc., and sought out physicians who practiced integrative medicine.)
  • Realistic: To avoid frustration, I focused on honest goals that I believed were obtainable. There was plenty of evidence to show that changing my lifestyle and eating a healthy diet would decrease my pain and improve my quality of life. It was realistic to train for a less stressful career. Total health and no pain was impossible; however, controlling diet, decreasing narcotic use and learning healthier ways of dealing with pain were within my control.
  • Timely: I gave myself one year to turn my health around and begin a new career. This goal challenged me but it was possible. I set daily, weekly and monthly goals which were frequently reviewed and revised as necessary.

There aren’t any shortcuts to change, including a lifestyle change for chronic pain. I had to reframe my negative thoughts, become more self-aware and mindful of my decisions, accept personal responsibility for my health, incorporate self-healing behavior, determine what would motivate me, set and commit to my goals.

The rewards of an improved quality of life came by default as I achieved my goals. I have not yet reached the utopia of health that the WHO refers to, but I have significantly decreased my pain level and again live an active and meaningful life. This article reflects my journey, but more importantly, I hope it encourages and guides you to make your own changes so that you too may live life to its fullest.

What is your experience with lifestyle change for chronic pain? Talk with us at our Facebook page.

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Neuropathy Treatments Can Be Supplemented with Creativity

Are You Surprised That Making Art Could Be a Supportive Addition to Your Neuropathy Treatments?

One of the most effective at-home neuropathy treatments can be done anytime, anywhere, and you don’t need special materials to do it. You don’t even have to have a special talent or training in art.

Making art can include everything from drawing or painting to collage, scrapbooking, or even flower arranging. The basic human drive to make art, going back to cave paintings many thousands of years ago, is simply about making things that are special and unique that have personal meaning or bring beauty into your world.

And as it turns out, making art is physically good for you! Creativity might even be the perfect way to supplement neuropathy treatments.

Even way back in 2008, the National Institutes of Health described in their newsletter that scientists had already begun studying how the process of making art can reduce stress, ease pain, and improve quality of life. Art therapy has been shown positive benefits with many medical and emotional issues, from trauma or depression to chemotherapy fatigue. In other words, creativity can be a great supplement to your other neuropathy treatments.

There are many options for making art besides drawing and painting, and anyone can do these relaxing creative activities without any special training or materials. Try one of these easy art options.

Magazine Collage Journal

Materials you’ll need:

  • Blank journal or spiral notebook
  • Magazine
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Flip through any magazine looking for images that speak to you. Perhaps they make you feel happy or excited, or they remind you of good memories. Choose three images to glue down to your journal page in any way that looks right to you. If you want, flip to a new page in your journal and write down your thoughts about the images you selected today.

Index Card Mandala

Materials you’ll need:

  • Index cards
  • Pencil
  • Small jar lid
  • Markers or colored pencils

“Mandala” is a Sanskrit word for “sacred circle.” Psychologist Carl Jung used to make a daily practice of creating mandala designs to help him process his ideas. Coloring mandalas has also been shown to be relaxing to your nervous system. All you need to do is find a small circular object, like a jar lid, and trace around it onto your index card. Now use markers, colored pencils, or crayons to fill in the circle with any shapes, colors, and lines that you want. If you prefer to color in larger and more elaborate mandala designs, you can find free printable mandalas online.

Blind Contour Drawing

Materials you’ll need:

  • A Sharpie marker
  • Blank paper
  • Willingness to try something new

Elizabeth Layton is famous for having become an artist at the age of 68, using a daily practice of making blind contour drawings to help her battle depression. “Blind contour” means that you will be drawing a continuous line without looking at the paper; instead, you focus your gaze on the object you’re drawing. The end result obviously won’t be a perfect drawing, but what’s important in this process is the experience of drawing. I recommend a Sharpie marker because there’s no temptation to erase or “fix” anything and you can concentrate on really seeing an object, rather than forcing your drawing to look a certain way. Try it for a few days and see how much fun it can be to create messy, process-oriented drawings!

Are you curious about how to add a creativity prescription to your neuropathy treatments? Talk with us about it at our Facebook page.

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How to Use Meditation for Chronic Neuropathy Treatment (Part 2): 5 Surprising Ways to Meditate

Chronic neuropathy treatment can be supported with meditation—and it doesn’t have to be fancy, structured, or even spiritual in nature. Here’s a list of 5 ways to begin a meditation practice today on your own, for free.

When you think of meditation, do you picture a very serene-looking monk sitting cross-legged on a cushion? Or maybe a young man or woman in yoga gear on a cliff by the ocean? Maybe you’ve heard that there’s only one right way to meditate, and you’d need to watch a DVD or attend a class to find out how.

But I have great news for you! The truth is that you don’t need a class, a DVD, or a perfect body to meditate. You don’t even have to sit on a cushion on the floor. Best of all, meditating is so easy, you can start today.

Here are 5 kinds of meditation that don’t require any kind of training. You can start with just 5 or 10 minutes each day.

1. Sitting meditation

Sitting doesn’t have to mean sitting on a cushion. You can sit upright in any chair that is comfortable for you. The key factor is in having appropriate posture. Think of your head as a balloon that is rising toward the ceiling on a string; let it float over your shoulders. Now think of having a strong, upright back and an open, receiving heart. Sit in this way for 5 to 10 minutes and just notice any thoughts or feelings that arise, like clouds floating by in the sky.

2. Walking meditation

This is a special way of walking that holds less danger of repetitive stress, because you won’t cover much ground in 5 minutes. It might more accurately be called balancing meditation. Simply slow down each step and notice every aspect of it: shifting your weight onto one foot, letting the other foot rise forward, contacting the ground, shifting your weight again. Then repeat on the other side. It’s just like walking, but at a glacial pace that allows you to really notice the sensations of movement and balance.

3. Meditating in bed

For those who find sitting or walking meditation too painful due to neuropathy symptoms, the wonderful thing to know about meditation is that you can do it in any position—even lying down. (The Buddha himself said so!) The key practice isn’t your body position, although it’s best to be in a posture that allows for effective breathing. Instead, the key is in noticing sensations and thoughts and simply allowing them to pass by without judgment.

4. Mindfully doing a creative act

Meditation doesn’t even have to happen in stillness. It’s possible to engage in a daily meditative practice involving any creative act, such as cooking or creating music. Again, the key to a meditative practice is in being fully aware in each moment of how you are feeling, what you’re thinking, and what judgments are arising about the situation. If you find that your attention drifts, just gently bring it back to this moment.

5. Mindfully completing any household chore

Finally, meditation works with any activity, regardless of its nature. The dullest of household chores can be a form of meditation if they are done mindfully—that is, with your attention on sensation and awareness. For example, when you are washing the dishes after dinner, spend those 10 minutes noticing how the soapy water feels on your hands and being aware of the pattern of your breathing.

Meditation of any kind can be an effective stress relief and a self-help supplement for your chronic neuropathy treatment.

Have you tried meditation? Talk with us about it at our Facebook page.

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Looking for a Home Treatment for Chronic Neuropathic Pain? Reasons to Give Meditation a Try

Could Meditation be an Effective Home Treatment for Chronic Neuropathic Pain?

Meditation is a free wellness tool that you can use anytime and anywhere. And it’s not as complicated as you might think.

It might surprise you to hear that meditation can be an effective home treatment for chronic neuropathic pain. Maybe it doesn’t seem like something that would be an accepted neuropathy treatment, like medications or other traditional approaches to chronic pain.

In fact, there is a type of meditation that is actually considered to be evidence-based. In other words, multiple studies have looked at this method and seen positive results for chronic pain. A program called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction has been used in many renowned hospitals and medical centers, incorporating a type of mindfulness meditation that focuses on noticing thoughts and sensations without judgment.

There are books and tapes available about this program, but you don’t even need that kind of specialized training to begin using meditation for wellness on your own. All you need is to understand why mindfulness meditation works with chronic pain.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed this evidence-based program, says that when we have chronic pain, there are two things that make us suffer: the physical pain itself, and our thoughts and emotions about the pain that intensify what we are feeling. Our story about the awfulness or unbearableness of the pain builds a layer of tension around it, like wearing a shirt with a collar that’s too tight.

Meditation lets us change the way we feel ABOUT the pain, so that we can be more relaxed and accepting of it. That way, we can experience peacefulness even when physical pain is present.

Those are the reasons why meditation can be an effective home treatment for chronic neuropathic pain. Soon, we’ll discuss some different ways to meditate and how you can find the method that works best for you.

Meanwhile, please join us for an ongoing discussion at our Facebook page!

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Treating Chronic Pain with TLC: Why Emotional Support is Vital (and How to Ask for the Help You Need)

Don’t go it alone. Here’s why accepting support from family and friends is so important in treating chronic pain.Fotolia 5256891 XS 300x200 Treating Chronic Pain with TLC: Why Emotional Support is Vital (and How to Ask for the Help You Need)

Although it may be a shocking idea, your personal support network may be equally as important to your health as your medical treatment team—or any kind of supplemental therapies.

Why? Because the bottom line is that a positive outlook is the best medicine for good health outcomes. If you are feeling contented and supported in your personal relationships, you’ll be much better equipped to cope with pain when it arises.

Unfortunately, many people find it hard to ask for help from their family and friends. We may have heard the message that it was weak or shameful to be dependent on others.

The truth is that when we are able to accept love and support, we’re better equipped to be as independent as possible in our daily lives.

Make a list of people in your life who have helped you in big and small ways in the past, as well as people that would probably be willing to help now if you were to ask.

Now, think about the things that are making your life the most difficult or stressful right now. This list could be anything from a leaky faucet in your kitchen to a pile of medical bills. Just get it all down on paper.

Finally, begin matching the list of stress points with the list of helpers in your life. Who could come over and fix that leaky faucet for you? Who could help you make phone calls to arrange a payment plan for those bills?

You will find that most of the people on your list are grateful for a chance to help you—they just didn’t know what to do that would be truly helpful. And when your stress level decreases (now that the leaky faucet or pile of bills is a thing of the past), your overall health will be optimized. That means chronic pain becomes less of a burden because you’re better able to cope with it.

Building your support network is just one way that you can take control of your own health and overcome chronic pain. Learn more by visiting our Facebook page.

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Neuropathy Treatment Formula: Taking Charge of Your Health

Is Your Neuropathy Making You Feel Like You’ve Lost Control?
2 ladies on Lap Top 300x199 Neuropathy Treatment Formula: Taking Charge of Your Health

Neuropathy symptoms can make you feel like your health has spun out of control. But regardless of the particulars of your situation, there’s one thing for sure—anxiety and disappointment about the state of your personal healthcare are likely exacerbating your symptoms.

The number one reason to step in and take charge of your own wellness is that feeling in control will make you feel better. Anxiety can compound existing symptoms (such as trouble sleeping) and create new ones by putting the focus on what’s not working. But it’s important to remember that you DO have control over many of the factors that can positively influence your health in a big way.

Many people come to us looking for a “magic bullet,” one simple pill or procedure that will cure neuropathy overnight and permanently. They want a neuropathy treatment formula in a bottle like a one-a-day supplement.

Of course, there are many medically-based aspects to our treatment program, but there are also several significant components of the program that are completely in your control as beneficial lifestyle changes to impact neuropathy. Here are just two simple examples of things that YOU can control in your healthcare, starting today.

First, begin making small, gradual improvements in your diet. Start by weaning away from sodas and processed foods. Notice that you don’t have to go cold turkey or give them up “forever.” Just switch to thinking of them as occasional treats. Choose organic and local produce and other foods whenever you can. Seek out natural and healthy alternatives to your usual meal routine.

Second, get moving. Many people shudder at the thought of doing “exercise,” which sounds like some kind of aerobic torture device. Forget all that and just start moving more than usual—a walk around the block twice a day, slow-dancing to the oldies in your living room, or even vigorous housework or gardening are all candidates for healthy and fun exercise. Make sure you check with your doctor first to find out what’s appropriate for you.

The key is to think of “diet and exercise” not as unreachable fitness goals but as things you already incorporate into your everyday life. Just introduce a small shift in the WAY you do these things, and let a tiny pebble of intention turn into an avalanche of increased health!

Do you have questions about how to get started making beneficial lifestyle changes to heal neuropathy? Talk with us on Facebook.

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Mental Illness

Fotolia 41734006 S 300x200 Mental Illness Robin Williams was not only phenomenal actor but a wonderful human being.  Unfortunately Life’s challenges, combined with what is likely some genetic brain chemistry associated with mental illness take a heavy toll.

This has been a very sad week, losing one of the brightest actors and comedians to ever live.

With my last patient, a nurse this morning we had a frank discussion about why mental illness is still under recognized, under treated, and stigmatized.

I find it very helpful for both patients and professionals to look at it like this.  It is our brain and nervous system that determines how we interpret the outside world. When our brains and nervous systems fail to work properly, or are compromised by illness, drugs, or genetic changes, life challenges can push us and overwhelm then come to the forefront.

This is nothing to be ashamed of!!!

There are all different types of mental illness, ranging from depression to schizophrenia to bipolar disorder and of course so much more.

Because we are all unique biochemically and neurologically, some brains demand more but we all require in balance neurotransmitters (brain and nervous system chemical messengers) including dopamine, GABA, norepinephrine, serotonin and all the other co-factors which are essential to make our brains and nervous systems “hum”.

And taking good care of YOU is the FIRST LINE of good health care!

What a lot of doctors and patients fail to realize however is that just as lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol, obesity, and poor nutrition contribute to neuropathy and chronic pain they also can contribute significantly to mental illness.

Our brains are the most sensitive portion of our nervous system. This is why diligence and our lifestyles are so important throughout our lives.

And this is also why it is so important to make sure that any mental stress or resultant illness is dealt with compassionately, and professionally very early on.

Your healthcare professional knows that adding certain drugs, as well as nutrients may help lift the veil of mental illness and compliment good therapy and self care.

There’s also good evidence that exercise, yoga, meditation as well as cognitive behavioral therapy can go along way towards helping many people with mental and physical illnesses.

But the most important thing that you need to do is to recognize that dealing directly with mental illness is just as an important part of your health as maintaining normal blood pressure or brushing your teeth.

It’s time we lifted any stigma associated with mental illness early and care for ourselves, and every one around us compassionately and completely!

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