Can Neuropathy Affect The Brain?

by Martin Rutherford, D.C.

Dr. Gates: So today’s question is, “Can peripheral neuropathy affect the brain,” and the answer is absolutely, yes. And I will go into some of the specifics on this, but Dr. Rutherford does a lot of the intakes with our patients, he talks to patients when they’re coming in, and why don’t you give some of your experiences relative to this question?

Dr. Rutherford: Yeah, particularly in doing interviews relative to people who come in with balance problems, they’ve gone somewhere, they’ve had their inner ear checked, and it’s good…these are peripheral neuropathy patients, of course…or they come in, they have peripheral neuropathy, and have restless legs syndrome. It’s known in the literature and we’ve seen it to be the case and we utilize this data in our treatment protocols that the brain needs to be stimulated. The brain needs to be stimulated by the feet, okay? It needs to be stimulated by the feet, the feet need to come up, they need to stimulate something called your parietal lobe for reasons Dr. Gates is gonna go into, and they also need…I think it also needs to stimulate your frontal lobe, too, right? He’s the neurological guy. Frontal lobe, obviously a brain issue. If you have peripheral neuropathy, you have numbness, tingling, burning, those types of sensations. Sharp, shooting pains. Those nerves probably aren’t stimulating properly. Dr. Gates is gonna go into that significantly more. Secondly people who come in here with restless legs syndrome, they have something in their brain called a basal ganglia that needs to be stimulated. So the answer, the short answer is yes. Peripheral neuropathy definitely affects your brain, but in very specific ways.

Dr. Gates: Absolutely. Exactly.

Dr. Rutherford: What are the specific ways? And get a little bit more into detail here.

Dr. Gates: So the detail is that you have to have to understand that if the nerves die and degenerate in your feet, they’re not sending the signal up to the sensory area of your brain. It’s termed the parietal lobe. Here’s the front part of your brain. Right behind that is the parietal lobe right here and the parietal lobe they’ve shown in peripheral neuropathy patients who have diabetes actually shrinks. It actually shrinks, compared to other diabetic patients who don’t have neuropathy. So we know that it’s not just a diabetic problem. It’s a diabetic peripheral neuropathy problem. And this has been extrapolated to other kinds of neuropathy and when doctors are trying to treat you, what we have to realize is that many of your symptoms actually become based in the brain because the brain is the last stop, so to speak, in terms of interpretation of the signals from the feet, which is just so interesting to us. So when that study came out in 2013, it was really just fantastic for doctors to really understand what’s going on with you and how neuropathy does affect the brain. As Dr. Rutherford said, it also can negatively affect balance because when we lose sensation in the feet, your balance center in your brain…which is at the bottom of the brain, it’s called the cerebellum…it doesn’t know where your feet are, so it’s kind of like a plane flying without its instruments and that’s why many of you have balance problems.

It goes further, as he was discussing, relative to restless legs syndrome, which involves a movement control system in your brain. So for any of you who’ve known someone with Parkinson’s disease, those with Parkinson’s disease can have unwanted movements of their hands. Well, they can also have trouble moving. They have trouble getting started, so to speak, when they’re trying to walk. Well, we’re not saying you have Parkinson’s disease, but frequently patients with peripheral neuropathy will have restless legs syndrome. What happens there is that during the day, they have enough stimulation from their feet, even though the nerves are damaged in their feet, for those of you with neuropathic restless legs syndrome, they’re getting sensation from their legs so they don’t have the sensation of wanting to move their legs. But in the evening, because the nerves are damaged or dying, the brain isn’t getting appropriate feedback so the compensating mechanism is for the person to start wanting to writhe their legs. So it’s very interesting. Absolutely, diabetic peripheral neuropathy can affect the brain. Those are the reasons why. We have many videos on these topics so you can go to www.powerhealthtalk.com, search peripheral neuropathy. You can search restless legs syndrome, it links to all these detailed mechanisms. You can search balance and we have lots of videos there attached with plenty of reference videos so you know where we’re getting our data from.

So this is Dr. Martin Rutherford, Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner, also a chiropractor. I’m Dr. Randall Gates, Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist, also a chiropractor, and we appreciate you watching.

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