Peripheral neuropathy changes your skin. Nerves that carry sensory information are supposed to look like a fist-full of uncooked spaghetti—a long cord with hundreds of small cords inside. At the ends of the small cords are sensors or receptors with different jobs: some feel pressure, some texture, some temperature. But with the damage caused by illnesses like diabetes or even chemotherapy, the dry spaghetti looks like it was dropped on the floor. Kind of a mess. This means the signals to your brain will be a mess, too. Your skin isn’t getting clear messages to your brain, so you aren’t getting help from your skin to easily stand, step, balance, and walk. Falling happens.
You might be able to help your receptors. The ones in need are called mechanoreceptors. Sometimes the receptors in the outer layers of skin are beyond help. Their distortion and loss are permanent and we have to go deeper to effect change. Somatic learning movements can essentially “teach” your brain to connect more effectively to the skin on your feet. They use a process of manually applying pressure to the deeper parts of your foot and leg for a few seconds at a time. This can reactivate the natural response pattern between foot and brain and prevent falls.
Imbalance leads to falls. If skin receptors in the feet and lower legs are in fact distorted, it can impact your hips and trunk. Anytime the body adjusts for damage in other parts there is potential for imbalance. Imbalance can easily cause you to misstep and fall. If you feel pain or discomfort in the hips and trunk muscles or additional discomfort in joints or old injuries, you may have imbalance caused by skin receptors. Healthcare and Wellness professionals knowledgeable in Somatic Intelligence or trained in the Feldenkrais Method are able to set things right beginning at the skin in your feet!
Balance involves so many different parts, not just the muscles and nervous system. Peripheral neuropathy and other diseases can keep your skin from doing its part. Want to learn more? Check out my post on the Integrative Learning Center’s website.
Carol is a physical therapist, a co-creator of Integral Human Gait theory, a certified Feldenkrais practitioner, and a Senior Trainer in Movement Intelligence. Focus, Align, Teach and Inspire! These qualities not only describe her work, but they also describe her presence. She is passionate when it comes to reconnecting learning with human function and health. Carol is in private practice at MontgomerySomatics.com in Columbus, Indiana.