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Normalising sensation

Desensitisation is a method of treatment used on diabetic neuropathy patients or patients with nerve damage. It alters the level of sensitivity experienced by an individual in response to certain stimuli.

What is desensitisation therapy?

Desensitisation is a form of therapy which involves carrying out certain exercises in order to normalise the response the body has to different stimulus and sensations. This treatment is used in podiatry in the management of patients with diabetic neuropathy. Damage to nerve endings caused by diabetes or trauma results in unpleasant and intensified sensitivity to everyday sensations.

During desensitisation therapy a gradual tolerance to sensations is achieved, beginning with soft, light stimuli building up to heavier materials in order to attain normalised sensation at the foot.

Who would benefit from desensitisation therapy?

Desensitisation therapy is most commonly used in podiatry to treat patients who have problems related to diabetic neuropathy; however this method of treatment may also be used on patients who have increased sensitivity at an injury site.

Some common symptoms that desensitisation will help with include;

  • A tingling or burning sensation in the foot
  • Extreme sensitivity to light touch
  • A reduction in the ability to feel changes in temperature and pain
  • Prevention of secondary complications such as foot ulceration

How does desensitisation therapy work?

Desensitisation works by delivering regular stimulus to the area of the body that is affected, in this case the foot, for short periods of time through-out the day. This stimulates the brain filling it with sensory input and causing it to adjust to the sensation. The effect of this is that the body begins to get used to and tolerate these sensations therefore preventing a pain response.

What are the benefits of desensitisation?

The possible benefits of desensitisation include;

  • Reduces overall sensitivity levels in diabetic neuropathy patients
  • A reduction in the pain and discomfort associated with increased sensitivity
  • Enables the patient to carry out daily activities comfortably
  • Reduces the need for surgery or medication

Similar treatments/services that could help

Other possible treatments available in the management of neuropathic patients include;

  • Electrical stimulation therapy
  • Stretching exercises
  • Personalised advice and education
  • Range of motion exercises
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