A neurologist is a doctor who treats problems affecting the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. Two specific areas of treatment that neurologists deal with are chronic pain and sleep disorders.
Neurologists not only identify and manage devastating muscle disorders like MS; they also provide safe and effective treatment for chronic pain.
The pain is transmitted to the brain via the nervous system, which identifies a foreign stimulus and translates the degree of injury into pain. The spinal cord harbors a nerve bundle that sends the pain message to the brain within seconds.
With chronic pain, these messages sometimes don’t stop when the injury has healed. Long-term conditions, such as arthritis, are thought to contribute to ongoing pain messages because the pathways can be damaged. It is believed to cause an excessive stimulus of the pain center and create a memory. Even though there is no current injury, the reaction to pain is the same.
Whether the pain is long or short term or results from trauma or unknown causes, a neurologist is often the best bet for limiting the suffering. Based on the medical history, physical impairments, and sites of pain, the neurologist may order a series of tests to determine the actual cause and route of the pain. Once diagnosed, the treatment plan is discussed and implemented.
In addition to controlling pain, a neurologist can help with sleep disorders. There are a large number of these disorders, the causes of which are varied. Here are some of the most common sleep disorders that can be treated by a neurologist:
Sleep Apnea – Sleep apnea is a common disorder that can cause serious health problems if not corrected. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat tissue sags or the tongue falls back into the throat, preventing adequate breathing. However, there is another form known as central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain does not send the message to the respiratory muscles to do their job. Long-term effects can be serious, including heart attacks, an enlarged heart and / or heart failure, stroke, and headache.
Narcolepsy – Narcolepsy is another sleep disorder with significant repercussions. This condition is often thought of as a neurological problem, although not all cases are the same. Some patients experience paralysis on first awakening and are unable to move their extremities. Other patients have fallen asleep while working or even driving a car.
Insomnia – Insomnia is a sleep disorder that can make it difficult to fall asleep or maintain sleep. Comorbid insomnia is the inability to sleep due to other conditions such as depression or chronic pain.
Proper diagnosis is essential for treating and controlling these disorders. Sleep studies may be needed to determine oxygen levels and brain waves during sleep. An EEG will test for electrical activity during sleep or if you have sleep apnea. Also, a genetic history and testing may be suggested to identify the underlying health issues causing the sleep disorder.
Once the diagnosis is made, treatment begins and the suffering decreases or is eliminated. Seeking the help of a neurologist at the onset of the disease or disorder will limit the damage caused by unknown conditions. It can be as simple as a change in diet or medication to change habits and restore a normal, restful night’s sleep.