Nerve surgery procedures can alleviate chronic pain

By Caitlyn Belcher

Shortly after being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, Centennial Hills resident April Anderson began experiencing numbness and burning sensations in her hands and feet.

“It got to the point where I could hardly walk. I could not fill out an application or hold a book,” she said. “I went to physical therapists, chiropractors, neurologists and podiatrists, but no one could figure out why it hurt so bad.”

After years of inconclusive tests and diagnoses, Anderson was examined by family friend Dr. Timothy Tollestrup, who performed nine surgeries to alleviate her pain.

“That summer, we went on a road trip to California where I swam, climbed the streets of San Francisco and walked all over Alcatraz,” Anderson said. “Just the year before, we did a Northern Nevada trip, and my family had to push me in a wheelchair because I couldn’t walk.”

As a peripheral nerve surgeon, Tollestrup operates on the body’s peripheral nervous system, which involves the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord, to relieve chronic pain caused by nerve dysfunction known as neuropathy.

“Peripheral nerves are both motor and sensory in nature, so just as you can have sensory changes, you can develop motor weakness,” Tollestrup said. “Neuropathy is a generic term that encompasses a whole lot of symptoms, like pain, numbness and weakness in an affected limb.”

Neuropathy can be caused by a number of health factors, including diabetes, nerve trauma or exposure to poisons. In Anderson’s case, it was her hypothyroidism.

“Neuropathy can cause the nerve to swell up to two or three times the normal size,” Tollestrup said. “The actual swelling of the nerve is not typically what causes the clinical symptoms. It’s the actual pinching or compression of the nerves that produces those symptoms.”


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