While medications provide some level of relief from neuropathic pain – its effects usually don’t last. Rather than cure the ailment – they merely mask the symptoms – helping to take the edge off. Although this relief is welcome, many neuropathy patients long for more lasting relief from the debilitating symptoms of nerve damage.
For those wanting to take control of their treatment, there are a number of lifestyle changes and alternative treatments that can help promote healthier nerves and repair damaged nerves. While you won’t see a difference overnight – these changes can help build the foundation for a long-lasting improvement in symptoms.
Lets look at some simple lifestyle changes and effective alternative treatments you can start trying today to help relief your nerve pain and improve your quality of life:
Diet can have a significant impact on the symptoms of your neuropathy. To start – certain foods can contribute to nerve damage or aggravate your symptoms and as such, should be avoided. Some common culprits to avoid if you have nerve pain are casein-based products (commonly found in dairy), artificial sweeteners such as MSG or aspartame, gluten, added sugars and refined grains.
You should also alter your diet to get more of the vitamins and nutrients that are essential for nerve health. Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for nerves. In fact, vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to neuropathy in some cases. Other important vitamins or nutrients for nerve health include vitamin B1, B2, B6, magnesium, vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. Here’s a brief guide to some of the best food sources for these nerve-boosting nutrients:
For those suffering from diabetic neuropathy, switching to a plant-based diet may be effective at reversing the damage caused by their neuropathy. In a study by Anne Brunner, PhD, and Caroline Trapp, MSN, of the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine – patients who stuck to a vegetarian diet and to vitamin B12 supplements showed clinically significant improvements their neuropathy when compared to the group taking only the vitamin B12 supplements.
A similar study by Crane and Sample observed that 81% of type 2 diabetic patients with nerve pain who adhered to a plant-based diet for a period of one month reported a complete relief from their pain. While a change in diet requires discipline, it is an effective means of combatting your nerve pain and finding relief.
Manage Blood Sugar
Part of making healthy diet choices is managing your blood sugar levels. The leading cause of neuropathy today is diabetes. If diabetes was the cause of your neuropathy, managing your blood sugar is the single most important thing you can do to slow, stop or even reverse the damage caused by your neuropathy.
Avoid Excessive Alcohol Consumption
You don’t necessarily have to stop drinking completely – but if you suffer from nerve pain, you should avoid excessive alcohol consumption. That’s because alcohol can block your body’s absorption of important nerve-boosting vitamins and nutrients – putting your nerves in greater peril. Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to poor choices in diet and ultimately result in vitamin deficiencies such as a deficiency of B12 – which wreak havoc on your nerves.
Besides the seemingly endless list of health problems associated with smoking – another good reason to quit is that it’s bad for your nerves! Smoking affects circulation – which can have devastating results on your hands and feet. Your nerves rely on the oxygen and nutrients carried to them through the bloodstream to support their daily functions. Poor circulation inhibits the delivery of these essential vitamins and nutrients to the extremities.
Yoga or Tai Chi
In a study on the benefits of exercise intervention in reducing neuropathic pain, researchers at Georgia Southern University noted that the “benefits of exercise training include improvements in nerve function, reductions in neuropathic pain, reductions in other types of sensory dysfunction (e.g., numbness) and improvements in both static and dynamic functional mobility in those with peripheral neuropathy. Therefore it may be conclude that exercise training can be an effective intervention for many of those symptoms associated with peripheral neuropathy.”
While exercises like walking or the stationary bike can be extremely beneficial – they can also be difficult for those experiencing intense pain or burning in the hands or feet. If that’s the case, you may find alternative exercises such as yoga or tai chi to be beneficial. These exercises focus on stretching, breathing and building core muscles. They are gentle exercises that allow you to workout while limiting aggravation to sensitive areas.
Yoga and Tai chi are especially beneficial to neuropathy patients as they help improve balance and coordination – two things that can be affected by neuropathy in the feet. In addition to this, they also help build muscle strength, increase flexibility, improve circulation, reduce fatigue and combat depression.
Massage is another alternative treatment commonly used to help ease the pain of neuropathy. Regular massage helps:
- Relax muscles
- Boost circulation
- Relieve tender spots
- Reduce swelling, pain and stiffness
- Relieve anxiety and stress
- Increase flexibility and range of motion
- Promote the release pain-relieving endorphins
For those with neuropathy in the feet, try these 3 Simple Foot Massage Techniques for Neuropathy
Whereas traditional medicines simply mask the symptoms of neuropathy – the purpose of supplements is to help regenerate damaged nerves to provide lasting relief from the pain, burning or numbness. There are various vitamins, herbs and other natural compounds that can be beneficial to damaged nerves. These include B complex vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), amino acids like acetyl-l-carnitine, and antioxidants such as alpha lipoic acid. Various herbs such as primrose oil, oat straw, feverfew, passionflower and skullcap have also shown to effective in alleviating neuropathic pain.
Like any treatment, it may take time to notice improvements. Ask your doctor what supplements might be right for you and be sure to stick with it for at least 3 months. For many people – supplements have made a lasting impact in reducing the severity of their symptoms and providing much needed relief.
Learn more about 5 Ways B Vitamins Fight Nerve Pain >
Whether you’re recently diagnosed or you’ve suffered for years – taking your treatment beyond just prescription medications can have a profound impact on the severity of your neuropathic pain and result in more lasting relief. While not all approaches may bear fruits – it is important to explore and try the different lifestyle changes and alternative treatments available in order to find those that do.
What lifestyle changes or alternative treatments are you considering for your neuropathy? Share your comments with us on our Facebook Page.