One of the most common questions we hear from people dealing with nerve pain is whether or not there are any effective non-prescription approaches to treating the symptoms of neuropathy. Some are looking for a natural approach because of negative experiences or adverse side effects from their prescription medications. Others are looking for a more lasting approach that helps address the underlying causes of their pain rather than merely provide temporary relief.
Of course, there are a number of non-prescription approaches to managing neuropathic pain. As with any form of treatment, each person will respond differently to different kinds of treatment. The important thing is to pay attention to how your body responds and remain persistent until you find the approach that works best for you.
We’ve researched some of the most commonly used non-prescription approaches to managing nerve pain. If you’re looking for new options to help you manage the symptoms of your neuropathy, try starting with one of these popular and effective approaches:
Topical pain relieving creams are a popular approach to managing pain, tingling or burning from nerve damage. Most neuropathy creams contain the ingredient capsaicin, which is harvested from hot peppers and can effectively numb neuropathy pain. One of the greatest benefits of topical creams for nerve pain is that you can apply it directly to the trouble spots – bringing targeted relief to the areas afflicted with pain.
Vitamin & Herbal Supplements
Vitamin and herbal supplements can be powerful allies in the fight against neuropathy. Vitamins like B12 are essential for nerve health and not getting enough of it could lead to neuropathy. Other effective vitamins and supplements for treating the symptoms of neuropathy include alpha lipoic acid, magnesium, CoQ10, acetyl-l-carnitine, passionflower and more. These supplements help both relieve the pain as well as correct underlying problems that could be contributing to nerve pain.
Over the Counter Painkillers
While not as powerful as prescription medications, over the counter medicines can help some sufferers take the edge off the pain without exposing them to some of the adverse side effects of prescription painkillers. This approach is more effective for those experiencing only mild pain or discomfort from their neuropathy. The most common over the counter pain relievers for mild nerve pain include aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
According to WebMD, biofeedback can be an effective form of alternative therapy for individuals with chronic pain – including neuropathy – and migraines. During a biofeedback therapy session, electrodes are attached to the body to track various involuntary functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle movement and more. These functions are then displayed on a monitor for you to see. The biofeedback therapist will then guide you through various relaxation techniques to help you gain control over some of these involuntary functions. The monitor displays any changes in activity, helping you to see how the techniques can help you control these functions.
The various relaxation techniques associated with biofeedback have helped many to train their bodies to more effectively cope with stress and pain.
Acupuncture has been shown to reduce the symptoms in patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy. Acupuncture is an alternative option for treating certain ailments and condition by way of needle. Needles are strategically inserted into the body and then manipulated in order to help with the lack of blood flow to damaged areas. Like most treatments, it may take multiple sessions before patients begin to feel a difference.
Regular massages can provide much needed relief from nerve pain. Massages help in a couple of ways. First, they improve blood flow. Poor circulation can hurt the nerves by depriving them of the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay healthy. Poor circulation can also intensify the symptoms of nerve pain. Second, massage helps by promoting the release of pain-blocking endorphins in the body. This can provide temporary relief from excruciating nerve pain.
TENS Therapy (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
TENS is a drug free alternative to relieving pain associated with neuropathy. You connect a few electrodes to the skin. The electrodes are then connected to a small battery pack, which sends electrical impulses through electrodes. These impulses travel along the nerve fibers to inhibit pain signals from arriving at the brain. Additionally, the electrical impulses may also release natural endorphins and that can help naturally suppress the pain. The procedure is non-invasive and pain free in nature. The TENS therapy does not provide relief for all patients or all pain types; however it may very well provide ease from acute forms of nerve pain.
For many suffering from neuropathy (or any other form of chronic pain), the pain causes them to limit physical activity. While it is important to know your limits, a lack of exercise can have a negative effect on your health. Muscle weakness and muscle atrophy – when the muscles waste away – can become a very real risk for those with neuropathy.
While the pain may make most exercise difficult (if not impossible), even doing small, gentle exercises can help prevent muscle weakness and muscle loss. Some of the most effective forms of gentle exercise for neuropathy include yoga, tai chi, water aerobics, stationary bike and walking. Many patients report a decrease in both frequency and severity of nerve pain when exercise becomes part of their daily routine. As always, consult your doctor or physical therapist about what exercises are best for you.
What you eat can have a significant effect on your nerves. For many Americans, poor dietary choices lead to a lack of important vitamins and nutrients that promote healthy nerves. This includes a lack of vitamin B12, which can cause neuropathy. Eating a diet rich in vitamins B12, D, magnesium, iron, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids can help your body as it fights pain and irritation from nerve damage.
For those suffering from diabetic neuropathy, diet is the most important aspect of their battle with nerve pain. Managing blood sugar is the single most effective tool in stopping and even reversing the effects of diabetic neuropathy. Approximately 70% of diabetes patients will develop neuropathy, so maintaining a proper diet and managing blood sugar is important for anyone with diabetes.
There may be habits or lifestyle factors that are contributing to your nerve pain. Some of the most common lifestyle changes we recommend for anyone suffering from neuropathy are to limit alcohol consumption (which can block the body’s absorption of nerve boosting nutrients), quit smoking, limit sugar consumption, avoid high salt foods and eat a well-balanced diet.