Navigating one’s way through the various treatments and therapies available for peripheral neuropathy can be an overwhelming process. Finding the right treatment for your own peripheral neuropathy will often depend on the underlying cause of your neuropathy and the progression of your symptoms. Once you’ve discussed your symptoms with your doctor and have undergone the necessary lab tests, your doctor will discuss the recommended treatment options with you.
Knowing the different options beforehand can help you to make an informed decision and – with the help of your doctor – choose the best option for you. To help you understand your options, lets take a look at a few of the most common treatments and therapies used to treat peripheral neuropathy.
There are a number of medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – that can help alleviate some of the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. These include pain relievers, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications and capsaicin. Pain relievers generally help relieve pain by reducing inflammation caused by nerve damage. Anti-seizure medications and some antidepressants alter chemical processes in the brain that are related to pain. Additionally, they help calm overactive nerves – helping to reduce pain inducing nerve signals from being transmitted.
Capsaicin is a chemical harvested from hot peppers and used in topical creams. It can help create a numbing effect for those suffering from nerve pain. As with most medications, side effects of the medications used for neuropathy can vary. It is important to pay attention to any adverse side effects and discuss them with your doctor.
Therapeutic Nerve Block
If prescription medications aren’t providing relief, another option is a therapeutic nerve block. A nerve block is an injection of an anesthetic into the affected area. The anesthetic can help disrupt or block pain signals to the brain – providing temporary relief to those suffering from intense nerve pain.
TENS Therapy (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
TENS is a type of therapy that – after receiving initial training from a doctor or therapist – can be done at home. It involves placing adhesive electrodes – attached to a small battery pack – onto the area in pain. Using the low voltage setting recommended to you by your doctor or therapist, you turn the device on to transmit electrical currents to the skin.
These electrical currents are believed to help ease pain related to peripheral neuropathy by stimulating the affected nerves and thereby sending signals to the brain to help block the usual pain signals. Additionally, it is believed that the stimulation helps promote the release painkilling endorphins in the body.
Vitamin and herbal supplements can help provide lasting relief and supply the body with important nerve boosting nutrients. A few common supplements for nerve pain include alpha-lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine, fish oil, vitamin B12 (methylcobalamine), oat straw extract and skullcap extract.
Blood Sugar Management & Diet
If your neuropathy was caused as a result of diabetes, the most effective treatment for stopping nerve damage is maintaining proper blood sugar levels. In many cases, you can even reverse the effects of diabetic neuropathy through disciplined diet and nutrition.
The effects of neuropathy can go beyond just pain and numbness. Since peripheral neuropathy most commonly affects the feet and hands – we often reduce our physical use of those extremities. Over time, this can result in muscle deterioration and weakness as well as poor circulation – which can further aggravate nerve pain.
Physical therapy can help the body to restore and maintain healthy muscles and promote better circulation. Popular therapies for neuropathy include massage, water aerobics, yoga and other low impact exercises.
Acupuncture, like physical therapy, can be a great complementary treatment. Acupuncture typically involves the insertion of thin, sterile needles into various acupuncture points across the body. For some, these alternative therapy helps reduce the symptoms of neuropathic pain.
Besides the treatments mentioned above, your doctor might recommend additional lifestyle changes such as to quit smoking or limit alcohol consumption – as these and other lifestyle habits can have a damaging effect on the nerves. For most, the results from the various treatments will vary. While some may see results immediately, for others the effects may take time. It is important to maintain hope and be as consistent as possible.
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