Nerve pain, often called neuropathic pain, is a very difficult and uncomfortable type of pain. Whether the source of the pain comes from diabetes, shingles, fibromyalgia, chemotherapy, or a host of other causes, the searing, burning, electrical shock symptoms of this kind of pain can leave you utterly miserable. Most treatments for nerve pain are simply anti-inflammatory medications like Motrin or narcotics. Both can be dangerous and both are minimally effective.
However, there are natural ways to fight nerve pain. Many studies have shown that using nutritional support with lipoic acid, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Inositol, and vitamins B6 can actually help heal nerves and decrease or eliminate pain. However, nerves take time to heal, so natural remedies need to be taken for 3-12 months. In the meantime, holistic pharmacies can make powerful creams combining multiple medications effective against nerve pain. These are called nerve pain gel. These are rubbed over the painful areas, and can be very effective after 1-2 weeks of use. Being rubbed on the skin though, the total dose to the rest of your body is very low, making it basically free of side effects! Other medications can also be very effective. The point is, just because doctors are not trained in pain management that does not mean you have to stay in pain.
WHAT IS NERVE PAIN
Nerve pain refers to a wide range of problems that cause diseases of, or injury to, the nervous system. It is a category of pain syndromes and not a single problem. Neuropathic pain can come from the breakdown of nerves or the brain associated with illnesses like diabetes, infections like shingles, pinched nerves, nutritional deficiencies, injuries, and medication or treatment side effects as from chemotherapy. Neuropathic pain affects over 1% of the U.S. population and 25-40% of cancer patients. This represents over two million Americans.
Nerve pain is characterized by pain that is burning, shooting, or stabbing. It also has an “electric” quality about it. Tingling or numbness (paresthesia) and increased sensitivity with normal touch being painful (allodynia) are also commonly seen. The pain is usually on-going and is often continually present regardless of what the patient does or does not do. In some cases, pain comes in sudden attacks without any apparent trigger.
The patient’s history and physical examination are primarily used for diagnosis, as testing often offers little benefit clinically unless the testing is looking for a treatable cause. However, because there may be an underlying cause for nerve pain, it is especially important to look for such causes through testing. Lab tests should include a blood count (CBC) and an inflammation and sedimentation rate (ESR), thyroid testing with a Free T4 and TSH, vitamin B12 level, a screening for diabetes with a morning fasting blood sugar and a glycosylated hemoglobin (HgBA1C). The patient’s medical history should be assessed for excess alcohol use, vitamin deficiencies, hereditary factors, or treatment with medications that can cause nerve injury. A neurological examination may also point out the cause.
TYPES OF NERVE PAIN
How to treat nerve pain largely depends on what type of nerve pain it is. Here are a few types of common nerve pain.
Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN)
Postherpetic Neuralgia results from a rash called herpes zoster. Often called shingles, it is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The pain tends to be burning, electric, or deep and aching. PHN affects between 500,000 and 1 million Americans, most of whom are elderly. It can severely disrupt one’s life, but fortunately can now be effectively treated in most cases.
Painful Diabetic Neuropathy (PDN)
This is the most common cause of neuropathy in the United States. Pain, numbness, and tingling are common in the hands and the feet. The feet, which are most often affected, may feel both numb and painful at the same time. There are many issues contributing to nerve injury in diabetes, including decreased circulation, accumulation of toxic byproducts, damage from elevated sugars, and nutritional deficiencies. Treatments may vary depending on the issues that have to be addressed.
Research has shown that many people who are labeled as having diabetic neuropathy actually experience neuropathic pain caused by vitamin B6 or B12 deficiency. Other nutrients like inositol, lipoic acid, and Acetyl-L-Carnitine have also been shown to be very helpful for diabetic and other nerve pains, but it can take up to 3-12 months to begin nerve healing. So give them a chance to work.
Besides vitamin B12 and B6, neuropathic pain can also be caused by deficiencies of vitamins B1, D, E and zinc. A number of studies have shown that different kinds of nerve pain can improve by supplementation with high dose B vitamins. On the other hand, excess vitamin B6 (over 500 mg a day for years) can also cause neuropathy. Vitamin D (2,000 units a day) was also shown to decrease diabetic neuropathy pain by 47% after 3 months.
Hormonal deficiencies, especially an under-active thyroid, can also cause neuropathic as well as muscular pain. Hormone therapy that includes thyroid hormone is reasonable for anyone who has the symptoms of low thyroid including fatigue, cold intolerance, achiness, low body temperatures, or unexplained inappropriate weight gain.
A pinched nerve can cause nerve pain in many places in the body. Two of the more common ones are low back pain from sciatica and pains in the hand and sometimes wrist from carpal tunnel syndrome. Sciatica usually goes away without surgery by using intravenous colchicine and carpal tunnel syndrome usually resolves after 6 to 12 weeks with vitamin B6 (250 mg a day), thyroid hormone, and wrist splints.
As you can see, there are many different types of nerve pain. These are not all of them but they some of the most common. If you suffer from nerve pain, get diagnosed to start treatments. Your nerve pain may be reversible through proper nutritional supplements. Of course, always discuss any supplements with your doctor to be sure there are no conflicts with other medications.
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