TREATING NEUROPATHY PAIN

Those who suffer from neuropathy report a variety of symptoms but one of the most common is relentless pain. Treating neuropathy symptoms is not easy. However, there are a variety of treatments out there. Finding the right one for you is the problem but it is not impossible. The first thing you have to do is get a proper diagnosis.

DIAGNOSIS

The proper diagnosis of your particular case of neuropathy is very important for treatment. There are many causes of neuropathy: diabetes, disease, trauma, nutritional problems and vitamin deficiencies, alcoholism, tumors, inherited disorders, and poisons. Each cause needs to be determined in order to give proper treatments.

Today, there are many ways in which the cause of neuropathy can be detected. A MRI or CT scan can be done to look for problems, like tumors, which could be pressing on nerves. Blood tests can be performed to check for any systemic diseases, like diabetes or auto-immune conditions, which cause nerve damage. Electromyography can be done to identify which nerves are damaged. Finally, a nerve biopsy can be surgically performed to look at the cells within the nerve in the attempt to determine the cause of pain.

TREATMENT OF UNDERLYING CONDITIONS

If there is an underlying condition, like diabetes, treating that condition will also treat the neuropathy symptoms. Neuropathic pain caused by diabetes can be treated by lowering the patient’s blood sugar. Other conditions that can be treated include vitamin deficiencies, alcohol abuse, and exposure to certain toxic chemicals. Certain infections, such as HIV and leprosy, can also cause nerve pain. Finally, some cases of neuropathic pain are caused by immunological problems, such as lupus and sarcoidosis. Treatments that reduce the inflammation from these diseases can also ease nerve pain.

MEDICATIONS

There are several medications that treat neuropathy pain symptoms. Anticonvulsants, which are medications that treat epilepsy, are quite effective at treating neuropathic pain symptoms because they can reduce abnormal signaling from the damaged nerves. Antidepressants can also be used to treat neuropathic pain. Sometimes patients will get confused by the type of drugs that they are given. Sometimes, patients will question their doctor’s recommendation because anticonvulsants and antidepressants help patients who suffer from different conditions, like depression and seizures. However, these medications do help with the pain from neuropathy.

Topical medications, such as numbing cream and capsaicin (made from hot peppers) can be applied if the pain is occurring in nerve fibers near the skin. These two medications are natural and do not come with the usual side effects found in prescribed medications. Finally, opioids can be used to treat some cases of neuropathic pain but these drugs, are less effective and carry with them a high risk of abuse.

NON-PRECRIPTION DRUGS

Some people with neuropathy use over-the-counter drugs to treat their symptoms. Drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen may help treat minor symptoms if your neuropathy pain is mild. However, for major relief, these medications are not very effective. A good rule of thumb is, if you need to keep taking the drug for more than ten days, you need a different and more effective medication.

Vitamin deficiencies are one cause of neuropathy pain and vitamin supplements may hold the answer to some types of neuropathy. One of these supplements, B-12, has been found to help reduce nerve pain and possibly regenerate neurons. Other nutrients such as alpha-lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine, and gamma linolenic acid may help with nerve pain caused by diabetes. However, more research needs to be performed in this area before results can be firmly established.

ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS

Acupuncture has been practiced in the East for hundreds of years and has made quite a sensation here in the West. Many people claim that acupuncture does help with many ailments including neuropathy pain but researchers are still unclear how it works. Of course, modern science usually thinks it knows better remedies than some other cultures and has to try to figure it all out. Personally, I like the remedies that do not have any side effects. Acupuncture is one of these remedies. As the method gets more attention from doctors and researchers, the benefits from acupuncture will continue to rise.

Massage is another wonderful way to help relieve neuropathy pain. Although the evidence for massage as a pain treatment is not determined yet, it has little risk attached. Some people find it is especially helpful with painful muscle spasms. I believe the gentle massage of muscles and other tissues would benefit anyone with pain. It may help with pinched nerves, stress, and muscle tension. It might not be a permanent solution but the effects of massage will make one feel more relaxed and unstressed.

Physical Therapy is an important part of neuropathic pain relief because, many times, patients avoid using their body parts that are affected by neuropathy. This can lead to atrophy in the muscles in the affected area, which causes progressive weakness. Inactivity as a result of neuropathic pain can also cause loss of joint mobility and arthritis. Additionally, physical therapy can give patients techniques that they can use to minimize the pain while completing everyday activities.

These are just a few of the treatments available for neuropathy pain. As always, check with your doctor before beginning any of these treatments.

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