4 Natural Remedies to Try If You’re Experiencing Peripheral Neuropathy
If you're among the more than 20 million Americans who suffer from this kind of nerve damage, you may want to try these natural remedies.
If you've complained to your doctor about prickling in your fingers and numbness or cold in your feet, you might have been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy, a condition involving damage to the peripheral nervous system, the nerves running from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.
Peripheral neuropathy usually starts with the numbness and a prickling or tingling sensation in your feet or hands, which can spread to the legs and arms, but you may also experience sharp, throbbing, freezing or burning pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, weakness, and a lack of coordination that can lead to falls.
Peripheral neuropathy is usually caused by diabetes (called diabetic neuropathy), some medications (especially those used to treat cancer), other diseases (including kidney, liver, cancer, and autoimmune disease), and even vitamin deficiencies.
Some medications used to treat peripheral neuropathy include antidepressants and anti-seizure medications, though it is not clear how they work for nerve pain. Commonly prescribed medications include Neurontin (gabapentin), Lyrica (pregabalin), and Cymbalta (duloxetine). But there are some alternative, natural treatments and therapies that many patients have used to get pain relief. Talk to your doctor about trying some of these natural remedies for peripheral neuropathy:
Capsaicin, the active compound found in hot peppers, is thought to reduce chronic neuropathic pain by making nerves less sensitive to pain messages, and researchers have found moderate success with using topical capasaicin cream to treat neuropathy. Valerie Lloyd, a 65-year-old Alexandria, Va., resident, says she has found some relief for her peripheral neuropathy in a foot cream with capsaicin.
This gentle workout improves cardiovascular circulation without putting pressure the joints, which may be painful. And studies have shown that it's just as effective as land-based therapies for peripheral neuropathy when it comes to gait and balance. Water aerobics helped Lloyd feel better about her strength and state of mind.
Since acupuncture delivers pain relief, it's no surprise that it can ease symptoms of peripheral neuropathy—and research has shown that it has pain relief benefits. Carolyn Hicks, a psychologist and landscape painter in Northampton, MA, found relief in acupuncture. She says the thin needle treatment gave her more energy and balance, and reduced symptoms such as numbness and tingling pain.
Alpha lipoic acid
This powerful antioxidant has shown promise for reducing the pain of peripheral neuropathy. It's present in small amounts in foods like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and liver, but supplementation may be necessary to reach the levels needed for pain relief.
When trying the natural remedies above, it's a good idea to keep a written account of how your pain changes, so you can track its effectiveness. Also, you may find that some of these natural treatments will work better for you than others. Be patient and don't get discouraged. It may take a few days or a week of trying a new therapy before you start to feel relief.
- Ronni Gordon, MedShadow Foundation
- Mayo Clinic: "Peripheral Neuropathy."
- Cochrane Systematic Review: "Topical capsaicin (high concentration) for chronic neuropathic pain in adults."
- Clinical Rehabilitation: "Effectiveness of aquatic versus land physiotherapy in the treatment of peripheral neuropathies: a randomized controlled trial."
- The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: "Acupuncture for the Treatment of Peripheral Neuropathy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis."
- Cochrane Systematic Review: "Alpha‐lipoic acid for diabetic peripheral neuropathy."