Natural Treatments for Neuropathy: Ease Pain and Experience Comfort
Dec 27, 2023
The pain, weakness, and numbness of neuropathy can make day-to-day life a challenge. But you do not need to passively accept your symptoms; there is much you can do to actively manage them to improve your quality of life.
While you will work with your doctor to find the right medical treatments, there are natural treatments for neuropathy you can do on your own to alleviate your symptoms.
Most Common Neuropathy Symptoms
The exact symptoms you experience with neuropathy may depend on individual factors. But these are some of the symptoms that patients most commonly report:
- Pain (may be shooting, prickling, stabbing or burning)
- Twitching in muscles
- Sensation loss
- Balance loss
Here are some of the areas of nerve damage that are affected by neuropathy pain
Neuropathy in motor nerves typically manifests as muscle weakness and atrophy, resulting from impaired nerve function in muscle movement and control. Patients may experience involuntary muscle cramps and twitches, along with difficulty in tasks requiring coordination, like walking or grasping objects.
In severe cases, it can affect muscles involved in breathing and speech, leading to respiratory difficulties and speech problems.
Neuropathy affecting autonomic nerves can lead to a variety of symptoms due to the disruption of involuntary bodily functions. Common symptoms include abnormal sweating, either too much or too little, reflecting the body's impaired ability to regulate temperature.
Digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhea are common, as the nerves controlling gastrointestinal function are affected. Patients may experience changes in blood pressure and heart rate, often leading to dizziness or lightheadedness, especially when standing up.
Bladder problems like urinary retention or incontinence can occur due to the dysfunction of nerves controlling bladder muscles. Sexual dysfunction is also a frequent issue, as the autonomic nerves are involved in sexual response.
Neuropathy in sensory nerves primarily affects the body's ability to sense stimuli like temperature, pain, or touch. Common symptoms include numbness, often starting in the hands or feet, which can make it difficult to detect temperature changes or injuries.
Tingling or burning sensations are also frequent, sometimes described as a "pins and needles" feeling. Patients may experience heightened sensitivity to touch, where even light contact can be painful, a condition known as allodynia.
Natural Treatments to Alleviate Neuropathy
Treating neuropathy naturally starts with making lifestyle adjustments that soothe the nerves and preserve their health. It can also incorporate some additional alternative medicine practices for further support. Here are some top natural treatments for neuropathy.
It might surprise you to hear that exercise is beneficial for nerve damage and pain. After all, going on a walk or stretching does not sound fun when pain is shooting through your feet or hands. But exercise can help you to build strength, improve balance, reduce inflammation and increase circulation.
Vitamins and Supplements
Another way you can treat neuropathy naturally is to try eating a more nutritious, balanced diet, and maybe even adding in some supplements. Here are some nutrients to try getting more of:
- Vitamin B12
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin D
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- N-acetyl cysteine
Be aware that it can take some time for dietary changes to make a marked difference on how you feel. Give any new supplement you try a few months before you judge the results.
One form of alternative medicine that may have a beneficial effect on those suffering from nerve pain is acupuncture.
The efficacy of acupuncture for neuropathy is borne out through this meta-analysis, which looked at 15 different studies. That said, the researchers said that we need more data from studies that are better designed to have a stronger understanding of the effects of acupuncture on this condition.
According to acupuncturist Mathew Kulas, RAc, “Acupuncture is really good at restoring blood flow and stimulating the body's nerve pathways. It can also help with nerve regeneration and preservation. If there has been nerve damage or diminished sensation, we target treatment in these areas to re-stimulate those nerve fibers."
Many people who have chronic pain conditions report that meditation is helpful to them. This is also true for those who have neuropathy.
A pilot study showed that meditating for two months can boost quality of life and reduce pain for patients with peripheral neuropathy.
The researchers wrote, “The effectiveness of mind-body therapies may lie in their ability to facilitate stress reduction, relaxation, and improvement of mood, which in turn may affect the degree to which psychosocial factors can negatively affect quality of life in MS and PN patients.”
Mindfulness is probably the most common form of meditation, but there are many other types of meditation as well that you can practice. The trick is just to find what works for you.
Bear in mind that meditation takes time to learn how to do, like other skills. So, make it a regular practice, and give it time to work.
Another option for treating neuropathy naturally is to try out using essential oils. Essential oils are highly-concentrated extracts taken from plants. Safely diluted, you can use them in a diffuser or apply them directly to your skin (do not apply them undiluted to your skin).
This article in WebMd explains that while preliminary research shows benefits for essential oils for neuropathy, they may or may not be the result of the oils (they could simply be the positive effects from massage). One of the studies did not feature massage, however, and still showed benefits, so that lends more credence to the idea that essential oils can help patients with neuropathy.
Here were the essential oils that were used in the studies:
- Tea tree
- Lemon eucalyptus
- Blue chamomile
WebMD says that additional oils that have shown potential benefits in research for treating pain include ginger, cinnamon and lemongrass.
Also, massage itself is something else you can try, with or without essential oils.
Earlier, we talked about how exercise can be an effective natural treatment for neuropathy. But for exercise to be safe and effective, you are going to need high-quality orthopedic footwear that offers the right support for your condition.
Neuropathy can lead to the development of a condition called “foot drop” in some. With foot drop, lifting or moving one of your feet may be challenging. And even if you do not have foot drop, the discomfort of walking with neuropathy can cause you to adopt an unnatural gait.
The Original Men’s and Women’s Adaptive Shoes by Cadense are especially designed for people who have a difficult time lifting their feet as they walk. The soles feature a proprietary technology that offers more friction when stepping down, and less friction during the swing of each step.
This adaptive friction makes it possible to “glide” smoothly over the terrain, whether it is flat or curved, smooth or bumpy. The resulting steps are safer, more comfortable, and more natural than they would be wearing regular shoes.
Combining Natural Treatments with Conventional Medicine
We want to take a moment to note that while natural treatments for neuropathy can make a significant difference in your quality of life, they work best if you do them in conjunction with more conventional treatments.
These medications can help treat neuropathy symptoms:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Anti-seizure medications (i.e. gabapentin or pregabalin)
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Topical treatments such as lidocaine
Additional medical treatments for neuropathy include:
- Spinal cord stimulation
- Scrambler therapy
- Physical therapy
- Plasma exchange
- Intravenous immune globulin
While some conventional treatments are over-the-counter, such as NSAIDs or lidocaine patches, most of the treatments in the list above require a go-ahead from your doctor for you to proceed.
So, if your neuropathy symptoms are not well-controlled right now, it is worth making an appointment. There may be options that you have not yet explored with your doctor.
As is common with chronic pain issues, there is a lot of individual variation in what works for different people. It will take some trial and error to find what works best for you. So, do your best to be patient and keep trying until you make progress.
Once you start receiving effective conventional treatments and combining them with the natural strategies we discussed, you will hopefully start feeling more like yourself.
Let’s answer a few more questions you may have about natural treatments for neuropathy.
What makes neuropathy worse?
Alcohol and smoking can both make neuropathy worse. So, if you have nerve pain, quit smoking, and do not drink to excess. As caffeine can also make nerve pain worse, you should moderate your caffeine intake as well.
What should you not do if you have neuropathy?
Along with not smoking and not overindulging in alcohol or caffeine, people with neuropathy should not eat too many sugary or processed foods.
Try not to spend time in positions where you are cramped, and take breaks if you have to make repetitive movements (avoid them when possible).
Exercise, but do not overdo it, and do not do activities where your balance is likely to fail you.
Do vapor rubs work for easing neuropathy pain?
Yes, some research and anecdotal reports suggest that vapor rubs may help to relieve neuropathic pain. It is worth giving it a try since it is inexpensive and easy to find at your local pharmacy.
Are there specific foods that lessen nerve pain?
Foods that are rich in vitamin B-12, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and micronutrients may help to fight nerve pain. Try eating more fish, fruits and vegetables. If you think you are still falling short with some of these key nutrients, you can add some supplements to your daily diet.