How To Treat Neuropathic Pain

how to treat neuropathic pain

Neuropathic pain causes pain, numbness, and weakness in hands and feet as a result of damaged peripheral nerves. Traumatic injury, infection, alcoholism, and diabetes mellitus are cause peripheral neuropathy and spread over time slowly.

If you experience nerve pain, you should see a physician. Luckily, there are treatment goals to help manage conditions causing neuropathy and relieve the symptoms. If lab results indicate no underlying condition, the doctor could recommend waiting to see if the neuropathy improves.

The doctor can prescribe medications to treat underlying conditions associated with peripheral neuropathy as well as to relieve peripheral neuropathy symptoms. For instance, over the counter pain relievers like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory meds can help relieve mild symptoms. Your doctor can prescribe pain medications for more severe symptoms. 

Painkillers such as oxycodone (Roxicodone, Oxycontin, others) or tramadol (Ultram, Conzip) can lead to addiction and dependence. Hence, these meds should only be used with a prescription from a doctor.

Topical treatments like Capsaicin cream can help improve peripheral neuropathy symptoms because they contain the substance found in hot peppers. Though they might cause skin irritation and burning when you apply the cream, it lessens and becomes tolerable over time.

Lidocaine patches are also another topical treatment that can offer pain relief when applied to the skin. Side effects of topical medications can include dizziness, drowsiness, and numbness where used. 

Anti-seizure medications like pregabalin (Lyrica) and gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant) can be used to relieve nerve pain, though the side effects could include dizziness and drowsiness.

Certain tricyclic antidepressants, like doxepin (Zonalon, Silenor), amitriptyline, and nortriptyline (Pamelor), can also help relieve pain. These antidepressants interfere with the chemical processes in the spinal cord and brain, causing pain.

 The norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor duloxetine (Cymbalta) and serotonin, as well as the extended-release antidepressant venlafaxine (Effexor XR), can also help ease peripheral neuropathy pain caused by diabetes. However, the side effects could include nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, constipation, and decreased appetite. 

There are also therapies and specific procedures that can be used to ease the signs and symptoms like:

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

With TENS therapy, electrodes are placed on your skin to deliver a gentle electric current at different frequencies. It should be applied for 30 minutes every day for about a month.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is crucial for those experiencing muscle weaknesses. It helps improve movements. Those who need physical therapy could also need a foot or hand brace, a walker, a cane, or a wheelchair.

Plasma Exchange and Intravenous Immune Globulin

These are procedures used to suppress the immune system activity to benefit people with inflammatory conditions. With plasma exchange, blood may be removed, then antibodies and other proteins are from the blood which is then returned to your body. With immune globulin therapy, you receive immunoglobulins (high levels of protein that work as antibodies).

Surgery

Patients with neuropathies caused by nerve pressure, like pressure from tumors, might need to undergo surgery to help reduce the pressure. After surgery, the doctor will prescribe the right medication and therapies to ensure a favorable prognosis.

What is Peripheral Neuropathy Pain

what is peripheral neuropathy pain

In the human body, the peripheral nervous system is what connects the brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system to the rest of the body. This includes the arms, hands, internal organs, mouth, feet, face, and legs. These nerves deliver physical sensation signals back to the brain. 

Hence, peripheral neuropathy occurs when these nerves become damaged or destroyed, leading to malfunction. When malfunctioned, the normal functioning of the nerves is disrupted. They might even send pain signals even when there is no pain, or they might fail to send a pain signal even when something is harming you.

This could be due to a systemic illness, an injury, an inherited disorder, and an infection. Luckily, some treatments can be helpful even when the disease can be uncomfortable. It is crucial first to determine whether the peripheral neuropathy is coming from an underlying condition.

Causes of Peripheral Neuropathic Pain

Generalized Conditions

The most common form of neuropathy is nerve damage caused by diabetes. This neuropathy leads to pain, numbness, a loss of sensation when in extremities.

The risk of neuropathy increases for those who are overweight, over the age of 40, is diabetic, and have high blood pressure. Nearly 60% of people with diabetes have some likelihood of nerve damage, according to the University of Chicago’s Center for Peripheral Neuropathy (UCCPN).

Other chronic conditions that could lead to nerve damage include hypothyroidism, kidney disorders with a high amount of toxin build up in the body leading to nerve tissue damage, deficiencies of vitamin B-1, B-6, B-12, and E, and diseases that cause chronic inflammation.

Alcohol and Toxins

People with severe alcoholism are at a higher risk of peripheral neuropathy because alcohol has a toxic effect on nerve tissue. People exposed to toxic chemicals like solvents, glue, or insecticides, either in the workplace or through chemical abuse, are at risk of nerve damage. Exposure to heavy metals like mercury and lead can also lead to peripheral neuropathy.

Injury

The most common cause of neuropathy is physical trauma. This could include fractures, falls, or car accidents. Holding still in one position for too long, or inactivity. Increased pressure on the median nerve on the wrist that causes movement or feeling in the hand, causing carpal tunnel syndrome, another type of peripheral neuropathy.

Medications

Certain medications can also cause nerve damage. They include drugs that fight bacterial infections, anticonvulsants for seizures, medicine used to treat cancer, and some blood pressure medications. According to the Journal of Family Practice, a class of drugs used to prevent cardiovascular diseases or lower cholesterol can also cause nerve damage, increasing the risk for neuropathy.

Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy Pain

The common types of peripheral nerves include:

·         Sensory nerves – connect to the skin

·         Autonomic nerves – connect to your internal organs

·         Motor nerves – connect to your internal organs

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include:

·         Sharp, stabbing pains

·         Tingling in the feet or hands

·         A feeling like one is wearing a tight glove or sock

·         Numbness in the feet or hands

·         Regularly dropping things from your arms

·         Weak, heavy feeling in arms and legs

·         Digestive difficulty

·         Thinning of the skin

·         A shocking or buzzing sensation

·         Sexual dysfunction especially in men

·         Drop-in blood pressure

·         Constipation

·         Excessive sweating

Because these symptoms are also general to other conditions. It would be best if you let your doctor know of all your symptoms.

How to Diagnose Peripheral Neuropathy

Diagnose Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a general term used for a series of disorders caused by damage to the body’s peripheral nervous system. It is not a single disease.

The nervous system is made up of the Central Nervous System (CNS) which includes the spinal cord and brain, and the peripheral nervous system (PNS) which connects the nerves running from the spinal cord and brain to the rest of the body organs like hands and arms, internal organs, legs and feet, joint, and the eyes, mouth, nose, ears, and skin.

When the nerves are destroyed or damaged and can’t send signals to the skin, muscles, and other body parts from the brain and spinal cord, peripheral neuropathy occurs. Peripheral nerves go from the brain and the spinal cord to the hands, arms, feet, and legs. When there is damage, pain, and numbness in these areas could also occur.

Peripheral neuropathy can affect only one nerve group or nerve at a time, commonly referred to as mononeuropathy; it can also affect multiple nerves, known as polyneuropathy.

Mononeuropathy is caused by damage to a single nerve group or nerve by injury, trauma, prolonged pressure, local compression, or inflammation. For example, Bell’s palsy, a facial nerve disorder, and Carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful hand and wrist disorder associated with repetitive tasks like typing. 

How Peripheral Neuropathy is Diagnosed

Many things can cause peripheral neuropathy. Hence, besides a physical exam that could include blood tests, a diagnosis could require more.

Before a proper diagnosis, the doctor will want to know and review your medical history. A full medical history will include your symptoms, exposure to toxins, your lifestyle, family history of neurological diseases, as well as drinking habits.

The doctor may also ask for a neurological examination to check your tendon reflexes, muscle tone and strength, your posture and coordination, and your ability to feel certain sensations. The doctor may also order tests like blood tests to try and detect diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, abnormal immune functions, and indications of other conditions that could cause peripheral neuropathy.

The doctor may also ask for imaging tests like MRI, or CT scans to look for tumors, herniated disks, or other abnormalities. Nerve function tests like EMG (Electromyography) can also help record electrical activity in the muscles to detect any nerve damage. 

With EMG, a thin needle is inserted into the muscle to help measure electrical activity as the patient contracts the muscle. The EMG technician or doctor will typically perform a nerve conduction study by placing flat electrodes on the skin to let a low electric current stimulate the nerves. The nerves’ responses to the electric current are then recorded.

Your doctor could also need other nerve function tests that could include an autonomic reflex screen that records how your autonomic nerve fibers work. They could also want sensory tests to record how you feel touch, heat, cooling, and vibration, as well as a sweat test to measure your body’s ability to sweat.

A nerve biopsy could also help look for abnormalities by removing a small portion of a sensory nerve. A skin biopsy, where the doctor removes a small skin portion, will help look for a reduction in nerve endings if any. With results from either of these tests, the doctor can diagnose you with peripheral neuropathy if he sees evidence of it.

How to Treat Peripheral Neuropathy Naturally

Peripheral Neuropathy Naturally

Peripheral nerves send information to the brain and spinal cord. When these nerves are damaged, nerve signaling is affected, which then results in painful sensations. This damage is what we call peripheral neuropathy.

People with nerve damage experience hot and cold sensations, painful tingling, or shooting pains in the affected areas. The symptoms of neuropathy may begin in the hands and feet since they are the most commonly affected areas.

However, we have peripheral nerves all over our bodies. Hence, it is possible to have these symptoms in multiple locations elsewhere in the body. Luckily, some natural treatments can help ease some symptoms, while natural interventions can help prevent further nerve damage. Here are natural ways to treat neuropathic pain: 

Dietary Changes

The leading cause of peripheral neuropathy is diabetes. Dietary changes are the first solution that helps lower blood sugar levels as well as ease symptoms of neuropathy, and maybe even prevent it.

Diabetic people should opt for diets rich in fiber and low in simple carbohydrates to prevent blood sugar spikes. People who experience neuropathic pain should also avoid white bread products like pasta, processed snacks, and sweets.

People with peripheral neuropathy should also eat antioxidant-rich foods like walnuts, blueberries, flaxseed oil, and fatty fish to help combat inflammation. Focus on eating foods that the body will absorb slowly and are high fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

You should also eat fewer than 2300 mg sodium daily and limit saturated and trans fats. You should also eliminate or reduce alcohol intake if you’re experiencing neuropathic pain. 

Exercise

Exercise can help reduce some neuropathy symptoms because it promotes muscle tone. Exercise can also help combat certain health issues causing neuropathy. For instance, diabetes leads to peripheral neuropathy, and exercise helps reduce the risk of diabetes as well as its complications.

Exercise also helps reduce pressure on peripheral blood vessels, which could further benefit people at high risk of neuropathy.

Vitamins

There are several vitamins, as well as supplements that can help support nerve health and help ease peripheral neuropathy symptoms. B-complex vitamins are very crucial because being B-12 deficient can damage your protective coating of nerves. People who are B-9 deficient can also impair nerve health.

B-12, B-6, and B-1 supplementation could help people with these deficiencies ease neuropathic pain. Vitamin E can also reduce inflammation that leads to nerve damage because it’s an antioxidant. Hence, people with peripheral neuropathy should eat foods rich in vitamin E, and it also helps ease some symptoms like tingling and burning. 

Magnesium and calcium can also help with muscle cramps when taken together. However, it would be best if you were careful about how much you take because high doses can cause diarrhea. Healthy fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids will also help support a healthy nervous system by reducing inflammation, potentially preventing neuropathy.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques can also help people manage their pain from neuropathy. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and progressive relaxation can help offer some relief. Relaxation techniques like tai chi, yoga, and blend stretching can help improve posture, reduce stress, and ease some painful effects of peripheral neuropathy.