Finding the right treatment for nerve pain is a very personal thing. Different methods work for different people, and the best thing to do is try a variety of treatments until identifying those with the most benefit.
Some treatments are very particular to an individual’s case. For example, if someone’s nerve pain is caused by a vitamin deficiency, discovering and treating that deficiency will help that person’s pain. Of course, taking additional vitamins may not help people without a deficiency.
Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments with the potential to alleviate nerve pain. Here are a few options to try that range from at-home care to alternative therapies requiring professional assistance.
A variety of supplements are available to help treat nerve pain, but be sure to talk with your doctor before taking them. Some supplements could interfere with medications you’re already taking.
Fish oil, readily available in your local drug store or supermarket, is one commonly used supplement that has been shown to reduce nerve pain, according to Mayo Clinic. Vitamin D has also shown promise to reduce both nerve pain and depression.
Herbs may also be used in the effort to reduce nerve pain. Ginkgo biloba, an herb more commonly used to improve memory, was successfully used to treat neuropathic pain in animals, according to research conducted by the International Anesthesia Research Society.
An ancient Chinese herb called corydalis has been used for centuries for pain relief, and researchers at the University of California, Irvine recently discovered that one of the plant’s active compounds benefits nerve pain. Capsules of the plant are available in health food stores.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, could also help nerve pain, according to Mayo Clinic. Supplements are available, but you can also cook with the spice in powdered form or purchase the root in grocery stores.
This ancient Chinese healing modality involves a certified practitioner inserting long, thin needles into the body. Their placement is influenced by where you feel pain and the flow of energy through the body along invisible channels known as meridians.
The premise behind the needles is that they break up stagnant energy in the body, known in Chinese medicine as qi (pronounced “chee”). In Chinese medicine, the theory holds that stagnant or blocked energy causes disease.
In modern medicine, scientists aren’t fully certain how acupuncture heals, but they believe the needles impact the body’s neurotransmitters and energize the nervous system, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Researchers hypothesize that the acupuncture points are in places where the body conducts electromagnetic energy, and inserting the needle intensifies related signaling, which can result in the body releasing natural painkillers, such as endorphins and naturally occurring opioids.
3. Physical therapy
Physical therapy is a wonderful tool for encouraging the body to heal itself. The treatment has been shown to help patients manage nerve pain, particularly when it limits functional mobility.
People who find it difficult to walk because of neuropathy, or who feel off-balance, or generally weak or stiff may find physical therapy helps them regain muscle strength and mobility.
At the first appointment, the therapist will typically ask questions to determine the full effect of nerve pain on movement and then develop a targeted treatment program to mitigate the issues.
Many people with nerve pain enjoy exploring complementary and alternative therapies, but traditional medication may also provide relief for some people.
Medications range from over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, or stronger painkillers available with a doctor’s prescription.
Other categories of drugs that may be helpful in treating nerve pain are anti-seizure medications such as Topamax or Dilantin. Although these drugs were initially created to treat epilepsy, they are also effective for reducing neuropathic pain.
Another type of drug not initially used for nerve pain is anti-depressants. These drugs interfere with neurotransmitters associated with mood, and as a byproduct, affect pain pathways in the brain and spinal cord, helping to reduce neuropathy.
The same compound that gives chili peppers heat, capsaicin, is available from drug stores in an ointment to provide relief from nerve pain. Stronger, more concentrated forms are also available through a prescription.
Be forewarned that capsaicin typically exacerbates pain before diminishing it. The compound’s heat leads to a burning sensation that fades as the body develops a tolerance. Results may take more than a week to become apparent, so if you don’t feel better immediately, give it some time.
Gentle exercise such as walking, biking, yoga, or tai chi helps to get the blood flowing throughout the body and may reduce nerve pain.
Tai chi is a gentle Chinese form of movement that involves slow, rhythmic movements joined with deep breathing designed to reduce stress. However, research conducted at Louisiana State University found patients practicing tai chi experienced less nerve pain than control study subjects.
The study at LSU was conducted with little funding and was only slated to last a few months, but participants found tai chi so helpful they refused to stop showing up to classes, according to the study.
A participant named Marian King says:
“My legs felt like they had bands around them and my feet would burn almost constantly. Since I’ve been here[approximately nine months], I’ve had only two episodes of severe burning and the bands, where as it was on a daily basis before.”
Other forms of exercise are also beneficial and may help manage any underlying conditions, such as diabetes. The most important thing is to find an activity that you enjoy and find helpful in managing nerve pain.
7. Take a long, hot bath
Taking baths is not only a wonderful stress reliever, but it also helps ease or prevent neuropathic pain. The heat promotes blood flow through the legs, working to lessen pain. Plus, it just feels good.
Fill up a tub so it’s warm, but not scalding, and soak in it for as long as you wish. You also might consider adding a few drops of relaxing essential oils, such as lavender, for an aromatherapy effect.
What ways have you found effective for managing nerve pain?
Image by Taki Steve via Flickr