Lifestyle and Complementary Remedies for Peripheral Neuropathy
Diabetes can cause peripheral neuropathy or damage to peripheral nerves.
Peripheral nerves lie outside the spinal cord and brain, running to the organs and through our limbs. Typical neuropathy symptoms are numbness, tingling, weakness, pain or burning sensations.
Conventional treatments for neuropathy include anti-seizure medications (e.g., Dilantin, tegretol, Neurontin) and tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., Elavil, Endep, Tofranil). The antidepressants, aside from their up-lifting effect on mood, act on the central nervous system to reduce pain.
Other treatment options include lifestyle choices and complementary healing methods.
Lifestyle Choices for Neuropathy Management
Making certain lifestyle choices can help prevent the onset of neuropathy or reduce its symptoms. The most important choice is to carefully monitor and manage your blood sugar levels.
Regular exercise, such as walking for 20 minutes three or four times per week, helps control blood glucose levels and increases muscle strength. Research indicates that Tai chi and yoga are beneficial for neuropathy discomfort and controlling glucose. Talk to your doctor about the best type of exercise for you.
Treat your feet with TLC if you have diabetes. Whenever you bathe or shower, check your feet for cuts, calluses or blisters. Be especially vigilant for sores that are not healing properly. Avoid wearing tight socks or shoes. Loose, cotton socks are recommended, and for some individuals padded shoes will provide relief.
Eating nutritious foods is a good idea for everyone but is critical for people with a chronic health disorder. Make sure your diet provides essential minerals and vitamins. Eat plenty of vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy and meat products. You might also talk to your physician about taking a dietary supplement.
Stop smoking to improve your blood circulation. Poor circulation increases the risk of foot problems, such as sores that do not heal, and contributes to nerve damage.
Consume alcohol wisely as alcoholic beverages cause nasty blood sugar fluctuations. The best prevention for neuropathy, or for delaying its onset and progression, is consistent blood glucose monitoring.
Avoid putting continuous pressure on parts of your body as it can lead to nerve damage. For instance, do not lean on an elbow or cross your legs for prolonged periods of time.
Massage your feet and hands to increase circulation, temporarily relieve neuropathy discomfort, and stimulate the nerves. Better yet, have someone else massage them.
Alternative Treatments for Neuropathy
The following therapies have proven helpful to individuals with diabetic neuropathy.
Taking alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant, may reduce neuropathy symptoms. It protects the small blood vessels (capillaries) that feed the nerves oxygen and nutrients. A typical dose is 100 mg daily to start with. Your doctor can advise you.
Acupuncture, the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body, gives some individuals symptom relief. It might take several treatment sessions before improvement is felt.
Herbs can be effective against neuropathy pain. Geranium oil, curcumin and evening primrose oil are frequently used, although an expert herbalist may have other recommendations. Some herbs and prescription medications do not mix well; talk to your doctor before adding herbs to your daily regimen.
Fish, krill and flaxseed oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation in the body and increase blood circulation. If you take anti-clotting drugs, consult with your doctor before taking fish oil.
Taking amino acids, such as acetyl-L-carnitine, may improve neuropathy symptoms. However, some individuals experience side effects from acetyl-L-carnitine (e.g., nausea and vomiting).
Biofeedback, a technique for learning to control the body’s responses, helps some people manage peripheral neuropathy discomfort.