Neuropathy Management

By Lisa Cantkier

Neuropathy Management

There are several ways you can manage neuropathy and control your symptoms. If your doctor is unable to find a specific cause of your condition, she/he may monitor you to see if the condition improves. Always check with your doctor to determine which medications, therapies and treatments (including alternative treatments) are right for you and discuss the potential side effects of any medications you are prescribed.

“I have found the benefits of exercise—stretching, strengthening and elongating my muscles and soft tissues—to be helpful in managing the pain that comes with peripheral neuropathy,” said Christine, a patient. “I think there is an emotional piece when it comes to pain that needs to be addressed. I find meditation and the mindfulness technique helps me manage the pain.”

These medications can be used to control the pain associated with neuropathy.

Antidepressants: Some antidepressant medications, such as amitriptyline, doxepin and nortriptyline, have been found helpful in relieving the pain of neuropathy. These medications make changes to the brain’s chemical activities that cause pain. Other antidepressants such as duloxetine and venlafaxine have been shown to help relieve the pain of peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes.

Anti-seizure medications: Medications that were made to treat epilepsy, such as pregabalin and gabapentin, have been shown to help treat pain associated with neuropathy.

Pain relievers: Some over-the-counter pain medications can relieve your milder symptoms. Your doctor may recommend prescription painkillers for more severe symptoms and pain. Medications containing opioids usually are prescribed as a last resort.

Topical creams: Capsaicin contains a substance found in hot peppers. It has been shown to cause some improvement in neuropathy symptoms. Your doctor might recommend you use this cream with other treatments. Some people experience skin burning and irritation where applied; however, this often clears up over time.

Other medications: Your doctor might prescribe medication to treat the specific causes of your neuropathy. For example, if you have an autoimmune condition, medications can help control autoimmune reactions in the body, including azathioprine, cyclosporine, prednisone, mofetil and mycophenolate. Some patients require intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg or IgG). According to the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy, IVIg is a procedure used to treat immune system disorders. It also is given to improve the immune system’s reaction to a serious illness. Concentrated antibodies collected from healthy individuals are put in a sterile solution and injected directly into a vein to help fight illness.

Common Therapies

Several therapies and procedures might help your symptoms and pain,

Physical therapy:
 Physical therapy can help improve motor control and muscle weakness. Benefits can be gained from stretching and strengthening the parts of your body that surround affected areas.

Plasma exchange: If you have an inflammatory condition, this therapy may help support your immune system. It removes your blood, removes antibodies and other proteins from it, and then returns your blood.

Surgery: If you have pain caused by pressure on your nerves, surgery might be an option.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): Adhesive electrodes are placed on your skin and give you a gentle electric current. TENS usually is recommended for 30 minutes per day for one month.

Alternative Treatments

Some alternative treatments may help you get your symptoms under control.

Acupuncture: A certified practitioner will insert thin needles into your skin along specific pressure points to help reduce your symptoms.

Supplements and Herbs: Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown to help reduce inflammation, improve blood flow and improve symptoms in people with diabetes. If you take anti-clotting medications, check with your doctor first. Some herbs, such as evening primrose oil, may help reduce neuropathy associated with diabetes. Some herbs can interact negatively with medications. Organic compounds that combine to form proteins, some amino acids such as acetyl-L-carnitine, may help improve symptoms in people who have diabetes or have received chemotherapy. Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce symptoms, but it can affect blood sugar levels, so discuss its use with your doctor first.

Home Care and Prevention

In addition to avoiding poor posture, repetitive motions and cramped positions, there are a variety of steps you can take at home to help manage your symptoms.

Fitness: Find activities you enjoy and work an exercise routine into your week. Regular exercise (even walking regularly) can reduce pain, improve muscle strength and flexibility and help control blood sugar levels. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise each week.

Nutrition: Choose foods that are nutritious and give you the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein. Choose foods that are low on the glycemic index and avoid high glycemic sweeteners. If you have diabetes, monitoring your blood glucose levels may help improve symptoms.

Quit smoking and avoid excess alcohol: Smoking can negatively affect circulation, leading to other problems, and alcohol also can worsen symptoms.

Last Reviewed 02/19/16

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Lisa Cantkier, CHN is a certified holistic nutritionist and a health and wellness editor.

Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.

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