Develop Your Neuropathy Treatment Regime
The question asked most often at the Calgary Neuropathy Association is what can I do to make my neuropathy better. Neuropathy relief is hard to find and more than likely its not one thing that will provide relief, it will be a combination of things discovered over time. The medical community offers no cure and often very little assistance, but we at CNA believe each person can find their own way to relief by becoming their own experiment with a test subject of one!
If you had a nasty sunburn you wouldn’t rub your burnt skin with sandpaper or spray it with acid. Of course not! More likely, you’d stay out of the sun, cool it with aloe vera, and apply a medicated cream. The same tender care should be taken with your nerves when you have neuropathy.
The Calgary Neuropathy Association’s 100+ Things for Neuropathy Relief provides you with cautions-things to avoid, like sandpaper on a sunburn; and care options-things to try to relieve the pain. Not all things will work for everyone, they couldn’t possibly because everyone’s neuropathy is different.
Our hope is for you to try something. Anything! And, if it works great. If it doesn’t, then stop it and try something else. Through this process you will develop your own neuropathy treatment regime – your personalized collection of the things that help.
100+ Things for Neuropathy Relief
100+ Things for Neuropathy Relief is an ongoing, evolving blog series that the CNA is committed to building to help everyone with neuropathy. CNA volunteer writers are exploring each suggestion on the list to provide neuropathy sufferers with options. Each blog post in the 100+ Things for Neuropathy Relief discusses what we uncovered about each option.
While a suggestion may work wonderfully for one person, it may do absolutely nothing for another. If an option works for you then we’d advise you incorporate it into your personal routines. If it doesn’t, then move on to the next. You may also find something works for a while, but then stops being as helpful. It will be up to you to decide if you should keep it or move on.
The sections below discuss the different categories of things that will help neuropathy sufferers find relief, but the options shown are only the beginning. The discussions below will be expanded further as more options on the list are researched and included in the 100+ Things for Neuropathy Relief blog series.
Three of our top recommendations to prevent further nerve damage are to #1 Manage Sugar, whether you are diabetic or not, #4 Limit Alcohol, and #6 Quit Smoking. These three things alone can cause neuropathy so if you are consuming one or more of these you may be compounding your risk of further deterioration.
Medical and wellness professionals often talk about the ‘toxic burden’ our lifestyles have on our bodies. Toxic burden is the accumulation of toxic substances within our bodies. Over time, as these substances build, they can cause harm to all our systems, not just the nervous system. Other toxic substances that are particularly hard on our nerves include: #2 Salt, #3 Caffeine, #5 Artificial Sweeteners, #7 Neurotoxic Cleaning Products, and #8 Toxic Nail Polish. Even some #35 Medications can cause severe peripheral nerve damage. Also watch out for #34 Food Sensitivities, these will lead to inflammation in the body and inflammation can result in pressure on your delicate peripheral nerves.
Add Nerve Supports
A number of supplements, herbs and therapies are known to support nerve health. Supplements and herbs such as #9 Acetyl-L-Carnitine, #10 Lion’s Mane, #11 Vitamin B, Alpha Lipoic Acid, #43 Butcher’s Broom, L-Theamine and #30 Grape Seed Extract are said to be neuro-protective. In other words, they protect against damage or deterioration. #36 Medical Cannabis is also know to contain neuro-protective agents.
Anything that impedes the messages sent along nerves has an effect on the health of the muscles and other structures at the nerve endings. For example, nerves are known to get “stuck” inside the canal in which they live, which obstructs the nerves messages. #13 Nerve Glides are common exercises that move the nerve within the canal, similar to floss between your teeth. In fact nerve glides are sometimes referred to as nerve flossing.
Poor circulation to the extremities, or any area really, means the nerves and structures are not getting the oxygen and nutrients needed to promote good health. Both #18 Arnica and #19 Massage Therapy improve circulation which can lead to nerve healing.
Support Better Sleep
Its a well known fact that when we sleep our bodies heal. Unfortunately for many neuropathy patients a good nights’ sleep can be very difficult to achieve. There are however a number of things we can incorporate into our routines, or use as occasional aids to help us get a better sleep. #25 Valerian helps in relaxation that promotes getting to sleep. Unlike melatonin, which is a supplement (i.e. something our bodies produce anyway) valerian is a root (herb). Both melatonin and valerian can be found at your local drug store. There are also a number of #26 Foods that Help you Sleep if you are looking for a dietary way to ease your way into some shut-eye. Just like the tryptophan in turkey, there are many other things in foods that induce sleep, you just need to know what foods have them.
Other sleep aids include weighted blankets, white noise, light elimination, rhythmic sounds, and a good bedtime routine. All of which will be added to the blog series in time, but if it is burning feet that are making you crazy at bedtime, go back to basics and #1 Manage Sugar. Many of us at CNA have found that a low sugar/low carb diet make a huge difference in putting out the late night fire in our feet.
Manage Symptoms and Pain
When people ask us “Is there anything I can do for my neuropathy?” they are really asking: Is there anything to help with the pain and other distressing symptoms? This is the biggest section of our list and we hope you can find a number of things here to help you.
If you are looking for functional help with pain and improved function, check out #17 Physiotherapy, #20 Managing Fatigue, #27 Functional Neurology, #32 Physiokey and Sanakey, #39 Visualization and #37 Chiropractic.
Supplements and herbals include: #11 Vitamin B, #14 Magnesium, #18 Arnica and #28 Capsaicin. Prescription medications for pain and symptoms include: #16 Antidepressants and #36 Medical Cannabis as well as analgesics and anti-convulsants.
Many of the above lists also help build back some of the muscle strength lost (i.e. muscle atrophy) due to neuropathy. In addition #12 Co-Enzyme 10 and #31 Creatine can be used together with #24 Regular Exercise to help restore weakened muscles.
Additional options we will be exploring include athletic therapy, stretching, application of heat, weight lifting and resistance training, Calcarea Carbonica, Lidocaine, Ketamine. And finally one of the most important things you can do to manage effects of your neuropathy is proper and regular foot care. Without it patients with advanced neuropathy are at risk of amputation.
Monitor & Care of Mental Health
Meditation has been used for centuries and is scientifically proven to improve mental health. In fact studies of chronic pain sufferers show a loss of brain matter which makes dealing with the pain downward spiral, but there is hope! Meditation has been proven to help these chronic pain sufferers gain back lost brain matter which in turn make them better equipped to deal with their pain. #15 Yoga, Tai Chi, #40 Qi Gong, #39 Visualization, #33 Deep Breathing and even prayer are considered by some as different forms of mediation and so also they also come with these same wonderful benefits.
Similarly, taking the focus off of your pain and other symptoms into something more positive gives your mental state a boost. Consider options like: journaling, #44 Self-talk and Mindfulness, #24 Regular Exercise, #45 Relaxation and #22 Volunteering. For this writer, volunteering with the Calgary Neuropathy Association has given me so much hope for the future where before I was lost and only saw doom coming my way. Find something you believe in and put what energy you can afford into it. You’ll be better off for it!
A few supplements that may help you if you are feeling stuck in a low state of mind are hypericum, also known as #42 St. John’s Wort, or 5-htp which occurs naturally in the body anyway and is a pre-cursor (i.e. building block) to serotonin – the body’s natural anti-depressant. However, if you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed or full of anxiety you should speak to your doctor or other health care provider.
Improve Overall Wellness
Many of the above mentioned options will be repeated here. All the things that help with your physical and mental health will also help boost your overall wellness.
Not enough can be said about #20 Healthy Eating it is the cornerstone to making everything work together. It can help with sleep, nutrient absorption, energy levels, mental focus and on and on. #24 Regular Exercise also contributes in many ways to overall health and wellness so even if you can do only a little each day, that little will go a long way to helping your outlook.
Some other things that may help boost your overall wellness include #23 Magnetic Therapy, #29 Acupuncture, #33 Deep Breathing, #19 Massage Therapy, #41 Keeping Hydrated, journaling and dry needling (a modern day version of acupuncture). In future blog posts we will also discuss; the neurological benefits of good posture and body positioning; the mental benefits of self-advocacy; and how probiotics and digestive enzymes can increase absorption of the nutrients needed to support your nerve health.
Neuropathy Relief – More is still to come
Chances are you have already tried some, or maybe all, of the things we have listed so far. But we aren’t done yet! In fact we aren’t even half way through building out the blog series, so keep checking back to see if there is something new you can learn about and try. In fact…
Get regular updates by signing up for our newsletter
It will let you know about new postings on the 100+ Things for Neuropathy Relief blog series as well as other information being added to the CNA site. Also, please comment on our posts, we’d love to hear what you think. Finally, please let us know if there is something you’ve discovered that has helped you and is now part of your personal neuropathy treatment regime. We’d love to hear about it and add it to our list.
Linda is an independent information technology business analyst and Vice President of the CNA.