The peripheral nerves send information to the brain and spinal cord. Damage to these nerves can affect their signaling, resulting in a variety of painful or otherwise unusual sensations. Doctors call this damage peripheral neuropathy.
People with peripheral neuropathy may experience painful tingling, hot and cold sensations, or shooting pains in the affected area.
As neuropathy often affects the hands and feet, the symptoms may begin in these areas. However, peripheral nerves are all over the body, so it is possible to have symptoms elsewhere and to have various symptoms in multiple locations.
Certain natural treatments may help ease some of the symptoms. In some cases, natural interventions may help prevent further nerve damage.
Below, find out about six of these natural treatments, as well as more information about the condition.
Exercise promotes muscle tone, and this may reduce some symptoms of neuropathy.
Exercise can also help combat several health issues that cause neuropathy. For example, diabetes can lead to peripheral neuropathy. Exercise helps the body manage blood sugar levels, which may reduce the risk of diabetes and its complications.
In addition, exercise reduces pressure on peripheral blood vessels, which may benefit people at risk of neuropathy.
Diabetes is a leading cause of peripheral neuropathy. Dietary changes that lower a person's blood sugar levels can ease symptoms of neuropathy or potentially prevent it.
A diet rich in fiber and low in simple carbohydrates can prevent blood sugar spikes. Also, avoiding the following foods may help:
- white bread products, including pastas
- processed snacks
Other dietary changes may benefit people with peripheral neuropathy, whether or not they have diabetes.
Try the following:
- eating antioxidant-rich foods, such as blueberries, walnuts, fatty fish, and flaxseed oil, which may combat inflammation
- eating high fiber foods and foods that the body absorbs slowly, such as certain vegetables, fruits, and nuts
- eating fewer than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day
- limiting saturated and trans fats
- reducing or eliminating alcohol intake
Smoking is a risk factor for peripheral neuropathy because it narrows and damages peripheral blood vessels.
It can also worsen symptoms of this nerve damage, even when another condition or lifestyle factor is the primary cause of the neuropathy.
Quitting smoking can improve blood flow, leading to healthier blood vessels.
A number of vitamins and supplements may support nerve health and ease the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
According to the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy, these include:
- B-complex vitamins: B-12 deficiency can damage the protective coating of nerves, while B-9 deficiency can also impair nerve health. B-1, B-6, and B-12 supplementation may help ease neuropathic pain in people with these deficiencies.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant, and foods rich in the vitamin may reduce the inflammation that leads to nerve damage. Vitamin E may also help with some symptoms of neuropathy, including burning and tingling.
- Acetyl-l-carnitine (ALC): Some research indicates that ALC may help with neuropathy resulting from chemotherapy.
- Alpha-lipoic acid: Alpha-lipoic acid may ease burning pain in people with diabetes. However, doctors do not know whether it is safe or effective for people with chemotherapy-related neuropathy.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These healthful fats may help reduce inflammation and support a healthy nervous system, potentially preventing neuropathy or easing symptoms.
- N-acetylcysteine: This is an antioxidant that could reduce sensations of pain. In one study in rats, it blocked certain enzymes that may lead to neuropathic pain.
- Magnesium and calcium: When a person takes them together, magnesium and calcium may help with muscle cramps, which exacerbate the discomfort of neuropathy. However, high doses can cause diarrhea.
- Glutamine: This is a nonessential amino acid that may help protect the nervous system, but fully understanding its effects will require further research.
Relaxation techniques may help a person better manage pain from neuropathy. Deep breathing, meditation, and progressive relaxation may offer some relief.
Researchers have yet to thoroughly study these methods. Currently, little compelling evidence suggests that they work.
To get the most out of alternative medicine, try pairing it with traditional treatments, such as medication and exercise.
Many of the lifestyle changes that can ease symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can also prevent it. These include exercise, eating a varied and healthful diet, and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Some other strategies that may help include:
- receiving treatment for medical conditions, such as diabetes, that can cause neuropathy
- controlling blood glucose levels through diet, exercise, and medication
- avoiding excessive alcohol intake
- quitting smoking
Many health issues can cause neuropathy, including:
- physical injuries
- autoimmune diseases
- kidney and liver problems
In addition, certain medications, including some chemotherapy drugs, can lead to neuropathy.
Anyone who develops tingling, pain, numbness, or unusual sensations in the feet or hands should see a doctor promptly, especially if they have diabetes.
Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate neuropathy. Getting the right diagnosis and treatment can prevent neuropathy from worsening.
Anyone with a neuropathy diagnosis should call a doctor if:
- symptoms suddenly get worse
- the pain of neuropathy becomes severe
- pain or other symptoms spread to another area of the body
- they have sores or injuries on the feet
- they have swelling, a fever, or other signs of an infection
Peripheral neuropathy involves damage to the peripheral nerves. It can have multiple causes, including diabetes.
Peripheral neuropathy can be frustrating, painful, and difficult to treat — prevention is key. Anyone who has a condition linked with neuropathy should learn about ways to reduce their risk. A doctor can provide this information.
A number of natural interventions can help prevent or treat peripheral neuropathy, including maintaining a balanced, healthful diet, exercising, and quitting smoking.
People with peripheral neuropathy may have to try several treatments, or a combination, before finding the most effective option. Ask a healthcare provider about different strategies.
Most people with peripheral neuropathy find that lifestyle adjustments help improve symptoms.