Diabetic nerve pain is caused by nerve damage, the result of the toxic effects of high blood sugars and poor circulation. Over time, as more nerve fibers are lost, nerves lose their ability to transmit sensation. Numbness in the feet and legs is the most common symptom that two-thirds of people with Diabetes experience at some point. I am in that category - and I continue to fight every day!
Nerve pain is usually in the feet and legs, but can also be in the hands. The condition occurs in cases where Diabetes is present, or can be caused by nutritional deficiencies or excessive pressure on the nerves. Neuropathy commonly damages the axon portion of the nerve cell, the part that transmits signals from cell to cell and cell to muscle. When damaged, pain and tingling (the "needles and pins", burning and electric shock feeling) is present - constantly.
While the damage to nerves can not be reversed, further damage can be prevented by keeping blood sugars close to normal range. I also make an attempt to exercise for 30 minutes a day. A study done in 2007 by the Department of Neurology at Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital in Hines, Illinois, reported that exercise is safe for patients with Type 2 Diabetic Neuropathies and can actually improve nerve function. It is thought that the increase in blood flow contributes greatly to the treatment of neuropathies and prevention of further damage. Here's the rub though - with nerve pain, it's really tough to get through a workout, trust me!
This is where your mental attitude has to be strong. You have to think beyond the pain and realize the benefits and just keep trying. Exercise is so vital to my health on so many levels. It will not only help with weight loss, but will also keep my nerves healthy. Since exercise helps to nourish my damaged nerves back to health, I try to walk or ride my bike every day.
I also try to eat healthy meals to ensure I get essential vitamins and minerals. I eat low-fat meats, dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I drink water with lemon. I do not drink alcohol.
It's important to wear comfortable shoes when you have neuropathy. I can no longer wear the sexy strappy sandals I used to wear when I was in my 20's. Those days are long gone. Now I opt for a shoe that has nubbies that help increase blood flow, therefore creating new nerve endings.
It seems that night time is the worst time when a person is in any sort of pain! If I can stand to use it, I put a soothing lotion on my leg and foot which seems to calm the pain a little bit.
There are some over the counter Aloe creams that seem to help. The lidocaine in it helps to numb the skin.
Capzaicin is a very spicy pepper that helps to lower the amount of Substance P in the nerve endings when applied. I have found some improvement in nerve pain using this.
Even though I eat a healthy diet, I take a multi-vitamin/mineral every day. Vitamin E is a powerful anti-oxidant that significantly reduces level of free radicals and thus staves off oxidative damage. Six months of supplementation improves nerve function and conduction substantially.
Vitamin C is a potent anti-oxidant and is crucial to prevent oxidative damage to the cells of the body. It is part of the multi-vitamin but I also get plent of Vitamin C in my diet.
Most people are Magnesium deficient, according to the University of Florida Extension Department. Why do we care? Magnesium is an essential mineral that the body uses for protein, fatty acid formation, new cell creation, clotting blood, supporting muscle and nerve function and creating energy for the body.
Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy is worsened when you have a magnesium deficiency.
The recommended dose is 400 mg. twice a day. Magnesium comes from foods such as nuts, legumes, whole grains, dark green vegetables and seafood.
Alpha lipoic acid is a fatty acid that's found inside every cell within the body. Its role is to convert glucose into energy, which is then used by the cell as fuel. It's another great anti-oxident. It protects against diabetic complications by improving glucose uptake, reducing the degree of sugar/insulin related nerve and tissue damage, increasing circulation and stimulating nerve regeneration. It takes 2-3 weeks before a reduction in neuropathy symptoms is apparent, but for some people it helps reduce the symptoms of burning, numbness, and prickling in the feet.
One particular study on Type 2 Diabetics with neuropathic symptoms of pain, burning and numbness in the feet were given 600 mg. of alpha lipoic acid per day for 3 weeks. At the end of the study, all patients taking lipoic acid had significant improvements. It may also be helpful in protecting against diabetes induced eye damage. There is currently research underway using alpha lipoic acid on Diabetic Retinopathy.
Benfotiamine, a synthetic form of thiamine (vitamin B-1) has been used in Germany to treat Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy. The starting dose is 300 mg. twice daily; maintenance is 150 mg. twice a day. Benfotiamine is available without a prescription, but not all pharmacies carry it.
The B vitamins should be monitored closely because there is a danger of toxicity and if abused, can actually cause pain and numbness in the hands and legs!
The recommended doses are:
25 milligrams. of B-1 (thiamine), 500 micrograms of B-12, 25 milligrams of B-6, and at least 1 milligram of folic acid.
Here's another reason to re-think the consumption of alcohol. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, a decrease of vitamin B-6 from alcohol abuse contributes to neuropathy and abnormal nerve sensations in the arms and legs.
Alcohol abuse is considered anything more than 4 drinks per week.
Another way I relieve pain is with a 15-minute soak in Epsom Salts. Be sure to check the temperature of the bath water with your arm - not your feet. If the water is too hot, your feet probably won't detect it. A warm bath provides relief for my nerve pain. It increases blood flow to the skin of the legs and feet. Since the baths are relaxing and stress-reducing, they can help make pain easier to tolerate.
I've not used these much, but there are a host of herbs that claim to treat nerve pain. Among these are St. John's Wort, ginkgo biloba, gotu kola, bacopa and skullcap. These are thought to improve brain and nerve function as well.
Botanical oils such as Evening primrose oil, lavender oil, geranium oil are also thought to help relax you and keep your mind off the pain. Some days it really is a game of mind over matter.
I take a good omega-3 supplement every day. I've taken fish oil but have thought of switching to flax oil instead. You need at least 2000 mg. of fish oil or 1-2 Tbs. of flax oil per day.
Massaging your hands, feet or limbs with gentle circulatory techniques can help to improve circulation, stimulate nerves and temporarily reduce pain from Neuropathy, according to the Mayo Clinic. Massage focuses on stimulating the nerves that can aid in increasing the energy flow to the affected parts of the body.
I'd be in even worse pain without my chiropractic adjustments. Chiropractic massage loosens tight muscles and helps with nerve connection and circulation.
Acupuncture is something I've not tried - but some have been helped by. It reinstates balance and equilibrium in the body by manipulating the flow of "chi" or the vital principle.
Massage for neuropathy.
I thank You for every day that I can walk a mile on my own two feet! I thank You even on the days when I hurt so bad I know I have to take my trusted friend cane along with me for support. May I never take for granted the knowledge that I can do absolutely nothing without Your help. I pray for Your continued guidance and direction on this most amazing journey back to health and wellness. Keep leading me to the information I need to have to regain the health I took for granted for such a long time. Please forgive me for taking it for granted. I assure You I will never do that again. Thank You, Lord!
In Jesus' Name, Amen.
No matter what kind of challenges we face, we can still be a light for other people. Thank you, Lucinda Berry Hill, for this reminder today. Lucinda is the author of "Coffee With Jesus".
Lucinda Berry Hill