Millions of people suffer from diabetes.
According to the World Health Organization, the number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. WHO also projects that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death in 2030 (1).
Diabetes is considered as a deadly disease as if not controlled, high blood sugar can affect different body parts and can lead to different complications. One such common health complication associated with diabetes is diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy is the result of nerve damage caused by the toxic effects of high blood sugars and poor blood circulation. In fact, consistently high blood sugar can cause damage to the nerves that send signals from your hands and feet.
Due to diabetic neuropathy, you can experience numbness or tingling in your fingers, toes, hands, and feet. Another symptom is a burning, sharp, or aching pain. While the pain may be mild in the beginning, it can get worse with time and spread up to other body areas.
A 2010 study by American Family Physician reports that diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain affects the functionality, mood, and sleep patterns of approximately 10 to 20 percent of patients with diabetes mellitus (2).
If you suffer from diabetic nerve pain, the very first thing that you need to do is monitor your blood glucose levels. There will be an automatic improvement in nerve condition and pain as your blood glucose levels are under control.
At the same time, you can try some lifestyle changes and home remedies to help deal with the pain.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for treating diabetic nerve pain.
1. Warm Water Bath
One of the easiest natural home remedies for getting relief from diabetic nerve pain is taking a warm bath.
Heat provides comfort and helps the healing process, as it improves blood circulation to the site of the damaged nerve. Moreover, warm water bath makes you get rid of stress and feel relaxed.
Enjoy warm water bath, twice daily for 20 minutes. However, always remember to check the water temperature with your hands instead of your foot before stepping into a bathtub.
For added benefit, you can put 1 cup of Epsom salt in your bathwater, once or twice a week.
2. Try Capsaicin Cream
Capsaicin has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce nerve pain due to diabetes.
When applied topically, capsaicin cream produces a warming sensation that helps reduce the pain.
In a 2002 clinical study published Acta Diabetologica researchers found that when topical capsaicin was applied to the feet of patients with symptomatic diabetic neuropathy, capsaicin helped to improve symptoms, including pain perception threshold (3).
There are over-the-counter pain-relieving topical capsaicin creams available in concentrations ranging from .025 percent to .075 percent capsaicin. All you need to do is apply the cream to the pain affected areas 2- 3 times a day.
However, be sure not to apply capsaicin cream on broken or irritated skin.
3. Regular Exercise
To deal with diabetic nerve pain, regular exercise is a must.
Exercising helps improve blood flow to your damaged nerves and help nourish the damaged nerves back to normal condition. Exercising also helps lower blood sugars, increases your tolerance levels for the nerve pain and keeps your diabetes in control.
A 2015 study published in Pain Medicine found that perceived pain interference may be reduced following an aerobic exercise intervention among people with painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy, without a change in pain intensity (4).
Another study published in the Journal of Diabetes and its Complications in 2017 reports improvements in neuropathic and cutaneous nerve fiber branching following supervised exercise in people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy (5).
To reap the benefits of exercise, there is no need to join a gym and opt for a rigorous exercise routine. You can opt for walking or swimming.
4. Drink Ginger Tea
Ginger has been used as an herbal therapy in Chinese and Indian medicine for centuries to help relieve pain.
Its powerful anti-inflammatory substance known as gingerol, make it an effective remedy to get comfort for diabetic nerve pain.
It can even increase mobility among those with chronic pain.
Ginger also helps to manage blood sugar levels. A study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research in 2015 reports that ginger powder supplements may help improve fasting blood sugar. In this study, participants were given 2 grams of ginger every day for 12 weeks and it helped to experience lower levels of hemoglobin A1c, apolipoprotein B, apolipoprotein A-1 and malondialdehyde (6).
- Try to drink 2- 3 cups of ginger tea daily. To make the tea, boil a cup of water and add 1 tablespoon of chopped ginger slices to it. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes and your tea is ready.
- Also, take ginger supplements but only after consulting your doctor.
5. Try Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), a kind of fatty acid is another possible alternative remedy to treat diabetes-related nerve pain.
First of all, ALA helps fight free radicals, which cause cell damage and secondly it even help restore the functioning of damaged nerve cells and prevents further damage.
ALA also helps the body to be more sensitive to insulin.
A 2009 study published in the Review of Diabetic Studies reports that alpha-lipoic acid can help improve motor-nerve conduction velocity in experimental diabetic neuropathy and to protect peripheral nerves from ischemia in rats (7).
Another study published in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine in 2010 found that when given intravenously at a dosage of 600 mg once daily over a period of three weeks, alpha lipoic acid leads to a significant and clinically relevant reduction in neuropathic pain (grade of recommendation A) (8).
You can find alpha lipoic acid in foods like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, peas, rice bran, and potatoes. You can even take supplements but only after consulting your doctor.
Diabetic nerve pain can be taken care of with simple massage therapy. Gentle massaging along the length and sides of the affected area will help improve blood circulation and aid in the healing of damaged nerves.
Massage even aids in improving range of motion.
A 2001 study published in Diabetes Spectrum suggests that massage may have a positive effect on blood glucose levels and symptoms of diabetic neuropathy (9).
Another 2017 study published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship reports that aromatherapy massage is a simple and effective nonpharmacological nursing intervention that can be used to manage neuropathic pain and improve quality of life in patients with painful neuropathy (10).
- Apply some lukewarm mustard, olive or coconut oil on the affected area.
- Massage the area with long, gentle strokes for 5 to 10 minutes.
- After the massage, wrap the area with a warm towel.
- Do it several times a day.