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.
7. Drink Less Alcohol
Drinking occasionally is not bad, but drinking too much alcohol is associated with diabetic neuropathy. In fact, a high dose of alcohol is toxic to your nerves and can result in severe damage to the nerves and may worsen up the neuropathy.
Excess drinking even makes your body deficient in some nutrients and hence should be completely avoided.
A 1998 study published in Alcohol Health & Research World reports that occasional episodes of alcohol consumption generally do not worsen blood sugar control in people with diabetes and may even have beneficial effects. But, regular consumption of even moderate amounts of alcohol clearly interferes with diabetic blood sugar control and increases the risk of peripheral neuropathy (11).
Excess drinking even increases the risk of alcoholic neuropathy. A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology that alcoholic neuropathy involves coasting caused by damage to nerves that results from long-term excessive drinking of alcohol and is characterized by spontaneous burning pain, hyperalgesia, and allodynia (12).
Limit alcohol to no more than four drinks a week and if possible avoid completely.
8. Quit Smoking
If you suffer from diabetic nerve pain, it is time to quit smoking. Smoking causes your blood vessels to constrict, impairing your circulation. This, in turn, causes the peripheral nerves to get less nutrient-rich blood, which can lead to more pain.
A study published in the Journal of the General Internal Medicine in 2015 reports smoking to be associated with an increased risk of DPN in persons with diabetes. However, more studies are needed to test whether this association is causal and whether smoking cessation reduces the risk of DPN in adults with diabetes (13).
Another 2017 published in the Turkish Society of Algology found smoking as a risk factor for neuropathic pain. As per this study, the possibility of neuropathic pain increases as the duration of smoking and addiction level increase, and with diabetes, this rate increases even more. It is extremely important that the smokers should be informed regarding these facts and possibilities (14).
9. Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care is an increasingly popular natural treatment for treating nerve pain associated with diabetes.
Here different techniques like palpation, pressure, massage, exercise programs and lifestyle counseling are used together to help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.
The techniques help a lot in improving the range of motion by loosening the tight muscles, aiding in the circulation and nerve connection. Moreover, it is very relaxing for the whole body.
According to a 2015 report by Diabetes News Journal, chiropractic care is an effective treatment for peripheral neuropathy because it targets the root cause of a patient’s pain symptoms (15).
Always make sure that you choose the qualified and reputed chiropractic center.
Like chiropractic care, acupuncture is another effective option to treat diabetic nerve pain.
In this kind of traditional Chinese therapy, certain points on the body are stimulated with needles to help relax the tight muscles, boost blood circulation, and heal damaged nerves. This, in turn, reduces pain.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies reports that acupuncture may be clinically useful for the radical treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy (16).
Another study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine & Research in 2017 suggests that acupunctural therapy has the potential to treat a range of TII diabetes symptoms, including hyperglycemia, diabetic neuropathy and other pain-related complications (17).
Always have acupuncture done by a skilled and experienced acupuncturist.
- Shed the excess weight to keep your cholesterol and blood glucose levels under control.
- Try to keep your blood pressure under control as people with diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure.
- Take 1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon in your daily meals to control blood sugar levels.
- If you get a gluten allergy, you should not consume gluten as it can trigger and worsen your condition.
- Have more B vitamin-rich foods as they support the breakdown of foods during digestion.
- Nerve pain can lead to infections, ulcers, and even amputations and hence it is important to take proper care of your feet.
- It is recommended to wear shoes for people with neuropathic feet or wear comfortable shoes.
- Also, try to wear socks with the padding at the balls of heel and foot.
- Chew fennel seeds after having your meal to improve your digestion that gets adversely affected due to diabetic neuropathy.
- You can also take evening primrose as it is high in omega-6 fatty acids, important structural components of your cell walls.
- Strictly follow a diabetic friendly diet plan as the food you eat has a direct influence on your blood glucose levels.
- Eat 4 to 5 nuts such as pecans, walnuts, and almonds each morning to improve the symptoms of neuropathy pain.
- Manage stress as it can have a significant negative effect on pain and inflammation in the body.
- World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/. Published November 2017. Accessed February 22, 2018
- Lindsay TJ, Rodgers BC, Savath V, Hettinger KD. Treating Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathic Pain. American Family Physician. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0715/p151.html. Published July 15, 2010. Accessed February 22, 2018.
- Forst T, Pohlmann T, Kunt T, et al. The influence of local capsaicin treatment on small nerve fibre function and neurovascular control in symptomatic diabetic neuropathy. Acta diabetologica. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12043933. Published April 2002. Accessed February 22, 2018.
- http://www.theoncologynurse.com/docs/issues/November-December-2009. Issuu. https://issuu.com/theoncologynurse/docs/november-december-2009. Published March 20, 2015. Accessed February 22, 2018.
- Kluding PM, Pasnoor M, Singh R, et al. The effect of exercise on neuropathic symptoms, nerve function, and cutaneous innervation in people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Journal of Diabetes and its Complications. 2012;26(5):424-429. doi:10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2012.05.007.
- Khandouzi N, Shidfar F, Rajab A, Rahideh T, Hosseini P, Taheri MM. The Effects of Ginger on Fasting Blood Sugar, Hemoglobin A1c, Apolipoprotein B, Apolipoprotein A-I and Malondialdehyde in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research : IJPR. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4277626/. Published 2015. Accessed February 22, 2018.
- Vallianou N, Evangelopoulos A, Koutalas P. Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Diabetic Neuropathy. The Review of Diabetic Studies : RDS. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836194/. Published 2009. Accessed February 22, 2018.
- Mijnhout GS, Alkhalaf A, Kleefstra N, Bilo HJ. Alpha lipoic acid: a new treatment for neuropathic pain in patients with diabetes? The Netherlands journal of medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20421656. Published April 2010. Accessed February 22, 2018.
- Ezzo J, Donner T, Nickols D, Cox M. Is Massage Useful in the Management of Diabetes? A Systematic Review. Diabetes Spectrum. http://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/14/4/218. Published October 1, 2001. Accessed February 22, 2018.
- Gok Z, Arikan A, Izgu N, Ozdemir L, Arslan IE. Aromatherapy Massage for Neuropathic Pain and Quality of Life in Diabetic Patients. Journal of nursing scholarship : an official publication of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28605119. Published July 2017. Accessed February 22, 2018.
- Emanuele N V, Swade TF, Emanuele MA. Consequences of Alcohol Use in Diabetics. 1998;22(3). https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-3/211.pdf. Accessed February 23, 2018.
- Chopra K, Tiwari V. Alcoholic neuropathy: possible mechanisms and future treatment possibilities. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3370340/. Published March 2012. Accessed February 22, 2018.
- Clair C, Cohen MJ, Eichler F, Selby KJ, Rigotti NA. The Effect of Cigarette Smoking on Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of General Internal Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4510224/. Published August 2015. Accessed February 22, 2018.
- Çelik SB. The Evaluation of the Neuropathic Pain in the Smokers. Ağrı – The Journal of The Turkish Society of Algology. 2017. doi:10.5505/agri.2017.68815
- Ferreira LM. Chiropractic Care May Help Control Peripheral Neuropathy in Diabetics. Diabetes News Journal. https://diabetesnewsjournal.com/2015/03/17/chiropractic-care-may-help-control-peripheral-neuropathy-in-diabetics/. Published March 17, 2015. Accessed February 22, 2018.
- Tong Y, Guo H, Han B. Fifteen-day Acupuncture Treatment Relieves Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2005290110600180. Published June 15, 2010. Accessed February 22, 2018.
- Guang Luo L, Wang S, Xiao E, Luo JZ. Effects of Acupuncture in Diabetes Neuropathy: Case Report. Open Access J Transl Med Res. doi:10.15406/oajtmr.2017.01.00004.