Affecting as many as 50 percent of those with diabetes, diabetic neuropathy is a condition that occurs when high blood sugar causes nerve damage. There are many different types and severity levels of diabetic neuropathy, but common symptoms include pain, weakness, and numbness in the affected areas of the body. While the pain can be managed by medication, such as Brivaracetam, or Briviact for neuropathy, there are also natural treatments that can ease some discomfort. Such treatments include:
1) Cayenne pepper
This powerful spice has been used as a natural pain reliever by many different cultures for centuries. Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which, when applied to the skin in cream form, can reduce the amount of substance P, a chemical that delivers pain signals to the brain. When the chemical is reduced, pain is relieved. According to double-blind trials, topical creams that contain between 0.025 and 0.075 percent capsaicin are effective at relieving symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. A doctor should prescribe how often the cream is applied per day based on the severity of symptoms. This treatment should only be conducted under medical supervision.
While this traditional Chinese treatment was originally based on the idea of unblocking the “chi”, or energy flow, in the body, modern research does suggest that acupuncture can be used as effective pain relief for diabetic neuropathy. This practice, which involves the insertion of thin needles into the skin at various pressure points on the body, has been shown to stimulate the nerves and muscles, improving circulation and releasing endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers). What’s more, it is a low-risk treatment, with relatively few complications. However, it is still important to only get this procedure from a trained and experienced acupuncturist.
As hokey as the idea of “mind over matter” may seem, it has been shown that meditation can be an effective method of pain relief for patients with diabetic neuropathy. Studies have shown that those with diabetic neuropathy who practice meditation can experience pain relief, a perceived better quality of life, and a reduction in anxiety and depression. Such meditative practices often include body awareness, or a “body scan”, breath awareness, and thought awareness. These generally involve observing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. Breathing repetition can also have a soothing effect. Studies have shown that meditation can lower blood pressure, reduce muscle tightness, and improve cardiovascular functions.
4) Yoga or tai chi
Meditation or mindfulness do not always have to occur while sitting—active mindfulness practices, such as yoga or tai chi, have also been found to ease symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. Though pain from neuropathy might be a deterrent for going to the gym, studies have shown that exercise can reduce symptoms and improve nerve health and functions. The combination of mindfulness and exercise offered by yoga and tai chi can reduce stress, blood pressure, and inflammation while also offering a low-impact way to get the blood pumping, strengthen muscles, and improve balance.
5) Warm baths
Warm baths are a common natural pain reliever that can relax muscles and increase circulation. However, those with diabetes and diabetic neuropathy should exercise caution when using this remedy. Nerve damage from neuropathy can cause a lack of sensation, so patients should have someone else test the water before they get in to ensure that it isn’t too hot. Moreover, patients should limit the amount of time they spend in the bath—too much time soaking can open cracks in the feet, especially if they are dry as a side effect of diabetes, increasing the risk of infection.