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HOLISTIC HEALTH - October 2017 - Kansas City
Relief for Nerve Pain (Neuropathy)
By Nancy Russell, M.D.
One of the most torturous types of chronic pain is nerve pain or neuropathy. Nerve pain is described by sufferers as burning, tingling, stabbing and shooting pain; it may have an “electric” quality, like a shock. In some cases the pain can be constant. In other cases, the pressure of clothes on the skin causes pain, a phenomenon called allodynia.
Over 20 million people suffer from nerve pain because so many different health problems can damage nerves. The most common causes of nerve pain include: diabetes, shingles, pinched nerve, chemotherapy, radiation, hypothyroidism, nutritional deficiencies and drug side effects.
Nutritional deficiencies that can lead to nerve pain are B vitamins, particularly vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12. Nutrients can actually help heal nerves and not just mask the pain. These nutrients may not be effective overnight and can take three-to 12 months to see their full effect.
The following nutrients have been shown to give promising results: alpha-lipoic acid, 300 mg twice daily, acetyl-L-carnitine 500 to 1500 mg twice daily, vitamin B-6 50mg daily, vitamin B-12 500 to 5000 mcg daily, vitamin D, 2000 IU daliy, and vitamin E 400 U daily. Acetyl-L-carnitine can be effective in diabetic neuropathy and chemotherapy-induced pain.
Strategies for pain relief differ, depending on the cause of the pain. For example, treating low levels of vitamin B-12 or thyroid hormone can quickly eliminate nerve pain. But for many, taking pain relieving prescription medication is needed. It is reasonable to use prescription medication while you are using nutrition to heal your nerves. For most people, using one or two of the following medications is effective. Many who prefer a natural approach to health and healing are leery of medications and side effects. However, the chronic pain can be more toxic to your body and mind than the medications.
Medications to consider are: Lidocaine patches for small areas of pain under 4 by 8 inches. The topical patch delivers 5 percent lidocaine, an anesthetizing, novocaine-like medication directly to the painful area. You should see results within 2 weeks from pain, often times faster.
Another medication gabapentin (Neurontin) is an antiseizure drug that wasn’t formulated for nerve pain but can be quite effective. This medication has been shown to be good for the pain of diabetic neuropathy and post herpetic neuralgia secondary to shingles. Lyrica is a similar medicine to neurontin and sometimes more effective. Other anti seizure medications can be effective such as topamax, Lamictal, Keppra, Trileptal and Dilantin.
Tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil have been used with some success in the past but has been largely replaced by Cymbalta and Effexor which impact the brain neurotransmitters of serotonin and norepinephrine.
Another option are topical pain gels made by compounding pharmacies. They compound medications together such as neurontin, clonidine, ketoprophen, lidocaine and doxepin. There are usually less side effects from these medicines when used topically rather than going through your digestive system first. These pain gels take time
to work so don’t give up on them until you have tried them several weeks.
Narcotic pain relievers, which are modestly effective, are considered an acceptable treatment for nerve pain. I prefer using nonaddictive treatments when possible.
Another topical cream that is over the counter is capsaicin cream from the hot pepper plant. It is most likely helpful for post herpetic neuralgia or post shingles nerve pain.
Essential oils can be helpful with relaxation and chronic pain and should not be overlooked.
Other modalities that can be considered are chiropractic and acupuncture treatments for chronic nerve pain. For nerve pain from low spine disc bulging; they can be treated with disc decompression therapy.
Don’t give up when you have chronic pain and think narcotics are the only answer. Work with conventional practitioners as well as alternative practitioners and blend the best of both worlds.
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Nancy Russell, M.D. has been a holistic Internal Medicine physician in the Kansas City northland for over 30 years at 5140 N. Antioch Road in Kansas City, MO.
Her phone number is 816-453-5545 and website is www.nancyrussellmd.com where you can get more information. Dr. Russell is board certified in holistic medicine and is a member of the American Holistic Medical Association and a prior board member.