What do certain types of headaches, neck pain, back pain, fibromyalgia and sciatica have in common? They all share a common root cause of their pain: overactive nerves. The good news is that there are plenty of natural ways to reduce neuropathic pain; and research reveals a remarkable, counterintuitive method that offers effective relief.
Neuropathic pain, or nerve pain, is a common ailment that afflicts most of us at some point in our lives, and many people suffer from it chronically. While NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and prescription medications seem to be the first line pain-reduction used by many people because of their fast-acting strength, their side effects leave much to be desired.
Common Causes Of Nerve Pain
Neuropathy is a painful condition that affects the peripheral nervous system, which includes the sensory, motor and autonomic nerves. These are the nerves related to the organs (including the skin) and muscles. When the nerves become dysfunctional through injury, disease or other conditions, you may experience numbness or tingling in the fingers and/or toes. Often, this pain can worsen and change into a burning sensation.
When it results from physical trauma or injury, the cause of nerve damage or nerve-related pain is easy to identify. However, even after an injury is believed to be healed, nerve damage can remain and the nerves don’t return to their normal functioning state. In other cases, the root cause of the nerve problem remains unknown.
Generally, neuropathic pain results when nerve signals from the spinal cord that go out to the body are disrupted. The key to prevention and relief is to clear the obstruction or the reason for the nerve-signal disruption.
When considering natural approaches to relieving nerve pain, consider the role of essential nutrients, herbal supplements, exercise and bodywork.
Since the basis of nerve pain is related to blockage of the nerve signal from the spinal cord to the sensory nerves of the body, correcting spinal and muscular imbalances is a good place to begin, including chiropractic and massage therapy.
Chiropractic, which is well-known in the United States, works effectively for neuropathic pain because of its focus on the spine. According to the theories of chiropractic, when the vertebrae of the spine are misaligned, they create nerve irritation or spasms along the paraspinal muscles that can compress the nerves of the spinal cord. These nerves, if irritated or compressed, are unable to send and receive proper signals from the muscles and sensory organs back to the brain for proper analysis.
When nerve function falters, symptoms include muscle spasms, trigger points, peripheral neuropathy, sciatica, numbness, tingling and burning pain.
A chiropractor palpates your spine to find where there is joint dysfunction and nerve impingement (subluxations). Then he applies specific spinal adjustments that correct these by returning the spine back to its normal functioning state.
Massage therapists, while not adjusting the spine with a manual adjustment, help in other ways. Massage helps relieve muscle spasm and inflammation by removing stagnations of body fluids like blood and lymph, and helping return their normal movement in dysfunctional muscles and tissues. Massage therapy can relieve the spasms in the back, neck, shoulders and hips that can pull the spine to one side or compress or irritate the nerves coming from the spine. This relaxation and improved blood flow helps reduce neuropathic pain by correcting some of its causes. A combination of massage and chiropractic is a good choice for pain relief.
Nutrients And Supplements
Another cause of nerve pain is deficiency in some essential nutrients, especially magnesium. According to The Journal of Physiology, magnesium decreases nerve pain by calming the neurotransmitter NMDA. Overstimulation of this brain chemical is a known cause of nerve pain; magnesium has been shown to calm it without side effects. There are several forms of magnesium on the market, but the chelated form at 500 mg per day has shown strong absorption and alleviation for nerve pain, headaches and muscle spasms.
Devil’s Claw (harpagophytum) and Burdock (Arctium lappa) have known anti-inflammatory properties, as does Vitamin D3, turmeric. German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and the Zanthoxylums (toothache tree and Hercules’ club) have anti-inflammatory as well as anti-spasmodic properties. Reducing spasms and inflammation are two good ways to prevent and reduce nerve pain naturally.
Energy And Exercise
Increasing your energy can also prevent and relieve neuropathic pain naturally. Acupuncture helps via the insertion of fine filaments (needles) into the skin along meridians or energy channels at specific points. The needles act as antennae that draw in bioelectric energy into the body to normalize energy, blood flow and nerve signals by correcting energetic imbalances that affect these areas.
Believe it or not, physical exercise is another natural and no-cost way to relieve nerve pain. It seems counterintuitive since most people in pain do not want to exercise. However, a study in the June 2012 issue of the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia reports that exercise appears to reduce neuropathic pain by a whopping 30 to 50 percent by reducing levels of inflammation-causing substances called cytokines. It turns out that exercise boosts levels of a protein called HSP27 (heat shock protein-27), which is believed to reduce cytokine levels that cause inflammation and, thus, nerve pain.
Unfortunately, not all causes of nerve pain are fully understood, and medical treatments are generally focused on toxic drug therapy. But it’s good to know there are natural, low-cost options available. Talk to your physician about these options, look them up on the Internet to learn more and make an information-gathering appointment with a local chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist, herbalist or nutritionist to find out his experience in working with neuropathic pain. I am always a fan of taking the natural route when possible.