Peripheral neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that affects the way your body's nerves send signals to the arms and legs. People who have peripheral neuropathy often feel a numbness, tingling sensation or burning in the hands and feet. The altered sensations may also travel to the limbs. Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by a number of medical conditions, including diabetes, but can be reversible. Medical management of underlying conditions can help control neuropathy pain. Alternative medicine may also play a role in reducing the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, according to studies reported by Kathleen A. Head in a 2006 issue of the Alternative Medicine Review.
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According to Kathleen Head's statistics in the Alternative Medicine Review, supplementing essential acids called ALA (alpha-Lipoic acid) and GLA (gamma linolenic acid) and omega-3 fatty acids may all have a beneficial effect on diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Head studied nerve blood flow and physical symptoms such as numbness and coldness. Over the course of long-term treatment that spanned several months, some trial participants experienced a reduction in symptoms and better blood flow.
L-carnitine is a substance that the body makes and stores in various organs, including the liver and the brain. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that some diabetics who experience neuropathy symptoms may be able to regain regular sensation in their limbs when they increase their consumption of a type of carnitine called acetyl-L-carnitine. Red meat, peanut butter and dairy products are good dietary sources of the nutrient, but supplements are also widely available at health food stores and pharmacies.
Vitamins and Minerals
Head's research showed that vitamin deficiencies may result in peripheral neuropathy in some people. Replenishing vitamins B1, B12 and E may lead to a decrease in symptoms. Recommended dosages are 300mg daily of vitamin E. Doses of the different B vitamins vary, but one option for neuropathy patients and their doctors to consider is to take a daily B-complex supplement.
Several herbal remedies may be alternatives to explore when treating peripheral neuropathy. St. John's Wort, an herbal supplement taken orally, may reduce the pain that is consistent with neuropathy. Topical creams containing capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory substance found in chili peppers, can reduce the burning sensation in some people who experience this painful symptom.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture, a form of traditional Chinese medicine, may be an effective way to manage peripheral neuropathy. The online version of the Physician's Desk Reference explains that the age-old art of acupuncture may be used--along with or instead of more conventional means to ease the pain felt from this type of nerve damage. Acupuncture uses pressure points throughout the body to realign the body's energy, called the qi.
The PDR also suggests that people suffering from peripheral neuropathy try movement therapy as a way to manage their condition. Tai chi and yoga help align the body and mind, encourage relaxation and may distract people from the pain, even if the measure is temporary.