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Peripheral Neuropathy and Diabetes

Experts describe 10 ways to treat diabetic nerve pain at home.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) are better for headaches than nerve pain, most experts say. Still, they can play a part in your home treatment plan for neuropathic pain. 

McLaughlin advises talking to your doctor before using them to improve pain. "Some of these medicines can be hard on your kidneys," she says, so never go above your doctor's recommended dosages.

Capsaicin: The Hot Chili Pepper Treatment

Who knew that chili peppers could reduce nerve pain? Made from hot peppers, capsaicin cream rubbed on skin affected by nerve pain can bring relief. In one important study, more than two-thirds of people using capsaicin reported improvement in nerve pain.

Capsaicin does help, but you have to be religious about using it, Kinsella tells WebMD. "You have to apply it three or four times a day and know that for a few weeks, it will feel worse before it gets better."

Less Beer for Less Pain

A drink of alcohol a day can provide health benefits to some people, but it may be too much for those with diabetic neuropathy. "High levels of alcohol are toxic to nerves, especially nerves that are already injured," Kinsella says. Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. Kinsella advises no more than four drinks per week. 

Evening Primrose Oil and Diabetic Neuropathy

Extracted from the evening primrose plant, this oil is rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which are important structural components of cell walls. Theoretically, supplementing the diet with evening primrose oil, which is available in pills, may boost the repair or regrowth of damaged nerves cells.

In two clinical trials, taking evening primrose oil orally improved nerve function somewhat in people with diabetic neuropathy. The risks of evening primrose oil are small, but they include possible increased bleeding in people who take daily aspirin or prescription blood thinners.

It can be necessary to take up to 12 capsules of primrose oil a day to see effects, which some people may find inconvenient. "I know this is out there as a suggested treatment," McLaughlin tells WebMD, "but I don't think there are sufficient studies to support its use."

Botanical Oils for Nerve Pain

Some studies have shown that applying botanical oils such as geranium oil can reduce the pain of postherpetic neuralgia. Other oils, such as lavender oil, have been shown to help relax people, which may also help take the mind off nerve pain.

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