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Creams, Gels, and Oils

For mild symptoms of diabetic nerve pain, topical creams and gels -- meaning you apply them directly to your skin where it hurts -- may bring you relief.

  • Capsaicin. Capzasin-P and Zostrix (capsaicin) made from crushed chili peppers, comes in a cream or roll-on form. It works by depleting nerve endings that pass chemicals from one nerve to another to transmit pain signals, Trence says. "You have to apply it four to five times a day," she says, "and it takes a couple of weeks to be effective." One risk: it may interfere with wound healing, which is often a problem for people with diabetes.
  • Lidocaine. This topical anesthetic numbs the area where it's applied. You can find lidocaine in nonprescription cream or gel form ( lidoderm) or in a prescription-strength patch or injection to relieve pain.
  • Other creams. Drugstore creams that contain mentol as an active ingredient haven't been proven to relieve diabetic neuropathy. The same goes for creams containing cortisone; while it may work for other kinds of pain, cortisone hasn't been proven effective for diabetic nerve pain. Remember to take these drugs as directed.

For chronic disabling pain, botanical oil blends may provide rapid, temporary relief.

  • Botanical extracts. A blend of botanical extracts, such as Neuragen, may provide rapid relief of neuropathic pain.

Exercises to Ease Nerve Pain

Simple moves and tips to help you avoid pain and falls.
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Know Your Nerve Pain Risk

Is your diabetes putting you at higher risk?