Living with nerve pain can be a long-term proposition. Some neuropathic pain gets better with treatment or on its own, but that can take months or years. Other nerve pain stays the same for years or worsens slowly. Some nerve pain can't be reversed.
Your doctor can help you identify and treat neuropathic pain with the best available therapies. But there are also plenty of things you can do on your own to take care of pain.
When you have a mild headache or muscle ache, an over-the-counter pain reliever is usually enough to make you feel better. But if your pain is more severe, your doctor might recommend something stronger -- a prescription opioid.
Opioids are a type of narcotic pain medication. They can have serious side effects if you don't use them correctly.
If you need to take opioids to control your pain, here are some ways to make sure you're taking them as safely as possible.
Neuropathic pain comes from nerve damage. Most commonly, this is caused by medical conditions such as diabetes, side effects from drugs or chemotherapy, or injuries.
Damaged nerves are more likely to misfire, sending pain signals when there is no cause for pain. They can also put you at risk for more serious problems such as foot infections.
All the causes of nerve pain are still largely a medical mystery. Researchers have identified several different ways nerves can misfire, and this has led to treatments that help many people.
Still, in surveys of people with nerve pain, most say they still have pain despite the best efforts of doctors. If you're one of them, you may want to look beyond conventional medicine for relief. Almost half of those with nerve pain report trying complementary or alternative approaches to improve their pain.
Strategies for Easing Nerve Pain
In addition to relieving pain, many self-care and home treatments can help prevent more serious problems and protect overall health. Some of these strategies may even trigger the body's natural painkillers, having the added benefit of making you feel good.
Keep on top of diabetes. If you have diabetes, keep blood sugar under control. Normal blood sugar levels are the best possible treatment for diabetic nerve pain.
Walk it off. Exercise releases natural painkillers called endorphins. Exercise also promotes blood flow to the nerves in the legs and feet. Researchers believe that regular exercise may create a long-lasting expansion in blood vessels in the feet, nourishing damaged nerves back to health. Start with a daily walk, gradually increasing pace and distance.
Pamper your feet. If the feet are affected by nerve pain, it's time to focus on good foot care. Nerve pain usually means impaired sensation, making injuries and infections more likely. Reduce the risk by examining your feet daily, wearing comfortable shoes, and seeing a podiatrist regularly. No wound or injury to your feet is too minor for a consultation with a doctor.
Soak it away. A warm bath might be the easiest -- and least expensive -- home treatment for nerve pain. Warm water temporarily increases blood flow to the legs and can help ease stress as well. Avoid burns by measuring water temperature with your arm before stepping in.