Whatever the cause, nerve pain can be a serious and debilitating condition. People who have it often need help from a doctor and prescription treatments.
There are also some nonprescription treatments for neuropathic pain that may help relieve your symptoms. You might use some of these approaches along with your prescribed treatment. If your nerve pain is mild, they may be enough on their own to manage your nerve pain. Here's a rundown of your options.
Pain is a normal part of life: a skinned knee, a tension headache, a bone fracture. But sometimes pain becomes chronic -- a problem to explore with your doctor. WebMD asked Eduardo Fraifeld, MD, president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, to help readers understand acute vs. chronic pain.
Topical painkillers. Many over-the-counter creams and ointments are sold to relieve nerve pain. They include ingredients that work as a local anesthetic, numbing the pain in the area where you apply them. Some contain capsaicin, a painkiller derived from chili peppers. Others use different natural ingredients, like botanical oils. One advantage of topical treatments is that you can apply them precisely where you need relief.
Painkilling medicines. Some people with neuropathic pain turn to familiar over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen. While these drugs might help with mild or occasional pain, they're often not strong enough for serious nerve pain. There's also a risk that someone with chronic pain might begin to rely on these medicines too much. So, always make sure to follow the directions on the bottle. Most painkillers should never be taken for more than 10 days. If you are still in pain and want to take them for longer than that, you need to talk with your doctor -- it may be a sign that you need a different treatment.
Supplements and vitamins. In some cases, nerve pain can be worsened -- or even caused -- by a deficiency of vitamin B12. If your doctor decides you need it, he or she might recommend injections of vitamin B12 or supplements.
Other supplements are sometimes used as treatments for nerve pain. There's some preliminary evidence that a few of them -- like acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, and gamma linolenic acid -- might help with nerve pain caused by diabetes. However, the evidence isn't clear; more research needs to be done. Always check with a doctor before you start taking a supplement regularly.