Neuropathy Treatment

Holistic Medicine for
Neuropathy Treatment

In my years of medical practice, neuropathy treatment has been near the top of the list of futile efforts by conventional medicine. Prescription drugs have been tried over and over which were initially designed to treat something else, with the hope they could provide some relief. Some have worked pretty well most of the time, some have worked not so well part of the time, and some have been complete failures. And often these drugs come with significant side effects. It’s against that backdrop that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) strategies for neuropathy treatment grew in popular use. Some of these have also been failures, but some have been promising, and I have personally observed some remarkable successes where conventional medicine failed.


What is neuropathy? This term generally means some combination of loss of sensation (numbness), weakness, and pain (tingling or burning) in the nerves. The most common one is diabetic neuropathy, usually involving the nerves in both feet symmetrically. Remember that if you have these symptoms, get a thorough diagnosis by a doctor, as other things can cause the same symptoms, and there are many different types of neuropathy.

A brief remark here about the place of CAM and the need for more research in this area. An area like neuropathy treatment where conventional medicine is often unsatisfactory and where patients are already using CAM is the ideal setting for clinical research to get answers on whether these approaches work. But even before research results are available, I do not mind recommending such approaches as long as I am persuaded that they are not harmful and that conventional approaches have failed.

So what are some promising holistic medicine approaches to neuropathy treatment?

First, remember that for diabetic neuropathy, the most important holistic medicine strategy is prevention by good control of blood sugar. Adherence to a healthy diet, weight control, and regular physical activity are key. You’d rather not get this in the first place.

An old fashioned herbal remedy, Capsaicin, works so well it is now part of the standard of care for neurologists treating this disorder. Capsaicin is the active substance in hot peppers, which depletes a pain transmitter called Substance P when applied to the skin repeatedly. It can cause a burning and stinging sensation when first applied, but this diminishes over time and eventually people using Capsaicin four times a day get relief from neuropathy pain. This cream is available by prescription.


Two oral antioxidants are worth mentioning here, and both have scientific evidence in their favor. One of the theories about neuropathy is that it is caused by increased oxidative stress on the nerves, and that antioxidants could therefore repair and prevent that. The antioxidants for which we have the most data are Alpha Lipoic Acid (600 mg per day); and Acetyl L-Carnitine (1000 mg three times daily). These are available in many health food stores.

And finally, consider magnets for pain relief. In a multicenter study of patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, the use of magnetic shoe inserts (Magsteps, from Nikken Inc. were the brand used) was associated with significant improvement in symptoms over a period of months (see the 2003 article by Weintraub et al. in the journal Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation). Only be careful if you have diabetic neuropathy not to wear any hard shoe insert like this without a good sock to avoid blisters and possible ulcers from friction.


To your health and wellness,




Robert Pendergrast, MD 

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