What is Neuropathy?
If you have recurring stabbing pain in your feet, you know the extreme pain that pain involves. You can hardly walk some days or sleep some nights because your feet are in so much pain. In some cases, neuropathy feels more like numbness in a part of the body, which keeps you from protecting your skin from hot and cold. What is neuropathy? What causes it? And even more importantly, how can you ease your symptoms naturally and get your life back?
Neuropathy has several names, including nerve pain and Peripheral Neuropathy (PN). Neuropathy occurs when there is a problem with the functioning of the nerves in the periphery of the body, like the hands or feet. The nerves in these areas transmit sensation from the nervous system to the rest of the body. PN symptoms are numerous and may be connected with certain diseases or injuries. Or sometimes PN itself is the disorder.
An individual may suffer from Mononeuropathy or more frequently from polyneuropathy. Mononeuropathy is when one set of nerves affects one part of the body. Polyneuropathy means that more than one set of nerves is involved in the disorder. Most individuals have polyneuropathy.
Nerve Pain Causes
In some cases, there is no understood cause for the neuropathy symptoms an individual may be experiencing. However, some of the causes of neuropathy are clearer in other cases such as:
- Alcoholism. People with alcoholism sometimes make poor choices in diet. These unfortunate choices lead to the vitamin deficiencies that can cause nerve damage.
- Diabetes is the primary cause of neuropathy. Almost half of the people with diabetes also have neuropathy.
- Autoimmune diseases. Some of the autoimmune issues that contribute to PN are Sjogren’s syndrome, Guillain-Barre syndrome, CIDP (chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy) and necrotizing vasculitis.
- Medications. While prescriptions can help with nerve pain, some medications, such as cancer drugs, can cause neuropathy.
- Poisons and toxins including chemicals and heavy metals.
- Viral and bacterial infections such as Lyme disease, HIV, leprosy, hepatitis C, Epstein-Barr virus, and shingles can bring on peripheral neuropathy.
- Heredity and Inherited disorders. Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a hereditary cause of PN.
- Damage to the nerve. If you’ve had a vehicle accident, sports injury or a fall, damage to the spine can injure or sever the peripheral nerves, causing numbness or discomfort.
- Repetitive motion. If you type or do many types of repetitive motions at work or home, you may irritate nerves and cause PN.
- Growths such as tumors. Tumors and growths can irritate nerves and cause nerve pain or numbness whether or not the growth is cancerous. If cancer is involved in the tumor, cancer may result in neuropathy as an immune system reaction to the cancer cells.
- Vitamin deficiencies, such as a lack of B1, B6, B12, E and niacin can cause problems with the way the peripheral nerves work.
- Other diseases such as bone marrow problems, kidney disease, liver issues, and underactive thyroid and disorders of the connective tissues can cause PN.
Nerve Pain Symptoms
There are a few symptoms that are often the key to identifying a Neuropathy diagnosis. Some of these key symptoms are:
- Numbness or tingling in the legs, hands, arms or feet. These symptoms may start gradually and then start moving up the arms and legs as the neuropathy continues to develop.
- Weakness or feeling paralyzed in one part of your body if your motor nerves have PN. This symptom needs to be evaluated immediately. If you have extreme weakness or unable to move a previously mobile part of your body, seek medical aid as soon as possible to make sure you aren’t having a stroke.
- Constant pain that starts in the lower back and radiates down the back of your leg. This condition is sometimes called sciatica and means that your sciatic nerve is blocked due to a disc problem in your back.
- Extreme touch sensitivity.
- Sharp pain like jabbing, freezing, burning or throbbing pains.
- Co-ordination problems like falling.
- Changes in sweating or inability to handle the heat.
- Changes in digestion, bladder or bowel functioning.
- Fluctuation in blood pressure that causes faintness.
If you have any of these symptoms, and if the symptoms are recurring, contact your doctor. People with PN respond to treatment well when the symptoms are caught early.
PN can cause health problems and injuries and should be treated to prevent discomfort, burns, skin injury, infections, and falls.
Best Essential Oils for Peripheral Neuropathy
A few basic lifestyle changes can help your neuropathy symptoms. Stop smoking. Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. Improve your circulation by getting more exercise. And change your diet to healthier foods. Also, a few natural essential oils aid in providing relief from pain and numbness.
These are the Best Essential Oils for Neuropathy:
1. Balsam Fir
The traditional balsam fir Christmas tree is one of the best-known scents, especially around the holidays. Not only are the trees both fragrant and lovely, but the fir tree needles’ essential oils contains chemicals that naturally help people with PN feel relief from their neuropathy symptoms. Balsam fir has been used for generations as an herbal pain reliever. Mixing the essential oil 1:1 with a carrier oil such as sunflower oil creates a soothing lotion that relaxes muscle pain. This oil works by increasing blood flow to the area on which it is applied.
Bergamot oil is created from the bergamot orange tree. The oil has a lovely, warm orange scent. If you drink Earl Grey tea, you’ve smelled the compelling aroma of the bergamot orange and black tea combined. Bergamot can be applied directly to the affected area or mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut oil and massaged into the sore body part.Some research says that bergamot oil inhibits the sharp, stabbing pain related to neuropathy. Merely place a few drops of the citrusy smelling oil on the sore area and massage it in. Use this essential oil alone, or combine the citrusy aroma with the healing power or ylang-ylang oil for even more positive results.
3. Black Pepper
Piper nigrum, or black pepper, is an incredibly strong, warm essential oil. It has been used with success in treating back pain and as an analgesic because it increases circulation. Black pepper essential oil is also known to reduce inflammation and as an excellent antioxidant. Mix black pepper with equal amounts of carrier oil before using because this oil is hot on the skin. Avoid getting the oil in your eyes.
4. Roman Chamomile
Anthemis nobilis or chamomile has been used for thousands of years to treat neuralgia and pain. The essential oil has a pleasant apple scent. It also constricts blood vessels and allows for better circulation around nerves. Massage a mixture of olive oil and chamomile oil into sore muscles, or but a few drops of essential oil in the bath and soak your pain away. Use this oil alone or combine with bergamot or ylang-ylang for more recuperative power.
Peppermint remains one of the most stimulating and useful essential oils available for humanity’s use. The menthol contained in peppermint oil warms the skin and muscles while it improves circulation in the area of PN numbness or discomfort. It can be applied directly to the skin or be mixed with fractionated coconut oil and used as a lotion on the feet. Peppermint is both healing and refreshing for individuals with PN and other aches and pains. Avoid using this oil around the eyes.
Rosemary’s use in herbal medicine is well-known. Practitioners have been using this pungent green herb for everything from cancer to hair health to pain relief. Rosemary is reported to aid nerve growth and healing in damaged nerves and regenerating nerve tissue. Rosemary especially works well in combination with helichrysum oil and cypress oil mixed in coconut oil. Rosemary and peppermint combined help to relieve pain experienced through nerve disorders, too.
7. Rose Geranium
The earthy green scent of this oil is stimulating to the senses, but rose geranium also helps your body gain relief from PN pain or numbness. Rose geranium oil increases circulation, which improves nerve pain or can bring back the feeling in numb areas. Rose geranium reduces inflammation and relieves pain, too. Use rose geranium directly on the affected spot to relieve skin and muscle distress or increase the feeling in numb spots on the feet and hands. Rose geranium and floral or citrus scents combine nicely to sooth the body in the bath or as a lotion.
8. Blue Tansy
Blue tansy cleanses the soft tissues of debris, which allows for better oxygenation and circulation. This essential oil also soothes swelling and reduces discomfort. It reduces pain in rheumatoid arthritis and PN and relieves pain, too. It relaxes muscles and is lovely in bath water, too. It has a sweet, green scent.
Frankincense stimulates an individual’s immune system plus relaxes muscles. It also improves the limbic system and communication between the nerves and the brain. A little frankincense oil goes a long way, so mix a few drops in jojoba or carrier oil before you rub it on your skin.
10. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper warms the skin and muscles, stimulating the circulation of the blood and nerves. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in cayenne pepper, and removes the chemicals that cause pain, easing some of the worse of the symptoms of peripheral nerve damage. Don’t use cayenne pepper essential oil directly on the skin unless it is diluted with a carrier oil. Start with a drop or two of cayenne oil in the oil, and increase the amount of cayenne you use as you become used to it. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after applying the oil, so it doesn’t get into the eyes.
Marjoram is a tonic and stimulant for the entire nervous system as well as an excellent pain reliever. It also appears to strengthen the area of nerve damage when applied, too. Combine a few drops into olive oil or carrier oil and massage into the area of nerve damage.
Lavender essential oil should be routinely found in everyone’s household. It is useful for soothing both mind and body and has a warm floral aroma. Historical healers used lavender for a plethora of healing qualities. It has been shown to reduce pain. Lavender also relieves tension and relaxes a person, so they have less nerve pain.Combine two drops each of lavender and rosemary oil with a little cocoa butter for use as a foot or hand massage oil.
Helichrysum italicum, the botanical name for the helichrysum plant, is both lovely as a dried flower and for medicinal uses. The essential oil of this dainty flower has been used historically and in modern times as a treatment for muscle spasms. It decreases nerve pain and relieves the stress that comes in conjunction with neuropathy. Helichrysum also reduces swelling and inflammation both inside and outside the body when used as massage oil.Place a few drops into sweet almond oil and massage your hands with the mixture for neuropathy relief.
14. Black Spruce
The black spruce tree’s oil is aromatic and healing. It soothes peripheral nerve disorders by improving circulation and stimulating the immune system. Many people have found the essential oil useful for pain in the back, for arthritis pain and sciatica. Not only does the spicy-scented oil relieve pain, but it is also an anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling and eliminating the related pain that swelling can bring. Black spruce is also well-known amongst natural healers as a parasite killer and a natural antiseptic.To use black spruce essential oil, place about ten drops into a carrier oil like sunflower oil. Then massage the mixture into the painful or numb area several times per day.
Eucalyptus essential oil is created from the leaves of the eucalyptus radiata tree. It is the preferred food of the koala bear and is also an excellent choice for treating diabetic nerve pain or other types of neuropathy. The strong aroma soothes breathing and increases relaxation, which is one way it aids a person with PN. Eucalyptus essential oil is also antispasmodic, so it will help muscles relaxed when they are stressed or in pain. It is also known since ancient times as a pain relieving topical analgesic. If nerves and skin are irritated by inflammation because of neuropathy, eucalyptus oil will help calm the inflamed area of skin and nerves beneath the skin.Add eucalyptus to your favorite unscented lotion to use as a calming rub for your feet, toes, and hands.
The tiny yellow flower of Ylang-ylang is both sweetly fragrant and beautiful. People have used the delicate, sensual fragrance for generations in perfumes and toiletries, but the fragrant flower’s oil also has healing properties. Ylang-ylang essential oil has healing properties that repair nerve damage. People with diabetic peripheral neuropathy can enjoy the floral aroma as well as the healing benefits of this exotic oil in a warm, relaxing bath. They also use Ylang-ylang oil in combination with sweet almond oil to massage into areas of the body affected with neuropathy. The oil blends nicely with citrus oil, lavender, and sandalwood to make a richly scented lotion, too.
17. Clove Oil
Dentists and other medical practitioners have used cloves and clove oil for generations to relieve pain. Whether you are using clove oil for tooth pain or nerve pain, it works similarly to benzocaine to remove the sensation of pain in the body. It blocks nerve signals from the body to the brain, giving the user a break from pain without prescription pain medications.Place a few drops in teaspoon grapeseed oil or another type of oil. Mix and apply to the area that hurts. Clove essential oil is strong, so only use a drop or two of clove oil at a time to treat neuropathy. Mix clove with bergamot or floral scents for a sweet, warm lotion that soothes and relaxes your body.Try one or a combination of these healthful oils today to ease the pain of peripheral neuropathy.
Other Natural Remedies
Vitamin Bs are an important component in the construction and upkeep of your nervous system. I normally recommend food sources of vitamins over supplementation from your medicinal cabinet. That is because food sources are generally utilized by the body better. Vitamin B’s are the exception to this rule. The natural food sources appear to be inferior in this particular case.
The body’s ability to absorb Vitamin B’s decreases with age. This lack of absorption is one of the direct causes of neuropathy, so it is recommended to supplement, even if you don’t have any current issues. The best cure is preventional upkeep. Keep in mind that Thiamine and Folate are especially important in the prevention of neuropathy, but you should probably take them all. A liquid sublingual B Vitamin complex will be your best bet. Pay attention to how well the vitamin complex meets your daily requirements, and find the expected absorption rate of the vitamins based on your age and the delivery type of those vitamins.
As a final note regarding vitamin Bs – Be aware of deficiencies caused by any medications that you are taking and medical conditions that you may have. Those taking Metformin should be extra careful because neuropathy can develop very quickly as a side effect. Here is a study that those taking Metformin should read.
Reduce Your Blood Sugar – Ketogenic Diet
I almost don’t want to write about the Ketogenic diet because I am beginning to feel like a broken record. I keep coming across studies for so many health issues that seem to improve under this way of eating. It makes sense as to how it would help if you read the research.
Sugar is a pleasurable poison, and people consume a rough average of over ½ a cup a day. That is totaling the fructose, glucose, lactose, and the hundreds of carbohydrates in the typical diet. If you have read about physiology, you might be thinking, “Don’t we need sugar. Afterall we need glucose to produce the molecular chains to live…Not to mention, our body uses it for energy.”
Okay, fair enough, but we only need about a teaspoon worth of sugar in glucose form in the blood at any one time. The average daily sugar intake is somewhere just over a ½ a cup. Also, the body produces what glucose that it needs by the demand driven produces called gluconeogenesis. We are overloading our blood with so much sugar, and that sugar is degrading our nervous system. Studies on humans need to be done, but rats have had some rather extensive ketogenic studies as they apply to diabetic conditions. Here are just a few, and the results are stunning. Keep in mind that rat biology reacts very closely to human biology, so the results in these studies are highly likely to carry over to own systems.
Study One: Reduced Pain and Inflammation in Juvenile Adult Rats Fed a Ketogenic Diet. Here is a quote from the article, “Evidence is building steadily on the effectiveness of a ketogenic diet in treating epilepsy, brain cancer, type 2 diabetes, and neurodegeneration. For decades the ketogenic diet has been used successfully to treat epilepsy…”
Study Two: This study shows that oxidative stress is most likely the cause of diabetic-based neuropathy. The metabolization of glucose to create ATP (Cell Energy) also creates Reactive Oxygen Species which oxidizes (damages) your cells…In this case, we are looking at the oxidation of your nervous system, but there is simultaneous damage going on everywhere. Fat-based energy sources produces fewer oxidative stress which is why the Keto diet is so useful.
Study Three: This Study shows how the Ketogenic Diet reduces Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species production in the peripheral nerves of mice. It is pretty straight forward.
In the BBC show, Redesign My Brain, Todd Sampson received a series of electrical shocks to light up the brain’s pain response at the beginning of the episode. Initially, he had difficulty taking the shocks which clearly showed on the monitors.Throughout the episode, he received training to maintain the right mindset in relation to the pain. By the end, the shocks were hardly an issue, and the monitors showing the pain centers of the brain backed up the change in his reactions. IT showed that the right mindset can significantly change the quality of life of a person with a chronic and painful condition.
This isn’t an isolated incident. The brain is very powerful, and it adjusts according to how we react emotionally and mentally to stimuli. You can train your brain to minimize the pain reaction by practicing mindfulness meditation. This is proven. It isn’t a gimick.
Study One: Here is a randomized control trial showing the benefits of mindfulness meditation in relation to pain management.
Study Two: A study showing pain management effects of mindfulness meditations that sufficiently engage the frontal cortex and how those meditation benefits relate to the placebo effect. The meditations were clearly superior.
I hope this helps you. Take Care!