Monday, April 20, 2015

Controlling Neuropathic Pain - Diabetes Self-Management: Good Advice For Us All

Feel like you've got a fire under your tootsies? Image found on Wikipedia

I thought this April 2014 article by Erica K. Jacques in Diabetes Self-Management entitled "Controlling Neuropathic Pain" was very good. Although she directs the information in the first few paragraphs towards diabetics, the bulk of the article is great information for any of us that deal with peripheral neuropathy. Take a look:

.......In part because of the unknowns surrounding the physical mechanisms of neuropathy pain, conventional drug treatments can be hit or miss when it comes to getting relief. You may have to be zonked out on pain medicine to get any substantial effect, and even then you may still feel pain. It can be hard to find the balance between pain relief and quality of life. However, we therapists have a few techniques up our sleeves for “tricking” the nervous system into perceiving less pain.

As a disclaimer, everyone responds differently to each of these techniques. You may have to try several approaches before you find one that works for you. The word “works” also carries some ambiguity, since none of these approaches is a cure-all for neuropathic pain. However, one or more of them may help you get your pain to a more manageable level, so you can go about your daily routine and spend more time living again.

The good news: None of these techniques will make your pain any worse – at least not in a lasting way – so what do you have to lose?


Most people find warmth soothing. When is the last time you didn’t feel relaxed in a warm bath or while lying in the sun? Warmth provides the body with a pleasant, comfortable sensation that might just be enough to provide some relief from neuropathic pain. The body only has so many sensory nerve receptors, so why not give some of them something nice to do for a change?

Heat can be applied in a number of ways. You can purchase a plug-in heating pad in almost any pharmacy; many pads have temperature controls to make them adjustable to your needs. Place the heating pad on the body part that needs soothing, taking care to place a layer or two of fabric (such as folded dish towel) between yourself and the heat source. Leave the heat on the affected area for a maximum of 10 minutes; remove it earlier if it becomes uncomfortable. (For more on applying treatments safely, see “Tips for Using Heat and Ice.”)

If you want to experience a spa-like treatment at home, you can purchase a paraffin wax warmer, which is also available at many pharmacies. This device is slightly messier and hotter than a heating pad, but using it can feel nice for your hands. If you use one, be sure to follow the package instructions and to check the temperature of the wax before putting your hand in it. Use a candy thermometer to ensure the wax temperature is no higher than 100°F, and continue to monitor it as you use the bath. Temperatures over 120°F can cause serious burns.

Another option – and the least expensive – is simply to use warm water. Again, make sure the temperature of the water is no higher than 100°F. Run your hands under the faucet, submerge your hands or feet in a basin of warm water for several minutes, or soak towels in warm water and wrap them around the affected area. Add some scented oil or shower gel to the water for an even more pleasant sensory experience.


In general, ice is not as soothing as heat. However, it does have the advantage of being an analgesic: It can provide a mild numbing effect, which can relieve pain. Ice is also anti-inflammatory, meaning it helps reduce swelling. This can be useful if your hands or feet are prone to edema (fluid buildup), which can increase sensations of pain. Ice may also be the key for someone whose pain does not respond to heat.

Using ice is as simple as going to your freezer: Fill a large freezer bag about halfway with ice cubes and seal it. Place a doubled-up towel over the area you are treating, then mold the bag of ice to the area and keep it in place for no more than 10 minutes. Some people prefer using bags of frozen vegetables such as peas, which are easy to shape to various body parts and can simply be thrown back into the freezer when done to reuse later. Just be sure to label your “cold pack” so that no one cooks it for dinner. You can also buy different sizes of reusable cold packs – filled with gel or pellets – at a drugstore and keep them in your freezer; having options can be helpful if you use ice frequently or for more than one area of your body. Continue reading here.

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