Diabetes is an insidious disease that affects all parts of the body. One condition caused by constant high blood sugar levels is diabetic neuropathy. This is when the excess sugar in the body damages the nerves, causing numbness, tingling, and chronic pain in the extremities (e.g. feet and hands). While medication can be effective at managing diabetic nerve pain, it's not always feasible or desirable to use prescription drugs. Here are three non-drug treatment options that can help alleviate diabetic nerve pain.
Increase Vitamin D Consumption
Vitamin D deficiency is more commonly associated with bone problems. However, research has found a connection between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and insufficient vitamin D levels. Diabetic patients who experience nerve pain have consistently been found to have low amounts of this vitamin in their systems, and vitamin D deficiency has been associated with lower pain thresholds.
The good news is that increasing the amount of vitamin D in your diet can alleviate diabetic nerve pain. In one study that followed 46 women who reported experiencing pain associated with neuropathy, patients stated they felt less pain after 3 to 6 months of taking high doses of vitamin D2. In another study, Type 2 diabetics were given 600,000 IU of vitamin D and monitored for 20 weeks, at the end of which patients reported experiencing fewer symptoms.
You can easily increase your vitamin D levels by consuming more foods that contain it. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish like tuna and salmon, cheese, egg yolks, and dairy products. Standing outside in the sunlight for 10 minutes a day can help your body naturally produce some vitamin D. Supplements are another good choice if you're having a tough time getting this vitamin other ways.
Do Low-Impact Exercises
Another thing that may help alleviate diabetic nerve pain is low-impact exercise. There are a couple of ways that increasing your physical activity can benefit your condition. First, exercise can prevent diabetic nerve damage from getting worse by promoting good circulation in the extremities and making it easier to control blood sugar levels.
Regular exercise may also alter your perception of pain, making it easier to tolerate. In one study, 14 people participated in a supervised aerobic program for 16 weeks. At the end of the study, participants reported their diabetic nerve pain didn't interfere with their daily activities as much as before they started the program, even though their pain levels were about the same.
Engaging in regular exercise may seem like an impossible dream when your arms and legs hurt on a constant basis. However, low-impact exercises tend to be gentler on the body while still providing all the benefits. Walking, swimming, and cycling on a stationary bike for up to 60 minutes per day can have a significantly positive impact on your health and help you manage your pain.
However, be certain to consult with your doctor before starting an exercise program to ensure it is safe for you to do so.
Take Warm Baths
If you're looking for instant relief from diabetic nerve pain without taking pain killers, then sitting in a warm bath for awhile can provide it. Warm baths have long been the go-to remedy for aches and pains, and the effect can last beyond the time you spend in the tub. Not only are warm baths relaxing, helping you deal with the pain mentally, but they can increase circulation in the extremities.
The key word here is warm. Keep the temperature around 92 to 100 degrees. Anything hotter can be dangerous, especially when you have nerve damage. You may experience burns on your limbs and not realize it until they become infected, which can lead to medical complications and result in amputation.
For more non-drug ways to manage diabetic nerve pain, contact a pain management specialist near you.