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Nerve pain treatments

Depending on the cause of nerve pain, the condition can be a long-term one, or may get better overtime or after treatment.

Nerve pain, or neuropathic pain, may be relieved with over-the counter painkillers, or a GP or pain specialist may recommend other approaches.

What causes nerve pain?

Neuropathic pain comes from nerve damage. Most commonly, this is caused by medical conditions such as diabetes, side effects of medication or chemotherapy, or injuries.

Damaged nerves are more likely to misfire, sending pain signals when there is no cause for pain. They can also put you at risk of more serious problems, such as foot infections.

Non-prescription treatments for nerve pain

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 non-prescription 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 summary of your options.

Over-the-counter treatments for nerve pain

  • Topical painkillers. Many over-the-counter creams and ointments are sold to relieve nerve pain. They include ingredients that work as a local anaesthetic, numbing the pain in the area where you apply them. Some contain capsaicin, a painkiller derived from chilli 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 paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen. While these medications 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 you follow the directions on the pack. If you are still in pain and want to take them for longer than that, it's a sign that you need a different treatment and should seek medical advice.
  • 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 and more research needs to be done. Always seek medical advice before you start taking a supplement.
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