Unusual Treatments for Diabetic Foot Pain

The HealthCentral Editorial Team | May 10, 2013

Reviewed by Robert Hurd, MD

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The treatments for diabetic neuropathy run the gamut from complex to simple daily living routines, but if you’re looking for some lesser known remedies, try these tips.

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Amp up the heat

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Capsaicin is the component that gives chili peppers their heat. Creams that contain capsaicin can be applied to the skin to help reduce pain sensations in some people, while pills may help ease pain from the inside. Not everyone appreciates the burning sensation capsaicin can bring, so be sure to start slow when using this compound. Give it at least two or more weeks to work and apply it as your health care provider recommends.

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Get your raisins drunk

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Eating nine golden raisins that have been soaked in gin is a much lauded remedy for arthritis, but some say it also eases diabetic neuropathy pain. A small handful of these “drunken raisins” contains only a few drops of alcohol, but many swear by its pain-easing properties. For more information, here is the recipe.

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Try acupuncture

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Sure, it involves needles, but acupuncture is actually painless. Though research on the practice is conflicting, many people swear by its effects, and it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years.

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Plug in

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Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, delivers tiny electrical impulses to specific nerve pathways through electrodes that are placed on the skin and may help ease nerve pain.

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Supplement with antioxidants

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Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in liver, spinach, broccoli, and other healthy foods. But many people who don’t have a flawless diet could use an ALA supplement. Recent studies also suggest it could be useful in treating peripheral neuropathy.

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Take 'moderate' seriously

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When doctors recommend moderate exercise for diabetics, they mean moderate! Intense exercise such as running can injure feet, and it can endanger tiny blood vessels that are already at risk because of high blood sugar. The overall benefits of exercise outweigh the drawbacks, but walking, bike riding, swimming, and other moderate forms are best. Work with a reliable shoe salesperson to choose a good pair of shoes that will not lead to new sores or other problems.

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Use biofeedback

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Practitioners use biofeedback machines to learn how to control physical processes such as heart rate, muscle tone, and perceptions of pain. After a time, people who are taught to use biofeedback are able to control some of their pain responses without being hooked to a machine.

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Give your feet a bath

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A warm foot bath may provide some relief for mild nerve pain. The warm water will help boost blood flow to the legs and feet, and will help you tolerate the pain a little better. But make sure the water is not too hot! If you have severe neuropathy, check with a thermometer or ask a friend to check the water temperature for you. Wearing socks to bed after may also help with the pain.

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Vitamin B

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Taking vitamin B complex daily may help some people with nerve pain. You should be getting enough vitamin B from foods, but for some, taking a supplement may help improve pain. People taking certain diabetes medicines may develop B12 deficiency.

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Cut the alcohol

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For people with neuropathy, even one drink may be too toxic to your already damaged nerves. If you do drink, be sure to limit your consumption to three to four drinks a week.

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Evening primrose oil

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Evening primrose oil is the oil from the seed of the evening primrose plant, and is rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Research shows that taking evening primrose oil daily for six-12 months improves symptoms of nerve damage caused by diabetes.

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Controlling blood sugar

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One of the best and most important things you can do to relieve nerve pain is to keep your blood sugar from reaching high numbers. Consistent high blood sugar is what causes nerve damage to begin with, so if you can try your best at managing this, you will have better chances at reversing some of your nerve pain.