If you have pain, numbness, tingling or burning in your feet, you may have a condition called peripheral neuropathy. There are a number of potential causes for these sensations, which can significantly affect your life.
However, self-care and home treatments can help treat peripheral neuropathy.
In this article, we’ll look at home remedies for nerve pain in the feet, including a natural remedy that can have far-reaching health benefits.
What Causes Nerve Pain in Feet?
A variety of conditions can cause peripheral neuropathy in the feet.
This chronic condition affects one-third to one-half of diabetics. Chronically high blood sugar levels can cause diabetic neuropathy, most commonly in the feet. Unfortunately, normalizing blood sugar levels won't automatically restore normal peripheral nerve function, but it can help prevent the condition from occurring in the first place.
Small Fiber Neuropathy
Small fiber neuropathy has no known causes. This condition causes damage to the nerve endings in the skin, causing tingling, painful pricks, abnormal sensations in the feet and hands.
This incurable genetic condition causes damage to the small nerves in the legs and arms, resulting in pain, weakness, and abnormal sensations in the muscles.
This autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system attacks the nerves, may be triggered by an acute bacterial or viral infection. Weakness, tingling, and pain in the feet can spread to the upper body, potentially culminating in paralysis.
Heavy Alcohol Use
Alcoholic neuropathy occurs when heavy alcohol consumption alters the absorption of the vitamins and nutrients that are essential for nerve health. Low levels of B-vitamins in particular have been linked to a greater risk of nerve damage.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Nerve damage in the ankle or foot from adult acquired flat foot syndrome can cause tarsal tunnel syndrome, which manifests as pain or tingling in the feet.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
This condition may occur after injury or surgery and causes pain and abnormal swelling of the limbs.
Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy is often at its worst 3-5 months after the last treatment. After that, symptoms of nerve damage often gradually diminish and may disappear completely over several months.
Chronic stress can cause an inflammatory reaction in the body, which can damage nerves in the autonomic nervous system. This may not manifest as pain but can affect digestion, the heart, and the respiratory system.
Injuries may cause peripheral neuropathy. Stretching, compressing, cutting, or crushing a nerve can result in temporary or permanent damage. While some peripheral nerves may heal, occasionally a nerve suffers irreparable damage.
Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's syndrome can damage nerves in the hands and feet.
Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
There are three types of nerves in the body, and all can become damaged.
Damage to motor nerves, which are involved in control of muscles involved in conscious movement can manifest as muscle weakness, pain, uncontrollable spasms or twitching as well as cramps.
The sensory nerves relay information about touch, temperature, and pain. Damage to the sensory nerves can manifest as numbness or tingling, inability to sense pain or temperature changes, keeping your balance (especially with the eyes closed), and trouble with fine motor skills such as fastening buttons.
The autonomic nerves regulate unconscious activities, such as heartbeat, thyroid function, and breathing. Damage to the autonomic nerves can lead to changes in blood pressure, gastrointestinal troubles, excessive sweating, and poor heat tolerance.
Often, peripheral nerve injuries affect more than one type of nerve fiber, so one may experience several symptoms.
Home Remedies for Peripheral Neuropathy
The sooner you can treat symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, the better. It may help to consider some of these self-care practices at home to find relief.
Self-Care Tips for Easing Nerve Pain in the Feet
Peripheral neuropathy can lead to serious foot problems. Be sure to check your feet daily, especially if you have diabetes. Is the foot condition stable, improving, or worsening? Do you have calluses, wounds, or infections that you can’t feel?
Damaged nerves may be able to regenerate, but dead nerves cannot so it’s important to monitor the situation closely.
If you have compressed or stretched nerves in the foot, you may see improvement over 6-12 weeks. Cut nerves can regrow at about 1mm per day after a period of rest following the injury. It may require many months or even years to experience improvement. Peripheral neuropathy is considered a chronic condition that may be difficult to treat.
What else can you do daily to improve the regeneration of damaged nerves and the growth of new nerves?
You may stimulate blood flow to the area with an essential oil massage. There’s no single essential oil that seems to work better than others, so this is a matter of personal choice. It may help to dilute the oils in a ‘carrier oil’ such as olive oil or jojoba oil and test on a small area of the skin to identify any sensitivity. Lavender, tea tree, bergamot, geranium, rosemary, lemon eucalyptus, and blue chamomile oils could all be helpful.
When your feet hurt, try gently rubbing your feet with Vicks Vapor Rub, Penetrex, or various topical pain-relieving creams and salves that contain lidocaine.
Cold Or Warm Foot Soaks
If your foot pain feels achy and hot, pain management includes daily foot soaks in ice water to help relieve pain immediately. This stimulates circulation once the ice bath is finished.
For numb feet, finish off the day and relieve symptoms with a warm water soak with Epsom salts, or with peppermint or chamomile essential oils. You can also soak your feet while working at your desk. Warm water can help stimulate blood circulation to the feet. Just be sure the water is warm and not too hot, to prevent further damage to nerves.
Get More Exercise
Physical activity improves blood circulation and lymph circulation. This increases the flow of oxygen to the nerves and helps remove nerve-damaging waste and toxins.
Balance training, stretching, yoga, and swimming are ideal exercises for easing neuropathy symptoms in the feet. The key is pain management so that exercise doesn't aggravate the condition.
Gentle walking is fine, as long as you wear supportive shoes and can tolerate the activity. Avoid high-impact sports that involve jumping or rapid changes in direction (such as tennis) while healing.
Adpot Better Lifestyle Habits
To take care of any underlying conditions that could be causing or contributing to peripheral neuropathy pain, try these tips:
- Improve your sleep: the body’s parasympathetic nervous system (your “rest, digest, and repair” system) is most active during sleep.
- De-stress with meditation, your favorite hobby, or exercise.
- Significantly reduce or stop drinking alcohol.
- Stop smoking.
- If you’re a diabetic, manage your blood sugar levels.
- Avoid crossing your legs while sitting, which restricts blood flow to the lower legs and can pinch nerves.
- Wear compression socks to help improve blood flow and reduce pain.
- Avoid heat.
- Wear supportive shoes that help you keep your balance, especially on uneven terrain.
How to Get Nutritional Support
Food is medicine, and there are a few things you can incorporate into your diet or take as supplements that can support healthy nerves and treat peripheral neuropathy.
Please consult your doctor before starting any supplements, and remember that supplements are typically a long game that support the body and do not offer immediate relief (so “more” isn’t better).
Turmeric contains curcumin, which is a known anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial. Curcumin can act as a pain reliever similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It has been used to treat neurological disorders, which suggests it can be useful in supporting the regeneration and health of peripheral nerves. Turmeric has shown a positive effect from taking curcumin in the early stages of peripheral neuropathy.
Use turmeric as a culinary spice or take it in capsule form. It absorbs best when taken with black pepper.
Fish oil contains essential fatty acids that are important for nerve health. It has anti-inflammatory properties and may slow the progression or even reverse diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Capsaicin is the ingredient in chili peppers that gives them heat. It offers natural pain relief and you can take it orally or use it topically in capsaicin creams to treat neuropathy.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties. Massage with ginger oil has been shown to reduce back pain.
The active ingredient in Epsom salts, magnesium may help with neuropathic pain, especially diabetic peripheral neuropathy and chemo-related neuropathic pain. Low magnesium levels have been associated with a likelihood of peripheral neuropathy. Magnesium citrate can be taken as a powder.
B-complex vitamins are essential for proper nervous system functioning. Low levels have been associated with a higher risk of peripheral neuropathy and other neurological problems.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is anti-inflammatory and contains high levels of magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and potassium, which are all essential for nerve health. ACV can be used on salads or taken with a glass of water.
Red Light Therapy for Peripheral Neuropathy
Red light therapy is emerging as a potent treatment that supports the body’s healing properties and it may be a valuable complement to doctor-prescribed treatments for neuropathy, pain and numbness in the feet.
Light has long been used for healing, but in recent years scientists have isolated the benefits of specific wavelengths of light. Red and near infrared light appear to have the greatest range of benefits, with little to no side effects.
Red and near infrared (NIR) light works on the body in much the same way as sunlight does in plants by increasing cellular energy production and metabolism. This causes a beneficial ripple effect on the treatment area that promotes healing from the inside out.
"In order to help my patients achieve optimal healing potential with the complex condition of peripheral neuropathy, utilizing an integrative natural approach to healing is essential for long term results. With the use of PlatinumLEDs therapy lights, affected nerves receive an increase in cellular energy and ATP, which is a key component to experiencing improvements in circulation and stimulation of small nerve fiber growth."
Functional Medicine Doctor of Physical Therapy
Dr. Alayna Newton, PT, DPT, FAFS
How Red Light Therapy Helps Treat Nerve Pain in Feet
Nerve cells that are completely severed may or may not regrow on their own, but red light has been shown to stimulate cellular metabolism and support the growth of new peripheral nerves. This can bridge the gap and restore sensation to feet that suffer from numbness.
Nerve cells that are crushed may or may not recover but again. However, red light therapy supports the growth of new peripheral nerves.
Nerve cells that are damaged by inflammation or other conditions can be supported by red light therapy. They may regain normal functioning in just a few months of consistent treatment.
Two elements directly involved in nerve healing and regeneration are Schwann cells and fibroblasts.
Schwann cells are specialized peripheral nervous system cells that mobilize in response to nerve damage. They form the myelin sheath, which is the protective layer that surrounds nerves and allows for fast communication.
Fibroblasts are cells found in connective tissue. They help form the fibers necessary to reconnect severed or damaged tissue. They signal Schwann cells to regrow peripheral nerves.
Red Light Therapy helps support this process. Red light therapy is an umbrella term that includes the most beneficial red wavelengths (630-660nm) and NIR wavelengths (810-850nm) for easing neuropathy pain, reducing inflammation, and increasing blood flow. It uses FDA-cleared medical-grade light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to deliver concentrated wavelengths of red and/or near-infrared light where it absorbs deep into the tissues to stimulate cells to perform at their best.
Red light stimulates the formation of new capillaries, which enhances blood flow to the damaged area.
Red light therapy was found effective in accelerating return-to-play in injured university athletes. The study found that pain from hamstring strains, knee sprains, and ankle sprains required just 4-6 sessions to resolve.
Improved Cellular Metabolism
Red light stimulates energy production within cells which helps them repair and regenerate faster. It also has a stimulating effect on fibroblast growth as well as the growth of Schwann cells.
Supporting the body’s natural healing mechanisms is perhaps RLT’s most far-reaching benefit.
In traumatic brain injuries, near infrared light has demonstrated neuroprotective effects in brain cells by stimulating the production of Schwann cells, which form the protective myelin sheath around nerve fibers. The myelin sheath is also present in peripheral nerves which suggests that the treatment could benefit people with peripheral neuropathy.
Red light therapy has antioxidant properties to support nerve regeneration. It also reduces inflammation, which may be contributing to peripheral neuropathy.
Feel free to take a look at some of our other in-depth articles to learn more about red light therapy and how it can treat a wide variety of ailments.
How to Use Red Light Therapy for Nerve Pain
The key to success lies in using high-output LED panels that deliver the highest possible amount of light energy to the nerve cells. Forget underpowered red light wraps: they only deliver a tiny fraction of light photons that a powerful panel can.
To get the highest quality devices with the most powerful light energy output, explore the PlatinumLED BIOMAX series, which offers a full-spectrum red/NIR array using the most scientifically validated wavelengths for overall health.
Red light therapy works on a cellular level. Nerve cells need time to repair or regenerate. You may see some immediate benefits like a reduction of inflammation, but expect the real benefits to take a few weeks or months to manifest.
Consistency is important. Short daily sessions of as little as 3 minutes can support nerve repair in existing damaged cells and regeneration of new, healthy cells.
Can you just let nerves heal on their own? Yes. However, underlying conditions such as inflammation could delay or even prevent healing. Red light therapy can accelerate the process by removing inflammation and by promoting circulation.
How Else Can Red Light Benefit Your Body?
Treating peripheral neuropathy is just one of the ways red light therapy can be used to support overall health. It is a clinically proven treatment for knee pain from arthritis, healing diabetic foot wounds, weight loss, treatment of chronic skin disorders including psoriasis, and much more.
The incredible versatility of this natural treatment means red light therapy is a smart investment in your health and well being. Hundreds of studies confirm that red light is safe, effective, and free of side effects.
Home remedies for neuropathy can save you thousands on in-clinic treatment (not to mention the time, traffic, and hassle) and you can enjoy both full body treatments and targeted treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome and facial rejuvenation in the convenience of home.
Learn more about the most advanced red light therapy panels on the consumer market.